This unusually named brand is backed by sound concepts and impressive ideas, David Harrison puts a face to the name
December 3rd, 2012
Melbourne based designer, Elliot Gorham is an intriguing character. His core design aesthetic comes from a love of simple, quality materials that are finely crafted but to this Gorham adds a layer of interest in sustainability and fine art.
He completed an honours degree at Australian National University School of Art in 2007 where he specialized in furniture making but was involved in numerous artistic disciplines from sculpture and ceramics and photography to tool making. These preoccupations, plus more recent explorations into set building, have led to a style of work that moves beyond practical problem solving to incorporate a quirkier, more conceptual approach.
In 2008 Gorham relocated to Melbourne and his work is now sold under the intriguing brand name Noddy Boffin. The name is a tribute to ’Our Mutual Friend’ – the last novel of Charles Dickens.
“One of the main characters and a strange hero in the book, Noddy Boffin works in what today we would call the recycling business. Through a quirk of fate and hard work, he inherits a mountain of junk and his life is changed by the riches that come from it. I saw an interesting parallel to some of the themes in my work”.
Flat-pack plywood Milk Crate
While a brand conceived on Victorian literature may at first seem like an odd idea, Gorham is a keen advocate for socially responsible design. He has produced a wide variety of furniture and lighting items since he designed his first major project, a plywood version of the ubiquitous milk crate, back in 2006. Many of his more recent products incorporate recycled elements or use sustainable materials.
Cork Milking Stool
His wittily named ’Spare’ table uses reclaimed maple from ten pin bowling alleys while his ’Milking Stool’ incorporates a seat made from reconstituted wine bottle corks. “I ’m dedicated to using sustainable materials but being ’eco’ or ’green’, isn’t enough. I want my designs to speak to the end user, I want each piece to be more than just a piece of furniture”
The ’Spare’ table is a steel framed table featuring recycled ten pin bowling alley flooring in the ultra-hard rock maple as it’s surface. Each table bears the location and date from which the timber came, laser etched into it’s side.
The ’Sweetheart’ library ladder released earlier this year is a case in point. Originally designed as a birthday present for his girlfriend, this clever ladder cum reading seat is not only multifunctional but full of romantic spirit. Gorham feels it is a poetic symbol of love, with the idea being that the user is placed on a pedestal by their loved one.
In a gentle reminder of this enduring affection, the ladder has the message ’for my sweetheart’ burnt into the wood.
The conceptual nature of Elliot Gorham’s work is even more evident in a recent collaboration with Mathew Little. The ’Sabbatical Cabinet’ is modeled on the traditional bathroom cabinet but it’s conventional appearance belies it’s 21st Century purpose.
The rock maple cabinet allows a ’problem’ phone user to lock away their electronic devices for a set amount of time and free themselves from the tyranny of social media and connectivity. A remodeled mechanical clock is used as a timed lock, while a timber mallet is provided in case of emergency access.
Combining real craftsmanship with wit and intelligence is something Elliot Gorham does extremely well and in the process he designs products that are unique and personal.
Once you know all this, the name Noddy Boffin somehow seems entirely appropriate.
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