In celebrating their 50th anniversary, SABA, the iconic Australian brand credited for teaching Melbourne to wear black, have decided not to look inward in their celebrations, but instead to shine to light out to some of the Australian individuals who exemplify modern design today and share the same ethos that SABA have demonstrated for half a century.
Henry Wilson, the young furniture designer who has charmed the world over with award-winning pieces, is one of these individuals. His body of work is at once stylish and utilitarian. It is careful and considerate. It is durable and honest. Henry Wilson thinks before he works and, as a result, creates pieces that serve a purpose and serve it beautifully. In celebration of SABA’s 50th anniversary, Henry Wilson has shared his thoughts on modern design, where he finds inspiration, and more.
Describe what Modern Australian Design means to you in 5 words.
Henry Wilson: What it means to me and what I think it should mean in general is; warm, understanding, honest and long lasting.
Who are some of your contemporaries who you’re inspired by/admire?
Henry Wilson: I admire the work of many designers mostly interior and architects. Some recent ones are Ilse Crawford, Dimore studio, George Livissianis and the products designers – Bouroullec brothers.
What about SABA evokes modern design to you?
Henry Wilson: They’ve been consistent in their delivery of fashion for the past fifty years. Consistency and being able to develop things that speak to a culture – Australia – is important and modern.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Henry Wilson: I like to think it’s logical, it looks human, understandable and liveable.
Vegetable-tan leather cover for a Tolix chair by Henry Wilson
Your work’s quite clean, considered, and minimal. What inspires this aesthetic?
Henry Wilson: I try to reduce unnecessary embellishment, and I suppose that’s what inspires resolving things honestly and with suitable materials.
What considerations go into the materials you choose to work with?
Henry Wilson: It’s got to be fit for purpose, long lasting and I’m definitely drawn to natural materials that develop with age. And it’s got to have an understandable process of manufacture.
Tell us a little about your online store and the pieces you’ve chosen to sell there.
Henry Wilson: My online store is focused around smaller items. Theses are manufactured mostly with sand casting technique. They’re designed to give something intangible to the more mundane rituals of normal life. These are the smaller, more accessible and livable elements.
What differences have you seen between furniture design in Australia vs overseas?
Henry Wilson: Overseas there’s a tendency to be more experimental and perhaps a little bolder. In Australia we lack this because our market is small and we a still so far away despite air travel and internet. The fringe movements have not developed here largely due to these reasons and Australia’s diminishing manufacturing sector.
In your eyes, what is the biggest mistake people tend to make when selecting furniture for their homes?
Henry Wilson: I think they perhaps try make all the decisions quite quickly and often buy new. Another mistake is to not fully consider what will work in your life. If you cannot afford the pieces you want, don’t buy a copy. research all the options including second hand.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career and how have you overcome this?
Henry Wilson: Biggest challenge has been designing interior spaces and I’ve overcome by this by collaborating with very talented interior designers and architects who have helped me to realise my view.
What would be your dream project or collaboration?
Henry Wilson: I’d love to collaborate on a larger more human oriented project like perhaps something in health care area, even consult on a hospital or interactive aspects of health care.
Tell us a little about your work with the SABA store.
Henry Wilson: I was brought on board to do some furniture for the Saba store in Melbourne, by architecture firm Akin Creative who did the interior design of the store. We customised several pieces that went in to the space so they reflected the overall ethos that Akin were trying to create.
FAST TEN WITH HENRY WILSON
Who’s style do you admire? Italian designer Achille Castiglioni
What are you listening to right now? Leonard Cohen
What is your favourite city? London
When you are not working you can be found… Going camping, getting out of town.
At the moment I am reading… a new book by Steve Toltz ‘Quicksand’
If you hadn’t been an artist, what would you have been? A mountaineer
What piece of modern design do you wish you’d created? The paper clip
If I could swap places with someone for one day, it’d be… Edmund Hilary
If you could own any piece of furniture, what would it be? A snoopy lamp designed Achille Castiglioni
What was the last interior space or building you felt blown away by? It was a light sculpture of James Turrell in Canberra