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Making of the Furnitex award trophies

By Holger Dielenberg.

When The AFA asked Space Tank to make the trophies for the national furniture industry awards, It was clear our philosophy of industry collaboration had established itself. After only six months of operation, we were on the radar.

I asked why did you choose us? “Because Space Tank will become the future road map for urban manufacturing and because we want to send a message to the industry. Wake up and evolve.” As I sat in our Makerspace in North Coburg, these were the words that were coming down the line from the AFA.

“Thems fighting words!” I thought. The industry needs shaking up. Furniture is suffering a slow flat packed death in offshore factories full of poor souls and the AFA is making a stand. “Believe in and support your local makers. Buy Australian and make sustainable consumer choices. Support emerging bespoke traditions of fine craftsmanship and push young designers to succeed. Collaborate in industry.”

I felt it a responsibility to embrace the AFA mandate and represent these values in every aspect of how the trophies were made. One hundred year old Iron Bark timber supplied for free by the Delta Group came from the historic Victoria Dock built in Melbourne in 1892 and the great reclaimed timber merchant, Urban Salvage happily supplied Hoop Pine from regional Victorian wool sheds for the timber spheres. Many greatly skilled people maintaining fine traditions of hand craftsmanship pitched in to help me build these trophies in the small amount of time I had available.

Bryan Furtado from the AFA came up with the stunning overall design and Space Tank Member, Michael Davis added the nice touch of the F slots into the profile of the pyramid base. That was a stroke of genius and perfectly complimented Bryan’s A shaped pyramid to symbolize AFA.

Paul van Abel, boat builder and artist, labored over the hard as steel Iron Bark until twenty perfect pyramids with identical F slots sat neatly in a row in the wood working shop at Space Tank. “Every blade in the shop is dead. This is the hardest timber I have ever cut.” he said.

When I found out that Space Tank Member, Hans Jorgen Jahr had made a guitar out of carbon fibre and sold it to Ben Harper I thought well that’s got the carbon fibre balls sorted. Handsome and Co fine school of wood working in Richmond happily recommended their resident wood turner, Brendan Stemp from Uturn to turn the Hoop Pine balls on his CNC lathe and the iron and stone balls were sourced all from local material suppliers. I even got two mild steel balls plated in real gold and silver by a neighboring factory. Nice.

I quickly began referring to them as spheres because of the endless smirks and misunderstandings my balls were attracting! Life is fantastically complex.

So there we all found ourselves on a chilly Saturday evening in the Royal Exhibition Buildings, dressed to the nines for the Gala event everyone had been waiting for. The finalists of the Australian Furniture Industry Awards (AFIA) and Australian Contemporary Emerging (ACE) Design Award trophies, the makers of the trophies, Furnitex organizers and members, VIPs and Jo Pearson up on stage. We were all eagerly waiting to see who would win the trophies.

This year’s round of finalists for both categories represented a very high standard of craftsmanship and design. In particular, furniture design students from Perth were very strong candidates. Being one of the judges of the ACE category, I felt proud to choose the winners from such fine work that in all cases far exceeded imported equivalents. We have great talent right here within our borders. Young enthusiastic designers and craftspeople who well deserve industry support.

The awards were announced and the twenty trophies found their deserving recipients, there was much applause, many speeches and moments of sheer breathlessness. It was a distinct pleasure and honor to have been so directly involved in this year’s Furnitex show.

Thanks to the many people who helped for free or next to nothing to bring about these marvelous symbols of working together. The trophies are magnificent and we are certain that all the winners will cherish them forever!

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