A quick word with ... furniture designer Dan Gillingham

A quick word with ... furniture designer Dan Gillingham

With a background in design and production, newcomer Dan Gillingham's furniture turns its back on a genre of easy-come easy-go and looks to a bygone era, when a furniture maker was a craftsman not a production line.

dan gillingham furniture designer maker idealogMy first job was... designing a range of street furniture for a metal engineering company based in Wellington. It was a great graduate job – they were hungry for new product and their manufacturing capabilities were among the best around.

And now the title on my business card is... Designer

Which really means... whatever it takes to run a small business. Talented people help with graphic and branding and my lovely wife helps with accounts, but other than that, I'm it.

My day starts with... a coffee, reading the headlines (and the Daily Bacon of course).

And ends with... hopefully a conversation with a happy bank manager.

And in between, I ... do everything. For the Earnest Workshop right now it’s about getting new products prototyped and to market.  I'm also doing contract design work for a retailer in Asia and a local client.

My first artistic memory is... a collage / picture I made. It's fascinating now seeing our own boys creating things. I'd never really appreciated how important it is to develop, and keep a good imagination.

If I wasn't doing this, I'd ... be wishing I could do what I'm doing. I feel really fortunate that I've found something that inspires and motivates me this much.

I'm inspired by... New Zealand design – it’s never been better and that inspires me to add my contribution. New Zealand design has remained true to itself. Inevitably it will be influenced by international trends but we've remained unique. And people. I was lucky enough to work for Design Mobel where Dave MacFarlane was a pioneer of sustainable thinking in manufacturing in New Zealand. As a designer I learnt from early on how much of a real responsibility you have. The world doesn't need more stuff, but we need better (more sustainable) choices. We need to understand the importance of buying things with the intention of keeping them.

I can't live without... a sketch book. for me it's the most valuable tool in design. It's refreshing to have a pencil in your hand – instead of looking at a screen.

True 'style' is...  not trying to create a style. Good design doesn't start out by trying to have a style – it just happens. It's the old adage of "form follows function". Mid-century furniture design is when they got it right. It was based on simple design philosophies and the designs worked. Some thinking emerging today is based around the same ideas, and we're seeing a return to those characteristics in some products.

My work in three words is... enduring, sustainable, original.

Dan Gillingham is founder of The Earnest Workshop, which specialises in handcrafted furniture

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