DESIGN TASMANIA hosts the second annual Women In Design colloquium in three weeks time.
The weekend event in Launceston will see 12 inspiring women from fields as diverse as editing and writing, archaeology, architecture and design, design education and exhibition curation speak about their experiences in response to the theme of Collaboration. Floor talks, in-conversation interviews and panel discussions will merge with Q & A sessions that invite audience participation.
Guest speakers from NSW include Katrina Strickland – editor of The Australian Financial Review Magazine, artist and ceramic designer Jacqueline Clayton, jeweller and academic Dr Zoë Veness and educator and researcher Dr Katherine Moline.
Tasmanian delegates include Patsy Cameron who is a member of the Tasmanian Women’s Honour Role, architect Lindsey Wherret, multi-disciplinary practitioners Natalie Holtsbaum, Dorita Hanna and Peta Heffernan.
Multi-disciplinary designer Elliat Rich is based in the Northern Territory, while architect Claire Scorpo and curator Fleur Watson are based in Victoria.
This year’s event follows the success of the inaugural Women in Design 2015 colloquium when 14 speakers explored topics such as ‘Communication – Stories, Authenticity, Publishing, Gaining Recognition, Advocacy and Ideas’, ‘Networking – Collaboration, Interactions, Mapping and Engagement’ and ‘Education – Mentorships, Sponsorships, Public, Professional Development and Life Long Learning’.
Women in Design 2015 began with an evening cocktail function and exhibition launch of Material by Design which celebrated the objects and furniture designed by Helen Kontouris. More than 100 guests and delegates enjoyed the in-conversation interview by Simone LeAmon, a design creative and educator, and the Hugh Williamson Curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
Kontouris revealed the history of several pieces in the exhibition and spoke about the importance of sketching to quickly lay down ideas and thoughts for each new design. Three examples of Kontouris’ Panier Stool were displayed at the entrance to the exhibition and were accompanied by a banner that displayed her concept sketches and the progression of her ideas.
“Curating a survey of my work to fill the beautifully light filled spaces of Design Tasmania, I placed the designs to either capture the natural light and allow the shadows to play with the negative space of some of the selected works, along with revealing just enough of the designs in the adjoining rooms, so that visitors feel curious to explore more,” she said.
Later that weekend, Kontouris spoke about the design of the 101 Chair and her determination at the age of 26, to source skilled manufacturers to collaborate with and to find solutions to the fabrication of this iconic piece.
Hobart furniture designer and maker Laura McCusker discovered that she is a natural presenter and engaged the audience with stories about her experience as the only female employee in a yard of 350 shipwrights and fabricators, and developing a profile in the media.
Initially reluctant to accept some of the media opportunities that have come her way – including a screen test as the host of Grand Designs, appearing on The Renovators Australia and appearing on the July 2012 cover of Handyman Magazine, McCusker explained how unexpected benefits and opportunities presented themselves because she pushed forward through her discomfort.
She explained how these opportunities helped her to develop ongoing sponsorships and relationships with brands that are relevant to her area as a furniture maker, and how she recognised that she is the ‘product’ or ‘brand’, “rather than any one object that I design or make.”
Reflecting on the colloquium McCusker said, “I thought the event was incredibly worthwhile and I was left feeling inspired, energised and with a great sense of camaraderie.
“As a speaker I was really taken by the warmth and intimacy of the room and felt that there was much gained from this as the dialogues and conversations were relaxed, free flowing and open.
“As a self-employed practitioner, it’s often very difficult to justify both the time and budget towards professional development that others in the corporate sector take for granted. After attending the conference, I have been reminded just how vital this investment is in myself, my studio and my community of practice.”
Tamara Winikoff OAM is the Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) and found the event to be a very rewarding experience.
“Seven years ago I initiated the establishment of the Australian Design Alliance which has since grown in scope and ambition. For the members of this peak design body, the overarching goal is to secure a national design policy for Australia. It is hard going and needs so much determination,” she said.
“But my experience at the truly wonderful Women in Design colloquium renewed my belief that design matters crucially to Australia’s future. Meeting such an amazingly accomplished and motivated group of women designers, curators, writers and educators and hearing their ideas and stories gave life to this vision all over again.”
As the result of conversations she had at the event, Winikoff was motivated to organise a teleconference with some of the speakers.
“This was the catalyst for a set of excellent ideas around how to deal with challenges such as copying and intellectual property protection, conducting an international career from Australia, access to markets, subsidy, tax concessions and residencies and integrating design across all levels of education. This agenda will keep us going for a good while but it clearly charts what needs to change.”
Design practitioners made up 65 per cent of attendees, 20 per cent were students and 15 per cent were design educators with most attendees coming from Tasmania and Victoria, and several from South Australia and Queensland.
“I thought it was a rich and inspiring gathering of fantastic women, and a few men, in a lovely venue showing progressive design works and a generally joyous time,” said an attendee.
Another commented on the feeling of camaraderie with fellow designers, and was inspired to have greater conviction and confidence in herself while another said she found the Women in Design colloquium to be “quite life changing.”
Design Tasmania hosts Women In Design 2016 from July 22-24. Tickets are available at womenindesign.com.au.