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Feature article

Dusting for Prints

WORDS BY Josh McCallum

I like to think that my home, my studio, my favorite café, are all little pieces of who I am: my ‘urban fingerprint’. Whether we like it or not, the objects and boundaries in our lives are an integral part of our identity, and although many of us don’t like to admit it, our material possessions will always play a significant part of our character.

Personally, I love objects. I love to learn their stories and the process that this thing has gone through to end up on my mantle, along with the other various oddities and keepsakes that for some reason or another have become a little part of my identity. They give an opportunity to piece together my own personal architecture, not limited by a physical envelope.

My work allows me to see this passion again and again. Working as an architecture graduate for a number of years, I became intrigued with the process of design and its finer details. I became frustrated by the fact the scale of projects somehow distanced the relationship between designer and client, where the work produced felt like it was only loved upon completion. More time seemed to be spent matching the built architecture to the objects the client desired to fill it with, revealing a lot about an individuals priorities when it came to defining their architecture’s identity.

The object typically takes heed over the physical envelope in which it exists. This I feel is simply the nature of the process. The larger the project, the more overwhelming it gets to comprehend the finer details, so the occupant takes action to make a space more relatable. On accepting this, I moved away from architecture in its more literal definition and stepped into the world of furniture design – the not so distant cousin – and set up a studio and workshop in Adelaide.

The process of thinking, designing and making furniture allows for much more personal interaction with the client. My most successful projects have been the result of seeing the studio, seeing the workshop, and developing a story for the prospective object from day one. Not surprisingly, most briefs that land on my desk actually seek similar styles and materials, which often result in a series of very comparable and subtly bespoke objects. The importance of experiencing process in design is invaluable when it comes to allowing one to create their architectural mould. The process offers a story, and hence an identity.

One of my pieces, ‘Fingerprints’ adopts this theory by taking a simple object, and using the organic nature of the materials to create a repeatable form that will always be unique as a standalone object. It seems to make for a nice balance between something that is relatable, while still being familiar. I always find it interesting watching people look through the various patterns that are made in ‘Fingerprints’ and seeing which one they choose. There’s always the touch, then there’s the stability test, then the weight check. All things that are more or less similar from stool to stool, yet it’s still unpredictable.

But for some reason, something in the product identifies with the person, and the person identifies with the product, and they make a choice. It is in that moment another chapter is written. Architecture embodies the object, and objects embody the architecture.