Made Together – Relatively Useful by John Wardle and Simon Lloyd

Words by Aaron Grinter
Photography by Pier Carthew

The result of collaborations with 25 local makers across various mediums, architect John Wardle and designer Simon Lloyd present Relatively Useful, an exhibition of furniture and objects that transcend mere practicality.

Displayed in McGlashan Everist’s iconic modernist building at Heidi MoMa in Melbourne, Relatively Useful is a passion project for John and Simon, representing an opportunity to explore the process of making more deeply, from design through to production. The exhibition tells the story of how imbuing care and quality throughout functional objects can elevate these creations beyond their use-value. Working with a group of esteemed local makers in timber, ceramic, upholstery and 3D printing, the works were designed both individually and together through ‘gradients of collaboration’, from conversations and drawings to hands-on involvement.

John Wardle, Founder of John Wardle Architects, is a luminary within Australian architecture. An Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the University of South Australia and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, he was awarded the Gold Medal by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2020. Simon Lloyd has founded numerous design and manufacturing practices since 1988, investigating the full gamut of materials including timber, ceramic, metal and felt, all receiving wide acclaim. He currently teaches at Swinburne University and his work has been shown at the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Japan, among others.

Displayed in McGlashan Everist’s iconic modernist building at Heidi MoMa in Melbourne, Relatively Useful is a passion project for John and Simon, representing an opportunity to more deeply explore the process of making.

Perhaps one of the most striking objects is Hand Operated: A Cabinet, designed by John Wardle and made by Simeon Dux. The cabinet, though compact and refined from the exterior, betrays a cosmos of cupboards and draws, sliding, folding, and pivoting outwards. To achieve the elegantly uninterrupted façade of Tasmanian leatherwood, instead of handles there are various splices, splays and cuts that operate the many compartments, inviting the user to engage physically with the tactility of the design. A hollow timber vase, permanently inset into the top surface, provides a tasteful garnish.

Works in the exhibition were made by Sharon Alpren, Kelly Austin, Dan Barker, Adam Browning, Chapman & Bailey, John Cherrey, Bryan Cush, Simeon Dux, Anton Gerner, Wayne Guest, Isabel Avendano Hazbun, Derek Johns, Laura McCusker, Adam Markowitz, Fraser Matheson and Andrew Lowe, Joanne Maggs, Kevin Perkins, Alexsandra Pontonio, Scott Mason, Charlie Sandford, Julia Schreckenbauer, Keith McKay, Charlie Atkin, Sajo Ceramics, Josh Stevens, Mari Teed, Mathy Fuller, and Vivienne Wong.

The exhibition tells the story of how imbuing care and quality throughout functional objects can elevate these creations beyond their use-value.

Relatively Useful By John Wardle And Simon Lloyd News Feature The Local Project Image (2)

Each and every piece is a manifestation of both sublime craftsmanship and the physical and conceptual refinement of useful, everyday objects, such that their form transcends their functionality. Demonstrating not only the virtuosity of John and Simon but the momentous talent present in this group of local makers, Relatively Useful embodies the capabilities and vision of the contemporary Australian design industry.

Relatively Useful runs until April 3, 2022, at Heide Moma, Melbourne.

Each piece is a manifestation of both sublime craftsmanship and the physical and conceptual refinement of useful, everyday objects, such that their form transcends their functionality.