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Five minutes with James Pratt

Ahead of Sydney Indesign 2015, we chat with James Pratt, founder and director of Exit Eighty Six.

Five minutes with James Pratt


August 10th, 2015

Name: James Pratt

Occupation: Furniture Maker/Designer

Location: Brookvale, Sydney

Company: Exit Eighty Six

Position: Founder/Director

The moment you knew you wanted to work in the design industry.
In hindsight, there wasn’t really a flashing ‘light-bulb’ moment. I think I just knew what I wanted to do from a young age, and that led me to become a part of this industry. I remember receiving a compliment off someone I looked up to about how much they love what I had made. It was then that I first started kicking myself, and I still am now doing this interview!

How did you come to be a maker/designer? What first drew you to the practice?
It happened without me knowing. I know that sounds cliché, but seriously. One minute I’m living in Sydney, building a desk for the new pad up in Brisbane, and next minute I’m in Brisbane, building furniture for someone else’s café. Yeah there were stages between that but a lot happened in a short time frame. Now I look back I think what still keeps me eager to evolve is the same reason I started. Furniture. It makes me open my mind and constantly improve. There’s no such thing as perfection.

What interests you most about this particular field design?
If you jump onto my instagram feed at any given time (exiteightysix), you’ll scroll through and see new product after new product after some surfing photo after more furniture products. This industry is constantly evolving, bending, budding and I’m just on for the ride. My interest comes from the possibilities.

What has your experience with education design been?
I started out as a tradie aged 16. I only really enjoyed ‘hands-on’ stuff at school like D&T and Woodwork. I left school at the end of year 10, and never looked back. It was in about the second year of my carpentry apprenticeship that I started to really think about furniture. I’m self-taught everything from wood-machining to writing up an invoice. I learnt a lot being in a shared workspace for so many years but some things, no one showed me how, I just invested all my time into learning off others and self-education.

The most unusual/interesting thing about the way you work.
I seem to do my best work first thing in the morning (5.30am) and last thing at night (11pm). Between 2-3pm in the arvo are average hours for me as far as production goes. I invest a lot of my brain-power into what I’m building, so I’m always more mentally drained than physically.

Which items in the workplace can you not live without?
Block Plane, Pannel Saw and my stereo – working is always better with tunes.



What have been your favourite three products this year?
I’m a lover of practical and simple.

Tipi Lamp by Page Thirty Three

Harrison Desk Chair by Truck Furniture

The Cast Statement Chair by Westin Mitchell




Your top influences.
Truck Furniture. Made by Japanese craftsmen each piece in there range is beautiful. Also a crew from Downtown LA, Westin Mitchell. I’ve been watching these guys for a while now and there newest line is awesome. The process’ they use are traditional and you can really see the level of detail in there products.


Favourite material.
Wood, definitely wood.


Favourite local landmark/building.
Manly is full of so many cool buildings and I want to live in them all!


Favourite international landmark/building.
The Opera House. I recently read an article about the building and the construction of it which made me very humbled to have that landmark in my home city.


Biggest career moment.
Seeing my first product ‘The Tony Stool’ on a full page in Habitus Living Magazine. They didn’t tell me about it until I showed up at the launch and it was a pretty unreal feeling. Habitus Living has been my bible for the past few years so you could imagine my face lighting up as I flick over the page to see The Tony Stool!


Concern for the design industry in the coming decade.
Cheaper products coming in from overseas. Small companies like mine spend years working on, evolving and trying to perfect a product but don’t necessarily have the funds to put into patenting designs. It’s disappointing to see designs being ripped off by big businesses overseas who are looking to build bulk, and cash in fast. You get what you pay for in the end.

Dream person to collaborate with.
I’ve recently collaborated with Kristy Donaldson, a local Sydney weaver on ‘The Billy Collection”, (Exit’s latest line launching at Indesign) and currently working alongside Architect, Steve Koolloos on a Lofa chair, which I hope to add to the Tony collection early 2016. I’m open to suggestions. Maybe a leathersmith next?




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