Caboodle: Work from the Jam Factory Studios

Jam Factory Gallery SA Ceramics, Glass, Furniture, Metal 14 November 1997 - 11 January 1998

Caboodle is an eclectic survey of work from Adelaide's Jam Factory Craft and Design Centre Studios representing the work of over 33 designer-makers and trainees over the past twelve or so months.
The show demonstrates a wide range of output including: commissions; functional ware; prototype development; exhibition merchandising and decorative and functional craft for exhibition and retail.

Caboodle is somewhat of a mixed bag. As a showcase of work from professionals at various stages in their careers it is bound to be so. As a snapshot of income-generating work that might throw light on the likely direction in which the Centre is moving, it does not give much away. One cannot help wondering whether the conflict between the Centre's roles as a training and commercially viable design and retail institution can be resolved. In particular it seems that a key missing ingredient is a strategic marketing focus.

The show demonstrates versatility, but from the commercial perspective it is difficult to see where some of the designs would fit into the retail market. This is a continuing problem facing contemporary craft designer-makers and subsidised institutions such as the Jam Factory - one that has not to date been effectively tackled head-on by many of such institutions around the country.

Peter Walker's Bookshelf No.11 in Tasmanian oak and stainless steel is a curvaceous and distinctive piece of furniture that demonstrates how art and design can be married very effectively. Its sloping shelves serve their functional purpose well (provided you are not fussy about the books sliding to one side when you take one from the shelf) and the overall effect is a strong sculptural piece that could become a room's central focus.

Gray Hawk's Unabridged sofa with its sweeping curved stainless steel base and black leather seat is of definite corporate foyer proportions, dwarfing the occupant. His Casino console prototype commission in anegree and redgum has beautifully crafted lines.

Some other designs in prototype stage appear to be missing the mark. In Michael Searle's Solar System knockdown multi-tiered coffee tables in laminated MDF most shelves are too close together for practical usage. Julie Pieda's Swish set coffee table prototype in rock maple, glass and aluminium works well. However the chair does not quite come off. Reminiscent of the 60s TV chair with a foam and fabric seat and wooden arms, it is comfortable to sit in, but it has a too high a back and somewhat bulbous seat.

Anna Brown's Knuckles modular knuckle-shaped foam chairs and stools in red, blue and yellow, developed in-house and manufactured outside, can be ordered direct. Whilst they have a very modern visual appeal I found them too low and uncomfortable to sit in.

Tom Miriams' Free Standing Room Lamp in jarrah, aluminium, paper and steel is a prototype with sleek lines and warm, well-dispersed light that shows promise.

Undeniably it is a long and expensive process to develop new products that will survive in a competitive market burgeoning with products with a genuine design edge and a flood of mass-produced copycat work.

Efforts to develop saleable product have paid off for the Metal Design Studios. Their Ice Bucket, designed by Studio Head Rik Barnsley, and Cassandra King, has attracted numerous orders from the wine industry and restaurants around the country.

Rik Barnsley's Cleverwick Candlestick in laser cut powder coated steel comes in a range of modern primary colours and is flat-packed, ready to be assembled and is well priced for the mid to upper end of the retail market.

Bronwen Riddiford's Twotoo fruit bowl prototype in anodised aluminium, stainless steel and rubber is a highly appealing piece with clean, sharp lines - for large fruit.

Of the dozen or so items of jewellery on show, Mark Tatarinoff's industrial-feel Circlip rings in turned stainless steel and set with various stones, have the most appeal.

In the Ceramics Studios principal designer Robin Best, has developed a range of Concertina prototypes. These striking shallow bowl forms with sharply stepped sides are made of earthenware glazed in milky primary colours that give an impression of being made of pressed anodised metal. The result is quite high-tech yet maintaining the warmth and almost comforting organic quality of ceramics.

Jane Bamford's shapely Striated Light slip-cast in Limoges porcelain with a crackle glazed surface has a form and translucent quality that creates a warm mood evocative of wall mounted lamps in a 40s hotel.

In a collaboration with the Ceramics Studio, three Aboriginal women from Ernabella Arts in South Australia's far north have translated their dreaming stories and contemporary designs onto glazed terracotta and earthenware plates that capture the vibrancy of their better known exquisite printed textiles.

In the Glass Studio, experimentation with Italian style cane work has produced an effective result in Hilary Crawford's prototype bowls in vibrant red with black and white striped bases. Other production prototypes include Wendy Hannam's free-standing mould blown sandblasted glass candle sticks. Standing almost a metre high, the scale of these candle sticks would limit their use.

In Caboodle there are examples of excellent craftsmanship and design as well as a disciplined approach to quality finishes but few outstanding highlights.

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