Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 26 Spring 2010 Contents 104 INSITE SPRING 2010
“My work is wholly contemporary, and what
I mean by that is it’s very clean, it’s not overly
decorated, and it’s first and foremost functional”
A legend of the industry, Malcolm Harris’
traditional artisan values have set the
benchmark for contemporary woodworkers
Perhaps Malcolm’s most widely
recognised work is a joint commission
(with Jon Goulder) for the Wesfarmers’
public reception area, where his knack for
free-form carving is seen in a monumental
Australian oak desk, designed for the
company’s corporate art collection.
“My work is wholly contemporary, and
what I mean by that is it’s very clean, it’s not
overly decorated, and it’s first and foremost
functional. The use of native timbers is
important, although I do use some exotic
materials,” he states.
Disillusioned by the building industry,
and looking for something more meaningful
and creative, Malcolm moved to Melbourne to
study furniture design and construction when
he was 28. It was on a work placement there
that he met David Emery (one of Melbourne’s
foremost fine-furniture designers), who he
went on to work with after his degree.
Among the many commercial and
residential projects he and David worked on
over the next four years was the furniture
fit-out for the leader of the House of
Representative’s suite at Parliament House.
“It was an extraordinary project,” Malcolm
recalls. “We did the big boardroom table,
desks, credenzas, waiter stations, the high-
security cabinet for the ceremonial mace. I
learnt a lot about custom furniture.”
When Malcolm moved back to WA in 1988,
he started a workshop in O’Connor, but found
it hard to bring contemporary furniture
to a traditional market. To supplement his
earnings, he taught his craft at TAFE, leading
to the formation of a non-profit group for
Perth’s furniture designer-makers.
The unique faction (led by Malcolm) acted
on a gap in design education by starting a
training facility in Dwellingup, which has
become known as the Australian School of
Fine Wood. “The idea was to bring all the
woodwork designers and makers together
to help improve the industry, and then
give back by providing practical education
to the up-and-coming generations of
woodworkers,” he says.
These days, Malcolm acts as technical
director at Midland Atelier, where he both
assists other designers and continues to work
on his own craft. “My passion for woodwork
has evolved since I was exposed to good design
in Melbourne,” he says. “To see something
come together from an idea and a development
of that idea beneath your hands is a joy.
“It’s a passion that’s evolving all the time.
I’ve been getting into more textured finishes
of late, exploring different surface treatments.
There’s always something new to discover.”
For more info, call (08) 9274 8662 or visit
WA’S BEST master craftsmen
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