Nicholas Fuller - 2017 FRONT / CENTRE Winner

When other children were building pillow forts, Nicholas Fuller was more likely to be found hanging arounds lathes and milling machines in his father’s fitting workshop. The son – and grandson – of a machinist, the Adelaide-based designer grew up immersed in the art of ‘handmade’, surrounded by raw materials and daily witness to skills that saw these materials transformed with utmost care from one thing, into something else entirely. Working with and honouring the imperfections and stubborn quirks of wood is a Fuller family gene, as is impeccable craftsmanship and an eye for good design.

Today, a qualified fine furniture maker and wood machinist by trade, Nicholas is one of Australia’s most exciting emerging designers. His Cantilever side table impressed widely at DENFAIR 2017 and saw Nicholas presented with the Front / Centre Award. Originally a 2016 commission for a local Adelaide couple – an elegant response to a straight-up simple brief for private residence’s side tables – the Cantilever’s sophistication and appeal demanded a wider audience. The side table has since enjoyed small, limited-edition runs in Macassar Ebony and pink-washed American White Oak and is still available through Nicholas’s studio.

When he’s not labouring away in that studio, you’ll find him in another: Nicholas is Production Manager of the Furniture Studio at Adelaide’s JamFactory. The globally renowned not-for-profit organisation is best described as a bubbling creative wellspring – a watering hole from which glassblowers, metal workers, ceramists and fine furniture makers draw inspiration and creative sustenance. It’s an elemental part of Nicholas’s creative process – usually around the model-making stage of a new design – to invite open discussions with his JamFactory peers such as mentor Jon Goulder, or members of local artisan and designer collective George Street Studios.

“With design work, it’s easy to get sort up caught up in your own direction or mindset so open conversations with other designers can help lead you on a different path or trajectory and help you think in a different way. A lot of designers tend to bounce ideas off one another or other people; it’s a highly valuable part of the process.”

This fluid exchange of ideas and advice, and an ever-niggling curiosity about other crafts has cracked open new possibilities and collaborative opportunities for the young designer, and is undoubtedly responsible for the originality and appeal of his work. In 2017, in addition to DENFAIR’s Front / Centre Award, Nicholas received the Clarence Prize’s Emerging Designer Award for his Voyage screens – as much a piece of art as a piece of furniture – and the Gold Award in Furniture and Lighting category at the DIA Awards.

Beyond JamFactory, Nicholas taps the expertise of stonemasons, industrial designers and metal workers. Absorbing what he can of their knowledge and skills – and applying it to new bodies of work and experimentation with sintered bronze, acetal, granite and stainless steel – Nicholas laces threads of these disparate disciplines through his own.

“I am very opened minded when it comes to process or materials. I don’t limit myself to fine furniture and wood. I always want to further my knowledge and understanding of process and materials.”

With luck, visitors to DENFAIR in June will preview these fresh and adventurous works at Nicholas’s exhibit. Then it’s off to Milan with a talented rabble of other young designers, and followed, Nicholas hopes, by a stint in a European studio – it’s with confidence we can say they’d be lucky to have him.

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Designer - Nicholas Fuller - Front/Centre