Ross Gardam




Technologically advanced materials and processes might not be the most obvious pairing with a handcrafted, heritage aesthetic. In the work of Melbourne-based designer, Ross Gardam, however, these two seemingly opposing approaches sit easily side by side. Gardam has his sights set on utilising this ‘high-tech craft’ approach to create commercially appealing products that engage people on a personal level.

Local manufacture makes sense for Gardam, allowing him to work with smaller production runs and to easily order custom sizes. It also allows him to work closely with skilled manufacturers and craftsmen.

Crafted technology

Gardam’s recently launched ‘Half Full’ range is a good example of the careful balance his work finds between technology and craft. Advanced CNC technology has been utilised to cut the form of the leg and the joint, and he invested in bespoke tooling for the CNC to be able to achieve the half-turned feature and exposed tenon joint.

The exposed joint highlights the textural grain of the FSC solid oak timber. These features, although utilising advanced technology, give each piece a handcrafted aesthetic. Adding to this, the range is hand assembled in Melbourne by second-generation timber craftsmen.

Being locally manufactured, the ‘Half Full’ table is easily scaled to fit any space. This makes it popular with architects and designers who need the table to fit a variety of different spaces. “It can be made in essentially any dimension,” says Gardam. “Within reason!”

Making sense of local manufacture

“I am not adverse to overseas production if all the variables are understood and it is achieved in an ethical manner,” says Gardam. “However, local manufacture is currently the best business model for me.”

What makes sense is the ability for local manufacturers to deal with smaller production runs and custom-size ordering. He also sings the praises of the time-saving benefits of manufacturing locally.

“You can send a drawing through one day and ride your bike to the manufacturer the next, and be viewing prototypes and making quick decisions to resolve issues.”

Local manufacture can, however, be more expensive, so one challenge is that of reconciling product with price point. “You need to utilise the processes and materials really carefully,” says Gardam. So, he works with manufacturers to ensure his products are price competitive with products manufactured overseas.

Finding the right people

While it is all well and good to manufacture locally, it can be difficult to find the right people to work with. “This is perhaps one of the most time-consuming processes and if you don’t have a recommendation from a colleague, you can find yourself wasting days roaming through industrial estates,” says Gardam.

Manufacturers have to not only have the skills to produce a given product, but also need to be on the same page in terms of quality and creative vision. And, designer and manufacturer need to be able to get along.

“The people I work with are pretty varied,” says Gardam. “From manufacturers who are very established and who supply to the commercial market to single practising artisans.”

Gardam met with Miles Johnson, who blows the glass for the ‘Touch’ lights, for 12 months before beginning to work with him. This long ‘getting to know you’ phase enabled Gardam to get a full understanding of the material and just what was achievable.

Johnson worked with Gardam on the mould production, which was spun from mild steel. A solid mild steel form was first created. This was then used to spin the mould used for the glass. Although initially time consuming, the result allows for hundreds of lights to be made from the single unit, and goes to show the importance of choosing to work with the right people.

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