Having whet our appetites at last year’s edition, this year we are pleased as punch to be an official DENFAIR Media Partner. As Australia’s largest contemporary design and art trade event it’s a place to get to know who is making waves both locally and internationally and discover the next household names of design. Held over three days with the third day open to the public, DENFAIR 2017 promises to again bring together architects, interior designers, stylists and retailers in the one space to exhibit, present and connect with each other.
As we warm up for the event itself we’ve been profiling a handpicked collection of designers who will be exhibiting at DENFAIR 2017. In our final profile, we profile Fred Kimel, the founder of Handkrafted, a community marketplace that connects people with passionate makers to commission quality, bespoke goods made locally.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to founding Handkrafted.
After a few too many years somewhat lost in the corporate wilderness, I made the decision to change paths and refocus all of my energy on a more purposeful and creative pursuit. I had always felt strongly about quality craftsmanship and the creation of beautiful products that made to last. They were the driving forces that led me to launch Handkrafted in early 2014 – and it’s been a wonderfully fun ride since.
Handkrafted was established to provide an showcase of the best independent furniture makers and artisans around Australia – and we also help connect people to the most suited local makers for any custom projects.
How did you develop the community of makers on Handkrafted?
It’s all grown very organically since launching in 2014 and has since evolved into a 350+ strong community of wonderfully talented independent furniture and lighting makers from all over Australia, covering an array of styles and specialisations. The common thread across our community of makers is their passion for their craft and a commitment to producing original and high quality products that are made to last.
It’s crazy to think back to the original launch of Handkrafted with only three makers officially on board! In the early days I scouted makers through all sorts of channels, with Instagram probably the most fruitful. Thankfully I quickly learnt that most furniture makers loved a good chat and many relished the opportunity to share with me insights into their business and the industry more generally. Overall the response to Handkrafted was super positive and makers continue to refer other makers, and as they say, the rest is history.
Handkrafted couldn’t have become what it is today without the support of our maker community – I’ve become mates with many and have loved watching their businesses (and families) grow and evolve. It’s certainly what has kept me passionate about the platform. In many ways it’s the same personal connection that clients find so enjoyable and rewarding when working directly with local makers when commissioning a bespoke piece.
How has an emphasis on sustainability driven the Handkrafted approach?
Sustainability sits at the very heart of Handkrafted. While it’s important to us that our makers use timber and materials that have been harvested responsibly or reclaimed – what’s arguably more sustainable is our deep held belief in the philosophy to ‘buy less, buy well’ and the associated rejection of the throwaway culture that has become far too prevalent in the mainstream furniture industry. Investing in pieces that are well crafted and made-to-last is surely the only sustainable path forward.
What are some of the most popular pieces or makers on Handkrafted and why do you think they have been successful?
The key benefit of connecting with an independent furniture maker is the ability to have an entirely bespoke or tailored design custom made to your unique specifications. For that reason, there’s not any one piece or style that stands out as the most popular.
Yet there’s definitely an increasing interest and demand for pieces incorporating Australian hardwoods with rich grain patterns (Messmate or Wormy Chestnut are just two examples) – and timber choice is a luxury you have when working with local makers who have deep knowledge of local timbers and where to best source them. Clients can even visit workshops, or even timber yards, to work with the maker to select the actual timber boards to be used. It’s definitely a key differentiator relative to buying off-the-shelf and imported furniture.
Why do you think there has been this renewed interest in handmade pieces and knowing the person behind the product?
In a world of mass-produced goods, most of us have lost touch with how things are made, by whom, under what conditions, and how the raw materials are sourced. I believe that in reaction to that we’ll continue to see a growing interest in provenance (the origins of what we consume; from the foods we eat to the clothes we wear) as a means to build a stronger emotional connection with the world around us. There’s undoubtedly a sentimentality and meaning behind handmade items, particularly when you’ve worked together with a furniture maker to design and create something just for you.
What opportunities at Denfair are you most excited about and what other designers are you looking forward to checking out at the event?
This year we’ve curated such an awesome selection of furniture makers from around Australia – and I’m so excited to see the unveiling of what they’ve been working on! We’re exhibiting together with Jonathan West, Andrew Pinnock, Auld Design, Christopher Blank, LUI, Anthony Kleine, MJP Studio, Dezion Studio and Heimur.
Yet what I enjoy above all about Denfair is just hanging out with the makers, it’s always a lot of fun. The event provides such a great opportunity to step back and celebrate the individuals behind these beautiful works. It really is so inspiring to see the dedication, passion and energy they each commit to their craft.
What’s up next for Handkrafted?
We’ve got something new brewing but I can’t say too much at this stage! The only hint I can give is that the new offering we’ll soon launch will retain the same unrelenting focus on high quality bespoke craftsmanship by independent makers, but with an innovative solution to make it even more accessible to the public. Stay tuned…
You can visit Fred amongst the stellar lineup of designers, makers, stylists and retailers at DENFAIR 2017. Register for tickets here, or find out more our reader tours with our Editor in Chief Sian MacPherson here.