WELCOME TO : DEAN TOEPFER, AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE, LIGHTING AND OBJECTS DESIGNER
Dean, can you introduce yourself to our community?
Hi there, my name is Dean Toepfer and I am an Australian based product designer specialising in the area of furniture, lighting and objects.
This is your first self-produced collection, was it a challenge for you? Have you encountered new challenges that you had never faced before working alone?
For sure, prior to the vases all my previous projects were larger furniture or lighting pieces made in small batch production for exhibitions or commissions. It wasn’t until this year that I shifted my focus on developing smaller objects for the home. While the furniture and lighting projects have their own varying complexities, the vase collection has also had its fair share of difficulties and learning curves. From streamlining in-house production through to setting up sales avenues and online marketing, most of this was new territory for me. It’s been a positive journey and I have taken a lot from the experience.
Your workshop is located at the Jam Factory, an ultra-creative anthill where many artisans work, meet and exchange ideas. Was this where you first came across Marblo? And the first time you have worked with this material?
I moved from Melbourne to Adelaide to undertake a 2-year associate position in the Jam Factory ‘s furniture studio in 2017. It is very much a creative hive with 4 main studios: Glass, Ceramics, Metal and, Furniture with approximately 50+ people working, making and creating within these fields.
It was during my associateship I first came across Marblo as we had sample packs in the furniture studio. The Apres Drinks Trolly was the first project where I used this material and have now revisited it on a smaller scale for the vase versa collection. (below, Dean’s designs and creations : the Apres trolley on the left, the Omi chair on the right)
We love the sophisticated finish of your vases: having the possibility to play with all angles to have a different rendering depending on its position, the frozen and slightly translucent aspect of the material depending on its exposure to light. What attracted you to this material? How did you decide to use it for a vase?
When developing the vases I wanted to use a material that I could process with the machinery I had available in the studio and I also wanted colour to be the main feature. The material chosen ticked both boxes as it can be processed with general woodworking machinery and comes in an array of colours.
This first collection is much more colorful than what you have done so far. Did you have any particular influences for this collection by choosing these colors?
This is the second project where I have used colour. In the past, my pieces were generally dark and monochromatic but I’ve been branching away from this of late and brightening things up a bit.
I am now very much drawn to the visual effects and influence that colour can have in design.
For the vase collection, I didn’t have any particular influences, I mainly wanted to have a diverse colour offering. To achieve this I selected a spread of deep, mid and light tones and then used each colour twice. With 5 colours, I made 5 different color combinations (there are a few more possible combinations but didn’t want too many variants). It was a difficult task deciding which colours to pick in the beginning and what combinations worked best, it probably took about 2 weeks to finalise the selection. But in the end, I think it’s a good mix that will appeal to most tastes and interiors.
You mention the fact of having wanted to create a collection at “affordable price”. As a craftsman, it is not always easy to navigate between the costs and the time spent in manufacturing. Why was this important to you?
It can be extremely difficult to get the balance right between materials, production costs, retail price and perceived value. Some pieces I have developed in the past cannot be wholesaled to stores as once it is marked up for retail, it is not competitive or is over-inflated.
Most of the pieces I’ve designed, I would not be able to afford to buy myself; it’s a bit crazy when you think about it like that. While I still want to design larger furniture and lighting objects, I also am very much interested in adding pieces to my collection that are accessible to a larger audience. I believe making design more accessible only helps to grow and strengthen the support for independent designer, makers and studios.
At Cool Machine, we mainly select what we like to call “artistic designers”. The designer is an artisan and vice versa. It must be satisfying to work on a project from concept to completion. Are you already planning to start over after this first experience?
It is extremely satisfying to see a project come to life. Through all my projects, both successes and failures, I’m learning from my experiences. I’m always looking to challenge my skillset and abilities. It’s through these processes creative growth is achieved.
I have learnt a lot from developing the vase versa collection, from the early development stages and in-house production through to selling direct and online marketing. I’m definitely keen to take these experiences and let them influence and guide the next project.
We like to ask each artist what seduced him about Cool Machine. What is your favorite piece from our selection?
The overall collection, curation,and style first caught my eye with Cool Machine, it oozes character and is very whimsical and playful. I like that each designer has his or her own distinct and high spirited aesthetic. As for a favourite piece, that’s a hard one, the shortlist would be: Marilyne-Blais for colour selection, Avi Ben Shoshan for character selection and Sarah Naud for material selection.