Armed with a passion for simple yet expressive design, Jonathan West invites interaction within his bespoke work. Based out of Sydney from his St. Peters studio, we explore how collaboration and experimentation are at the heart of Jonathan’s practice.
It’s not always the easiest feat to sustain being a craftsman by trade, although Jonathan West has overcome those hurdles since starting his business back in 2013. The more time we got to chat with Jonathan, it was clear the reason behind his success derives from a curiosity to create honest and beautiful designs which demonstrate playful and tactile characteristics to invite interaction.
Now based in a studio in Sydney with a team of 5, find out how Jonathan came to bring his dream to life.
Oak & Blackwood Sideboard with Hand Carved Doors
Tell us a bit about your background, what path led you to where you are now?
My initial training was in carpentry and joinery (amid the odd half completed science degree), however, my career path led me more toward the furniture and cabinetmaking environment. I spent a number of years at the Australian Museum before starting my own business in 2013. As most makers know initially it can be tough, substantiating a workshop lease and massive machinery costs.
However, I was fortunate that I drew on a great network of designers and friends that saw me working on a number of bespoke interiors, this is really what saw me through. Since then, I’ve continually directed my business towards design and the making of my own furniture. We still complete a large number of projects for other designers yet can still find both of these business aspects totally rewarding in equal and different ways.
My business has now grown into a really great team of 5 who are all talented makers in their own right, we’ve got a super workshop space in St Peters – it’s a great vibe.
How would you describe your furniture philosophy?
For me, furniture is about the interaction and the delight. Interaction describes the function of the piece, the reason for its design and how its creation can provide a solution. For me, simplicity tends to be key here to create a design where the intention is clear, the materials are expressed and an efficiency in its making are all achieved. When I say delight I’m referring to the things that draw you to a piece that’s both visually and in a tactile sense, draws a feeling that makes you want to touch and engage, feel a smooth surface, a shaped curve, or explore a texture or junction. This is so important in creating something with feel and life.
Achieving this always incorporates an element of playfulness and a little restraint. I can’t see my work ever being featured in Fine Woodworking magazine, however, my goal is to create furniture people would want in their home, to use with family and friends, that holds it’s own and ages gracefully.
What materials do you use?
When choosing materials my natural inclination is wood, that’s just me, however, I also like the characteristics of metals, leathers, fabrics, even concrete has a place in my mind. As a designer and maker, versatility as important. In combining materials, understanding their qualities and own versatility is a valuable tool. I recently worked with another designer and produced a table with inlaid Marmoleum and timber details which was personally a really rewarding project.
The Ned Sideboard in Tallowood with American Walnut Details
Is there a project you’ve completed that stand out as a favourite?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on some really great commercial spaces, collaborating both furniture and joinery, with some great designers and other makers. These spaces tend to get a lot of attention and recognition. Although, it’s the more personal interactions that inspire me, there’s something very intimate about a commission for a person, a family or a home, there’s a great sense of trust and appreciation – that’s a great honour.
Who or what influences your style? How would you describe your aesthetic?
Observing and recalling my own influences I actually find quite challenging. I feel my style or aesthetic is something that emerges from within, I also think it’s dynamic, evolving, exploring and more importantly, growing. In terms of influence, I would say from a furniture perspective that I’m continually drawn to the designer maker. Early craftsmen like Nakashina, Malouf and Wharton Esherick who are known as a conceptual artist as much as a furniture maker, along with the pioneers of modernism occupy my bookshelves. Yet, there are also so many current designers of which I’ve been lucky enough to work with many that provide a constant source of inspiration.
If I had to describe my aesthetic it would be simple but expressive where the materials create an honest and natural palette. I strive for an element of playfulness and tactility.
Carved Stool – available in Oack, Walnut and Tasmanian Blackwood
What advice would you give to any up and coming makers in the industry from both a creative and business perspective?
As far as advice for up and coming makers from a business perspective, for me it was all about taking the risk and really owning it. If you believe in what you’re doing and exude that, people pay attention. I also really believe you must be professional (that doesn’t at all imply conservative or safe) as business thrives on professionalism and people appreciate it. If you have something to offer and combine it with this – you’re halfway there.
What are you looking forward to?
My next piece! I’m working on a number of new designs that are in the prototyping stages with a view to include them as part of the Handkrafted stand at Denfair in June. That, and my next holiday with my family!
Visit Jonathan’s Handkrafted profile to see more from his portfolio.
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