Q&A – Jack and Mark Fearon of Fearon

Words by Brett Winchester
Photography by Phillip Huynh
Photography by Jordan Malane
Furniture by Fearon

Founded in 2019, Fearon is a design and fabrication company based in Australia that developed from the creative minds of the brothers Jack and Mark Fearon. With a passion for handcrafting functional aluminium objects, their work began with seating concepts and continues expanding to include other practical and playful furniture pieces.

TLP: Can you tell us about Fearon and how it came to be?
JF: Fearon came about slowly and via a strange path. Mark and I had a contract in Melbourne making large-scale water trucks. We taught ourselves how to build everything from the tank to the pumping system. Mark comes from a background in boiler making and worked fixing big ships around Australia, and I did a stint of plumbing when I was younger. While we were working on the trucks, we started making metal furniture as a side thing for our creativity and to have some fun with design.
Then in 2019, we decided to move back up the coast to set up our own fabrication workshop. Once we got into it, we were making lots of different custom things out of metal: staircases, large-scale windows, custom tables and doors, and still building trucks and shipping them back to Melbourne. There were some off-cuts from a tank in our warehouse, and we decided to make a sample stool that we later called The Chub. I showed my friend Pip (who owns Curated Spaces) and she put them on her website to sell and it rolled really organically from there. We’ve been adding to our furniture collection since then.

“We don’t have to tiptoe around anything and are straightforward with each other. I think that saves some time and energy.”

TLP: How is it working together as brothers?

JF: I’d say it’s mostly great as we have our own language and know where each other’s skills and weaknesses are. We don’t have to tiptoe around anything and are straightforward with each other. I think that saves some time and energy. I guess we’ve worked with each other for a long time, so there’s lots of grunting and mumbling that would seem strange to an outsider. We come up with our designs at odd times while we’re working – we’ll do little chicken scratch drawings on bits of scrap cardboard or on the underside of a piece we’re making.

TLP: Tell us a bit about your process. Do you do a lot of research or is your method more instinctive?

JF: Definitely more instinctive. The research that we do is all around proportions, which involves physically experimenting with different sizes and shapes. We’ll create something and then fine-tune it by making small cuts or changes until it looks and feels right. I guess I’d call it a trial-and-error approach.

TLP: What sets you apart from other designers?

JF: Many designers I know have a really strong design education from university or another design institution, whereas we started off as fabricators. We don’t necessarily have that strong knowledge of art and design history, but I think it helps us to design authentically and not be influenced by others’ ideas. I also think it’s rarer that a designer fabricates their own pieces – a lot of designers will have other people make their pieces or get them made offshore. Our fabrication background means we really understand how things are made and know how to design objects that are strong and stable and will last over time.

TLP: How do you wish your pieces to be experienced?

JF: The main wish for our pieces is that they are used and loved really well and then passed on, like an heirloom art piece that’s functional and less precious. Buying a piece of furniture is an investment, and you should love it. The best thing about our pieces is that they are strong and will withstand lots of conditions. For example, maybe you buy one of our Yum tables for your family’s home and sit around it every night and share meals together, and then your kid moves out in 15 years and it ends up in their house, on their deck, being used with their friends for more meals. You go over to their place and see that, and it makes you happy, you know? That’s the idea – longevity and strong, timeless design.

“Make it colourful, strong and make it last.”

TLP: What helps when you’re feeling uninspired or stuck?

JF: I tend to stop trying so hard and just work on something repetitive that needs doing around the warehouse, like sanding or responding to emails.

TLP: What is the Fearon design philosophy?

JF: Make it colourful, strong and make it last.

TLP: Tell us about your separate creative paths and how you got to where you are now professionally.

JF: I’m a bit older than Mark, so I made a lot of the young, dumb but fun mistakes first. I opened a gallery called Comb with a friend when I was 20 and on the Gold Coast, which was more of an excuse to throw parties and show other people’s artwork. When we made no money off that, we decided to create a clothing and design company, which eventually led us to doing low-budget trade and gallery show fit-outs in Japan. We would put the stuff we’d made for the fit-out in surfboard bags and fly them over with us. Mark came on board around that time, but prior to that he had more of a steady trade background as a boilermaker fixing large boats around Australia. I was a plumber for a while too when I was younger but wanted to get away from that ASAP.

“We love when people send us pictures of our pieces in their spaces or when we go over to a friend’s house and see one of our coffee tables that’s been well-loved with stuff all over it.”

TLP: What excites you most about creating seating concepts or practical furniture pieces?

JF: What excites us most is seeing our pieces in their new homes and watching how their owners are functionally using them. We love when people send us pictures of our pieces in their spaces or when we go over to a friend’s house and see one of our coffee tables that’s been well-loved with stuff all over it.

TLP: What is next for Fearon?

JF: We’re busy working on a bunch of custom designs at the moment and working closely one-on-one with customers and other designers to create large-scale pieces for hotels and restaurants. We’re also making some exciting one-off singular items that are a lot wilder in terms of design and colour use. We’re really experimenting with asymmetry. These will be for sale on our website as one-off items. Keep your eyes peeled for some mirrors, bathroom cabinets, lights, desks and rocking chairs. We’ve recently shown these pieces at Melbourne Design Week.