Smith and Others are a unique furniture design practice founded in 2014 by Matty and JoJo Smith. Based in Brisbane, Smith and Others have already achieved recognition for their work, winning awards for sustainable design and innovation. Utilising an ethos of practicality, Smith and Others create furniture that belongs in the home. I was privileged enough to meet with Matty and JoJo to learn more about the mode, methods and meaning behind their label.
Hey guys! How did Smith and Others get started and what is the driving conviction behind your practice?
Matty: Smith and Others started after we both finished university. I studied furniture design at UTAS and JoJo studied business. When we moved to Brisbane, there weren’t really any places that I wanted to work for so I thought, ‘we’d have to make it ourselves!’ We don’t just want to design furniture as an art piece, we really want it to be in people’s homes.
JoJo: One of our main motivations is function. How will this be used? How can this design make someone’s life better? Matt’s ability to add quirkiness to a piece makes the furniture like a character. I really don’t understand why people make ugly things. If you could make something pretty or cool, it just adds so much to your every-day life!
Where do you draw inspiration from when designing?
JoJo: I don’t think Matt realises he does this, but he’s very interested in relationships. A lot of his furniture mimics a mother and a child. For example, with our ‘OTS Desk’ and ‘Low Stool’, the desk is the mother and the stool is the child. There are shared elements between the two pieces; the circle in the stool is bigger, like a baby’s eyes, and the adult has a smaller circle.
Matty: We like the idea of celebrating objects. The piece ‘Short Division’ represents a place where you are meant to put your special objects. There is a space for books, and there is a space where light comes through to shine on a special possession and highlight it. Objects play a special part in our lives and I like to design vessels that support that idea.
There is a focus on sustainability in your work - where does this aspect of your practice come from?
Matty: UTAS has a big sustainability push when it comes to architecture and design. Before I went to uni, I was working full time as a shop-fitter so I was exposed to a lot of chemicals in the process. When we started our own label which I do the making for, I didn’t want to expose myself to all those chemicals again. So we’re trying to select products that are healthier for me and for others to work with.
I like the idea that we celebrate the more common material palettes. We use a lot of plywoods, standard Hoop pines and Radiata pines, which people use in general construction but don’t consider it for furniture. We’re constantly reminded that our furniture should be exotic timber that comes from a rainforest, but I’m not into that.
Tell me about the VIVID event in Melbourne! You guys were finalists; how was that experience?
JoJo: VIVID is the longest running emerging design competition in Australia. We were shortlisted for our desk and stool. There are four categories - two are lighting and two are furniture. Ours was in the ‘ready for production’ category. If you were in business for less than four years it was free to enter.
Matty: There were some great designers there, from graduates in industrial design to more established designers. It was very much about pushing emerging designers, and we got a fair bit of press from being down there. The amount of high end design at VIVID was over the top, so to take away any prizes was such a great achievement by the guys and girls that won.
Finally, where should people go to check out and buy your furniture!
JoJo: We’ve got the online (hyperlink) store, but there are also a few shops within Brisbane that stock us. We also try to do the Brisstyle Twilight Markets and have put our application in for the next ‘Finders Keepers’ markets! We’re just trying to show people we exist.
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