Colourful Language: Dale Hardiman on products and personalities
IMAGES BY SAM WONG
Melbourne-based artist and designer Dale Hardiman is the Co-founder and Director of the furniture and object brand Dowel Jones. His works are exhibited at galleries around the world—including the NGV—and he’s always been a day dot supporter of the industry.
We sat down (virtually) with Dale for a chat on all things colour and design. Dale took us through his background, his colour-popping and extraordinary furniture business, his Colourful Language project, dissecting colour palettes and his views on producing design products.
Dale and Co-founder of Dowel Jones, Adam, create such different artistic design work outside of their furniture brand that they’re able to bring elements of it back into the business. What really stood out was that they don't consider themselves as a commercial furniture brand for interiors and homes, but more designers who produce design products.
It’s also not just about the end product. Sure, that’s definitely important to them, but it’s so much more—from the process to the connection. The interest extends further than the object itself, almost as if a halo effect happens around the object. Part of that is the design process, thinking through what you want to work on and who you want to work with. It’s also how you present it, how it starts conversations, how it’s positioned in the right space and watching it unfold in ways you don’t initially anticipate. Dale uses the example of his time spent as a university tutor where they’d teach over a 12-week period. Half of it was dedicated to the product and the other half was how you photograph the work, the brand perception and how you market that product.
There should be a broader understanding of the production of products. Designers aren’t just people who produce products, they actually give personalities to things.
Dale values collaboration deeply and it’s evident throughout a lot of their old and existing works (and from what we hear, they’re upcoming collections too). An excellent example was from their ‘Never Grow Up’ piece, which came from the idea of unlimited creativity when you’re younger—spending time doodling, sketching and engraving. Never Grow Up is a bright pink bench that asks you to draw on it and make your mark to create a multi-continental collaborative piece.
Tint is similar in that we have millions of colour scans from Pico—our pocket-sized colour matching device—every year, which influences our curated range of 71 colours. It’s democratising the process in a way, kind of like our colours are built by people, for people.
Most people think about aesthetic durability when it comes to furniture. How long can an object exist based on its aesthetic, but we talk about emotional durability, which is how you view an object with some kind of emotional response that they can relate to—extending the product further.
Dale and Co-founder of Dowel Jones, Adam, create such different artistic design work outside of their furniture brand that they’re able to bring elements of it back into the business. What really stood out was that they actually don’t see themselves as a commercial furniture brand for interiors and homes, but more designers who produce design products.
Dale took on a challenge set out by Nat and ourselves, which was to create a piece of work that incorporated his style with Tint paint. When we saw what was created, we immediately wanted to know more—it was a fascinating mixture of colour pairings, plywood creations and considered design. Enter: the tinted Blossom Pendant.
The idea originally blossomed (yes, pun intended) from the idea of giving people the opportunity to make their furniture their own in some way. “Not many people buy furniture with a nice finish and then have the capacity to paint it on their own—and that’s quite an amazing thing to do.” This encapsulates everything that Dale is about: involving people in the process (or collaboration), customising the product and imbuing them with their own emotions and creativity.
Then we had to talk about the colour scheme, because it’s pretty damn wild and we love everything about it. Dale is always chasing a new colour scheme and that’s reflective in the work he creates—each collection produces a new set of colours to give the work a different personality. So when it came to the blossom pendants, they looked at a selection of colourways they hadn’t used before. “If you think of colour blocking them, then they’d take on a whole different persona completely.”
It’s a way people can create more emotional durability around the product as they're a part of the process in creating the final product.
Dale doesn’t shy away from colours, he leans into them. When shooting the painted Blossom Pendants, they thought it’d be a good opportunity to spruce up their studio space from their more conversative green walls and use Tint to make it explode with a colour evolution—creating a brand new energy. It’s almost as if it’s a shrine of colour.
Being naive towards something can actually be quite positive.
Obviously we’re in the middle of some interesting times, but it was inspiring to hear that they’ve had lots of time to think, design, create and collaborate online during isolation. So next month keep your eyes peeled for four new collections coming out with a whole different type of furniture typology.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our deep dive into Dale, Dowel Jones and our first Colourful Language project using a range of Tint paints. We certainly love hearing from the creatives who change behaviours, push boundaries, think outside the can and use colour and paint to bring ideas to life. Stay tuned for our next featured artist coming soon.