Originally trained as a architect, Tomek Archer founded Tomahawk Studios in Sydney in 2003, as a platform to delve into work across product design, architecture and events.
He’s gained recognition for a range of his architectural projects and ventures, but has also attracted well-deserved attention for his object and furniture design and strong use of timber.
Amidst his recent success as winner of the 2012 Qantas SOYA Architecture and Interior Design Award, we caught up with Archer to gain a better understanding of his practice.
What prompted you to start up your own practice?
I created Tomahawk Studios as a brand that would produce and distribute the furniture I was designing as part of my architecture studies. It takes a long time to absorb substantial architectural experience and get anything built so in the interim I liked the idea of experimenting with production at a smaller scale. Over the years since then I have worked in several architecture offices, completed two architecture degrees and played a lot of music, while maintaining Tomahawk Studios as a platform for collaborations, small projects and more furniture.
We love the simplicity of your products – what would you say your design ethos is?
It varies slightly for each product but common themes are a love of materials and an awareness of the procurement process for producing and delivering the product. I put particular focus on the way each product is produced and packaged for shipping.
You mention that all of the materials for your products are sourced in Sydney – this must be a huge challenge at times, but rewarding too. What initiated this decision?
All products are produced in Sydney and while it can be a challenge, we try to maintain competitiveness through innovation, both in design and in the technology used in manufacturing. I really believe in maintaining a viable manufacturing industry in each region of the world, so that products to be sold here are made here. Similarly, it makes sense to me that products to be sold in Europe should be made in Europe. The Campfire Table is made in Switzerland for European markets. Our tendency to ship between economies is more a function of inequalities in labour costs and cheap oil than a holistic rationale.
Can you pick a favourite product in the collection?
I’m going to select two; the first and the most recent… The first was the Campfire table which was first produced 10 years ago. The most recent is the Kompact stool / side table which is carved from a solid block of cork. Often in design we try to use as little material as possible but when using many materials such as timber, stone or cork, the process of production is subtractive. That is, the more you process the material, the less material you have left! The idea of Kompact was to carve as little away from the solid block as possible. It is still almost a solid block – so it completely fills its cardboard box – it just has a slight tightening in the waist to make it easier to handle. The Campfire table is very similar in this way. The base is made from a single length of timber, cut into three equal lengths with a precisely notched joint in each. Hardly any material is taken away so when packaged, the box it is almost a solid block of timber!
Congrats on your Qantas SOYA win and your mentorship with Brian Zulaikha. Any plans?
It’s an honour to be recognised by this program at this very early stage in my career. In an industry such as architecture, there aren’t really any shortcuts. To deliver even a single project requires perseverance, complex management skills and a commitment to a direction that is slowly developed throughout the project. The best you can do is to prepare yourself by getting as much experience as possible so that by the time an opportunity presents itself, you have developed a methodical way of working. Brian Zulaikha has worked in a variety of offices, at various scales, in different countries and with a huge number of colleagues, clients and consultants, so he has a broad wealth of experience to draw from. I imagine we will have plenty to talk about!