Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 24 Autumn 2010 Contents INSITE AUTUMN 115
t a once-abandoned railway workshop,
20km east of Perth, an experienced
furniture-maker shares his insights
with a budding young jewellery designer
short on inspiration. Nearby in the machine
room, where woodworkers bellow yarns
over screeching band saws and sanders, a
photographer pans the industrious landscape
in search of an interesting snap.
e entire building is abuzz with ideas
and creative vigour. If someone needs a
third hand here, it's only a workbench away.
is is the kind of utopia designers and artists
long for. is is Midland Atelier.
"I'm still pinching myself," says
photographer Michelle Taylor, who's been
part of the dynamic workspace for more than
six months. "Perth has been crying out for
this for so long. And now it's happening --
better than we could have ever imagined."
A pioneering partnership between the
Midland Redevelopment Authority, which
owns the century-old State Government
railway workshops, and Perth independent
cultural body FORM, Midland Atelier is
Western Australia's first multi-disciplinary
creative industries hub.
e mighty project aims to fashion an
environment of learning, ideas and skills
exchange, so independent designers from
a range of fields (spanning multimedia,
architecture, public art and furniture design)
can develop a commercially viable body and
contribute to the State's lucrative creative
economy. For us -- the consumers -- it means
greater access to beautiful, one-off designer
pieces that stand the test of time.
In turn, the facility will play an
important role in keeping local talent in
WA, particularly the young up-and-comers
who previously saw no other option
than to head east or overseas once they'd
completed their degrees.
"It became increasingly apparent to
everyone that something was missing
in the equation," says Midland Atelier's
technical manager Malcolm Harris. "And
that was the platform from the cloistered
environment of tertiary studies into the
real world. Most graduates don't have the
wherewithal to set up on their own right
because it's expensive in terms of machinery
and leasing a workshop. at's what we
aim to give them here -- a space where
everything is at their disposal."
Midland Atelier is also about mature
artists and designers -- people on top of their
game -- who can share their knowledge
and skills, and help enhance the reputation
and quality of work coming out of the
communal design space. Already, Sydney
wunderkind Jon Goulder, who won the
prestigious Bombay Sapphire Design
Discovery Award in 2003, has taken up a
workbench there mentoring and working
alongside the other designers.
" is integrated approach has amazing
advantages," says Malcolm. " e bouncing
around of ideas, the technical direction, the
practical assistance of having someone hold
plywood for you... there's a lot to be gained
from this kind of environment."
With restorations to the two Midland
Atelier buildings 14 months underway,
we're now starting to see how these
creative dynamics will take effect. A bold,
contemporary extension to the railway's
Pattern Shop is complete, and an old shed
that separates this new space from a machine
room has been gutted and refurbished.
"We've lined the walls, put in new
lighting and created a seamless flow
between the three areas, so it's like one giant
workshop," says Malcolm. " is is where a
majority of the woodworkers will be because
they'll have access to all that beautiful
machinery -- most of which was retained
from the railway days.
"At the moment, we have nine designers
here -- one international, two national
and six local -- but there's potential for
up to 20. It's a very open and friendly
LIVING THE DREAM: (pictured from left) Malcolm Harris,
Tim Whiteman, Yoshio Takagi and Adam Cruickshank are four
of the nine designers in residence at Midland Atelier's Pattern Shop.
Their skills span furniture, lighting and object design. (right)
Looking out through the Foundr y Building windows to the
Pattern Shop. (opposite) Inside the Pattern Shop: old archives,
workbenches and signs keep the building's former life alive.
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