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A formidable collective: Adam Markowitz and the object-makers

Meet a group of product designers who are making their presence felt not only at home but across the globe.

A formidable collective: Adam Markowitz and the object-makers

Stumpy Gully House by Markowitz Design with Stavrias Architecture.

Imagine stepping into a large, multi-room studio space where there are furniture-makers producing outstanding product design through artisanal techniques, expert knowledge and original thought. They’re all working separately but share resources such as machinery, and they help each other but create on their own. It sounds like an atelier you would find in New York, Copenhagen or London, or seek out at Salone del Mobile or Stockholm Design Week – but no, this collective is right here in suburban Melbourne.

If you want to know about global talents, then this collective of designers are the new masters of furniture design and production. This may sound a little over the top, but trust me when I say, that each of these makers is a major talent and their studio is a powerhouse.

As a collective the artists include Adam Markowitz, Bern Chandley, Raven Mahon, Simeon Dux and Vivienne Wong. Each has a speciality, or a focus on a particular style, but they are the new wave of expert Australian product designers that are making an impact on the world of design as I write.

Being a product designer in Australia is not easy. Replica design is everywhere and once a designer creates an impressive product it’s ripe to be re-produced with no compensation to the creator, as our Copyright laws do little to protect our designers.

It’s a very different story in Italy or France where designers are revered, their work celebrated and they are lauded for their ingenuity – and the amount of money they bring to government coffers. However, in Australia, things are very different. While Australian product designers are gaining prominence and justly appreciated for their work, it’s still not enough to catch up to the Europeans.

However, there are those that have design in their blood and work tirelessly to build a reputation while simply working to survive. Here’s a chance to meet a group that is not just surviving but thriving and it’s easy to see why. They are raising the bar on great design and showing not only the locals but the world what they do and who they are.

A formidable collective
Stumpy Gully House.

Adam Markowitz

As the unofficial spokesperson for the group, Adam Markowitz is a back seat leader – that is, he is a quiet unassuming man who understands that everyone is in charge. Markowitz is a prodigious talent. Not only is he a gifted architect but he is also a singular furniture and lighting designer and maker.

As an architect, he has completed many celebrated residential projects however his love of furniture design sees him create outstanding objects that are both timeless in form and innovative in nature.

Drawn to object making he studied in the Netherlands, Denmark and the US to hone his craft and now creates one-off commission pieces and bespoke work for a variety of architects and lovers of fine furniture. In his spare time, he teaches at the ExLab Experimental Design Studio at The University of Melbourne and in 2024 received ArchiTeams’s, New Residential Over $1m category award for Stumpy Gully House. 

Bern Chandley

Bern Chandley, on the other hand, is s designer with a particular focus. He is known for his contemporary take on the traditional Windsor chair and is one of Australia’s most sought-after chair designers and makers. Chandley’s award-winning work celebrates the durable structural strength intrinsic to traditional Windsor chair design, while updating the format to suit a more modern, minimalist palate. He regularly teaches his craft to aspiring chair makers, and often travels to the US to teach his method at centres of craft.

A formidable collective

Raven Mahon

Raven Mahon is a furniture designer and maker and began her career nearly 20 years ago in a prop and set-making workshop in San Francisco’s Mission District. Working in various studios in Northern California, alongside a diversity of self-taught designers and makers, Mahon’s style was formed by the region’s particular legacy of modernism; organic forms inspired by the coastal environment, a preference for local materials and an aesthetic gesture towards the intersection of surrealism and craft. Relocating to Australia in 2017, Mahon established her practice developing and designing high-end timber-based furniture that incorporates sculptural elements, colour, plaster forms, tile and mirror.

Having recently completed a collaborative project designing bench seating in recycled Oregon for NMBW, Mahon with the architect, contributed to a panel event as part of MPavilion’s 2024 summer series. The designer is currently commissioned to create a new edition of artist Elliot Rich’s NGV collected work, Tall Place, for Sophie Gannon Gallery.

Simeon Dux

Simeon Dux is a fine furniture designer/maker who specialises in custom-made, one of a kind, furniture and homewares. Using a combination of solid timber and timber veneers coupled with time honoured joinery techniques, Dux creates heirloom quality pieces in a variety of styles. 

With his carpentry background and teaching experience, he has more than 20 years in the profession, Dux has a diverse and impressive portfolio of work. Drawing on his knowledge of 18th century handwork and detailing, combined with his love of mid-century and art deco shapes, his work is a combination of simplicity and eye-catching details. 

Dux was the inaugural winner of Wood Review magazines Maker of the Year, in 2020 and was then invited to join the prestigious Studio Woodworkers Australia. His pieces are commissioned by some of Australia’s leading architects, interior designers, and discerning private clients and his work has been seen in local galleries and magazines.  

Vivienne Wong

Vivienne Wong is a furniture maker and designer who combines modern and traditional woodworking skills in her beautiful designs. Each piece is carefully handcrafted, with a strong focus on producing pieces of furniture that strike the fine balance between elegant design and ultimate purpose. 
Drawing on her background in dance, Wong has a unique sense of how shapes relate to each other, creating pieces that reflect an unspoken dialogue and synergy between different elements to evoke a sense of harmony that is both visually striking and functional. 

With a strong focus on sustainably sourced timber, Wong works towards conceiving timeless pieces of furniture that last and provide a more sustainable way of living, buying and producing.

So now that you know all about this collective of talented creatives it’s fair to say that Australian design is in good hands for the future. Of course, each designer is happy to conceive and create for architects and interior designers or those who appreciate the workmanship involved with each beautiful handmade product. Supporting Australian design is something we should all do and when the makers are this good it’s not a big ask.

Adam Markowitz

Bern Chandley

Raven Mahon

Simeon Dux

Vivienne Wong

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