George & Willy: On the cutting edge of furniture design

George & Willy is a slick new southern furniture brand going after design-minded buyers.

george & willy lamps furnitureGeorge & Willy is a slick new southern furniture brand going after design-minded buyers.

What started with a bit of messing around with a laser cutter at university has grown into a small business for childhood friends George Wilkins and William McCallum.

The 21-year-olds are behind new furniture brand George & Willy, which makes beautiful top-end lamps that are being sold in a handful of Dunedin stores, including WHITEROOM and Moi Design.

Laser cutting is more commonly associated with prototyping or larger-scale industrial manufacturing, but they’re harnessing the technology for their own creative purposes.

george & willy lights furniture

george & willy lamps furnitureTheir initial freestyling spawned everything from helicopters to dinosaurs to foxes to trees – and eventually, a light fitting. That’s when they realised they were onto something, and they decided to take it further.

“When we were developing it we’d keep finding things wrong from what we thought was the final prototype,” says Wilkins. “It took another 12 or 13 till we got it. We kept finding things we wanted to fix.”

While their supervisors were supportive, one was surprised (and not in a good way) that they had taken the project so far. Of course, when told all their gear was going to the tip if they didn’t have it moved by the next morning, that simply stoked the fire and got them into high gear.

Wilkins says they’ve had great feedback about their designs – the desk lamp and the bulb lamp – and are looking to branch out into new materials such as metal and bamboo.

The vision is to build a boutique furniture brand along the lines of David Trubridge, with just a few hundred released each year at a select number of top design stores. “If you’re going to go buy a light, you’d just go to The Warehouse,” quips Wilkins.

On the other hand, George & Willy is going after a different target market: design-minded buyers who are looking for something that’s as much a piece of art as it is a functional object, and happy to pay around $500 for it.

This summer is all about building the business, reaching out to new retail outlets – both are originally from Tauranga and plan to make the sales rounds there.

The great thing about the business is that they can do it from anywhere.

“There are laser cutters all over the place – we just need to take our file.”

And you can bet McCallum, who has a trip to New York planned for this year, will be taking a few samples over and knocking on some doors.