Woodworker of the Month
Brunswick, VIC, Australia
There is often a fine line that we tread between responding to the currents in design and stepping back, closing the shutters and honing one’s own vision. Does the hermit in the hills lose his relevance to society or does isolation enable greater purity in creation? More likely, it is a tedious balance of the two where ideally the outside world inspires a practice and methodology that has been dictated by the designer. Nick McDonald is the founder of Made By Morgen, a boutique timber retailer that veers away from the flux of furniture fashions. Each piece exudes the purity of the material, embodying the humble elegance of Scandinavian design – anchoring a space without dominating it. Focusing on sustainable timbers and manufacture, Nick’s collection preaches to slow design through fastidious concern for not only the piece itself but also to what is left behind. We spoke with Nick about his efforts to counter wasteful manufacture and the importance of fostering a sense of authenticity in the – often overwhelming – world of design.
Tell us about your design studio; where are you based and how long have you been there for? I’ve been based in Brunswick for the last two years and have only just moved into a new space. It’s compact but services my needs at this stage. White walls and indoor plants make it an inviting space to work and for clients. Do you have a signature style that you carry across your work? I guess that I’ve been pigeon holed to have a Danish minimal style and I’m more than happy to be. I spent some time in Denmark after I quit my past job to explore this industry. I was always drawn to Danish design and I always will be.
Each Made by Morgen piece exudes the purity of the material, embodying the humble elegance of Scandinavian design.
Nick aims to counter wasteful manufacture and the understands the importance of fostering a sense of authenticity in the – often overwhelming – world of design.
What are the main influences in your work? And how do you incorporate these into your designs? My design process is very basic. When an idea comes to mind, I might try and remember to scribble it down but really I just need time to produce what’s in my head and tweak the overall design until I’m happy with the outcome. You recently sold a sideboard to raise money for charity. Can you tell us about the piece you made and the charity that it went towards? I purchased a new piece of machinery that is essential to my business. Once it arrived the amount of waste packaging that this thing was in made me feel quite ill. I had a look around my own workshop and I saw a lot of offcuts and surplus material from past projects. And so I decided to produce a piece of furniture that I would donate and hopefully raise some money. My chosen charity was Road to Refuge, a not-for-profit organisation that seek to shine a light on the complexities of seeking asylum.
Focusing on sustainable timbers and manufacture, Nick’s collection preaches to slow design through fastidious concern.
What’s your favourite aspect of being a designer and maker? And what challenges do you face? The aspect that I’m most drawn to would definitely be being able to mix my practical nature and creative side into one career. Challenges would be finding the time to work on designs and prototypes while trying to support myself. How do you see the furniture design industry right now, are there any shifts or changes that you’ve noticed? And what effect has social platforms, like Instagram, had on your business? To be honest, I’m not really sure what’s happening in the industry. I prefer to stay out of that kind of thing. I think Instagram is, and has been, a very powerful tool to promote work – especially starting out and not having any finances for photography. As I haven’t formally advertised my business, I ask clients how they found me and nine out of 10 are through Instagram.
“The aspect of furniture design that I’m most drawn to would definitely be being able to mix my practical nature and creative side into one career.”
What materials do you enjoy working with and why? How does manufacturing locally affect your design process and final product? Solid timbers – preferably American oak – would be my most used and favourite material. But I have been doing a fair bit of custom joinery and being able to mix solid elements into veneer work is great. What is your favourite part about being a designer and a maker? I guess the satisfaction of standing back after the last coat of oil on a finished piece… and working in jeans and a t-shirt with my dog by my side.