Ashley Corbett-Smith | The Unparalleled SeriesSydney, NSW, Australia
We organise our time into easily palatable portions to not over exert ourselves, but I think it’s important to find out how far we can go and how much we can do.
Sydney based industrial designer and founder of Studio ac-s, Ashley Corbett Smith, knew he wanted to establish himself within the world of industrial design when he realised the industry would allow him to push the boundaries of his work and the compartments within which they fell. With the completion of his piece ‘Painter’s Chair,’ a light installation for Vivid Festival and the design and construction of Lost in Books in Fairfield, Sydney’s south west, under architect and friend Dominique Hage, Ashley feels lucky to have found his direction. Inspired by the work of Aitor Throup and Max Lamb, Ashley’s appreciation for industrial design stems from a long-standing admiration for the great design work, originality and skill found within the fashion industry. Citing the Netherlands for their influence on non-conformity and approach to failure as a process, Ashley’s work reflects an agility for challenging design concepts and his mind a catalyst in pursuing limits. I speak with Ashley about his most recent work, lifestyle, the forty percent rule and the conscious decision he had to make to get him to where he is now.
In deciding to pursue the aspects he admired most, Ashley continued his work as a photographer and undertook a bachelor of design in industrial design and later, a masters degree in product design. “Being given the freedom to try and find what I like doing most was influential in getting to where I am now.” After a short stint in Holland for automotive design, Ashley tells me he looked at the failures in striving toward your pursuits differently. “The goal for perfection isn’t there and setbacks are normalised. It’s indicative of the conversations around success and failure. A lack of conformity meant that people weren’t replications of each other and their pursuits were staggered. You don’t compare yourself and I felt a sense of freedom in that.”
Painter’s Chair: a thought for two and a half years, eight months of prototyping and a choice to utilise native materials to Australia from timbermills certified for sustainable growth
Asking what exposure to different industries and cultures has left him with, Ashley now enjoys the process of trying to create something he may know very little about. “In building the cradle sculpture for Vivid a lot of things messed up. That idea doesn’t bother me anymore. 10 years ago I was terrified of failure and made a decision to consciously work through it. Living in the Netherlands solidified that mentality. I don’t know what I’m doing at the best of times. I try things and often don’t know what the obstacle will be or how it will present itself but I’ll persist until I finish. If something doesn’t work, I’ll try something else. Learning about the forty percent rule pushed me to reach further. I realise a lot of us aren’t utilising our potential because we don’t think we can do more, and we can. That’s the best way to summarise my thought process being on this side of things now.
Awarded the Workshopped People’s Choice Award in 2016, Ashley’s premise for building ‘Painter’s Chair’ came from what his ergonomics professor said about how the human body works while seated. “You only need a couple of things: support under the seat bones and support for the muscles in the back.” As his most enjoyable product to date, Ashley spent 8 months prototyping the chair using Tasmanian oak, a native Australian timber grown on the south east coast of Australia and a Danish soap for a faded, Scandinavian finish. “As a country that’s isolated, I like to use the resources we have here. A lot of furniture designed and manufactured in Australia today are made with walnut or American oak which are great materials to work with but with the access we have to Australian woods, I feel it should be utilised more.”
A few cherished items in Ashley’s home: Veblen and Clock. Also, a photograph of the cradle light installation for Vivid
When I ask Ashley about starting as-c in 2017 he tells me that he knew it was going to be much easier to work for himself than the other way around. “I am quite strong headed in personality and I think that’s because I know what I like and I don’t like compromising on a vision. I like to have a valued opinion and before working for myself I was very lucky to work for companies that shared similar values and wanted to know the opinion of those who worked for them.
In his day to day, Ashley likes to live in a location that allows him to cycle everywhere; a reason why he felt so attracted to life in Holland. By conceptualising ideas for projects in his head first and foremost, Ashley feels inclined to spaces that feel like a blank slate but tells me that likes spaces that feel lived in.
Empowered by the transferability of skill that the field of industrial design has equipped him with, Ashley continues to feed his curiosity for creating diverse, multifaceted work. In speaking with Ashley there is something about how sincere and humbling his personality is, an aspect that highlights his approach to his own life. As a person who spends extended time immersed in both the analytical and creative realms of design, Ashley continues to seek out those who don’t abide by societal expectations. Currently working on a cast metal coffee table, a series of homewares and a few digitally based projects, Ashley’s determination is more pervasive than ever as he continues to do his part in creating designs that shape the heightened culture and ever-changing time we live in.