Archives for posts with tag: Design

steve pozel

Steve Pozel is the director of Object, Australia’s leading centre for design. His career in the arts spans some 30 years beginning in small artist run and regional galleries before moving on to become director of Canada’s most significant contemporary arts centre The Power Plant. Following a business trip to Australia he was offered a position at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art where he worked for 2 years before being appointed as director of Object in 2000. Now in his 12th year as director at Object, Steve kindly sat down for a chat with arts interview about learning and its role in the workplace.

Interview by Vanessa Anthea Macris

Could you describe Object in its current form and where you envision it in 3 years?

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Object as an organisation. One of the key motivations for me moving forward over the last few years has been the creation and implementation of our brave, bold vision for the positioning of Object in the future. Our vision is not just a 3-4 year business plan but rather a strategy for Object to be the most relevant of its kind for 2015. This has given me the scope to work with my management team and to talk to over 150 people around Australia in finding out what elements would really make for a dynamic centre of design. Out of this process we have created the 2015 vision which we have been using as a basis to develop all exhibition, creative program, educational, digital, community and touring content. Every decision from here on in is being tailored to get us towards the 2015 vision and the kind of centre we want to become.

Learning is a characteristic of an adaptive organisation. With this in mind what does Object do to support the continued learning of its staff?

I’d say that we run Object like a design laboratory. Every single staff member at Object whether you’re an administrator right through to a producer of creative programs has an almost equal opportunity to experiment, take risks and prototype various projects in the organisation. I’d consider Object one of the most fertile and innovative learning spaces because we think that if we are going to be a place about innovative ideas and concepts that will have an impact on the future of peoples lives, then that’s the territory that we as a group have to be living and breathing. For me this is one of the most amazing jobs I’ve ever had. During my 12 years at Object I’ve been on one of the greatest single learning curves I’ve ever been on and that’s the kind of job I want.

How important is continued learning in the workplace and why?

I think it’s absolutely essential. If there is any organisation that wants to move forward in a progressive and innovative way it has to be the absolute core of what you do. I also think that it’s about holding retention of really good staff, as it’s important to keep teaching and training staff members so that they feel that they’re growing and developing their skills. Continued learning in the workplace is about making staff members feel comfortable that they’re learning things that can be adapted to a whole range of circumstances post their life within the organisation. At the same time its important to have the staff members recognise how very special it is to be gaining new skills and having them wanting to stay with the organisation.

Do you feel that the development of staff is a high priority in the arts sector?

I think that we are very privileged sector because we attract incredibly passionate, dynamic and hugely creative people. A lot of other sectors, including the business sector are looking at the arts and see a sector that with very little makes huge leaps and bounds. Fundamentally, this comes down to the people behind the organisation. Overall, I think that the arts sector does a very good job but I think that it could be doing an even more brilliant job in creating even greater benchmarks for other industries to look to. Innately, we do some very good things but I think that there needs to be a greater level of training within the arts of how to leverage off what we already do so well.

What are the priorities for public programs at Object in terms of education?

We have huge plans and priorities! In fact we just spent 3 hours this morning on that very topic and we probably spend a good 3 – 5 hours every week as a team looking at that as part of our project called Design Emergency, which has been in pilot phase for the last 12-18 months. Design Emergency in a nutshell has seen us work with various stakeholders from universities and schools to the NSW Department of Education in taking design thinking as a process and applying it in an innovative way to look at problem solving. The whole basis of the program is about raising the capacity of kids in schools to be able to deal with issues around them in a much more direct and hands on manner. We’re basically giving them the skills of a designer and telling students that you don’t need to use these skills to design an object or building but that you can use these skills to re-design something that’s not working in your school, home or community.

tomek archer

Photo: courtesy of Tomahawk Studios 

Having just recently returned from tour in Jakarta, Van She percussionist Tomek Archer is not only a musician but the award-winning creative director of Tomahawk Studios furniture design and practices as an architect for a commercial firm in Sydney. His signature furniture piece, The campfire table is now held in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Tomek talks to arts interview about working with others and stress.

 Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

What are the broad stress factors of being a musician on tour?

Well you put a lot of stress on your body, because you’re mostly sitting around waiting, really inactive. Then you have about an hour of really intense activity, and then that’s it. You probably drink too much, and are usually dehydrated, so it’s mainly a stress on your body. It’s more of a physical stress than a mental stress.

I suppose the only time things really would ever get stressful for musicians, or for anyone, is when you have difficulty focusing upon the present and what is straight in front of you. Stress is when you are worried about something that might happen or something you cannot help. So it’s pretty important when doing anything to be able to put all that aside.

How does working across different mediums affect your perception of stress and how would you describe its affect upon wellbeing?

I think of music and design more as being complimentary – as two halves of a whole. But it means that I am always working- one seems to always be the downtime from the other.  All of my breaks from design are on tour and all the down time from touring is filled with design. So it’s pretty rare to have a holiday that isn’t at all design or music related.

It’s common for people working in creative industries to have many projects all going on at once. How important is flexibility when you are working on a number of projects?

Flexibility is the ability to adapt, and sometimes it means that everyone around you who you work with is required to be a bit flexible as well. It can definitely put a strain on other people you’re working with. I have found that everyone I work with has been pretty flexible, other wise I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done.

What do you do to relax?

I’d like to say travelling, but every time I go travelling I’m working so it doesn’t really count. I haven’t been on a long holiday in a while. I’m not that good at sitting still for a very long time. I think it’s different for people who work primarily for money, but I guess I’ve designed a life for myself where I will probably never stop working. I’ll probably never retire. I like watching films. I like going to the snow. But, whatever I’m doing I always keep my eyes open as well. My brain doesn’t turn off. I should probably start meditating. I’m totally in control all the time- like Patrick Bateman.

he made she made

He Made She Made (HMSM) are the recent recipients of a grant from the City of Sydney (CoS), subsidizing creative spaces to revitalize Oxford Street. The four members of He Made She Made, Bent Patterson, Maaike Pullar, Laura Kepreotis and Patrick Chambers, create and curate works within this space which, may be considered art, but often encompass the functionality and utility of a design piece. The collective sat down with arts interview to talk about the gallery space and the process of establishing a new collaboration.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

How did the HMSM collaboration begin?

Three of us knew each other from university and work and two of us were planning collaborative projects already. We all ended up looking for space and opportunity to try new things around the same time. The City of Sydney began a push to revitalize the lower end of Oxford Street through subsidised rent for creative spaces, which provided the impetus to form officially. What followed was a series of ‘meetings’ or sessions at the pub where the four of us talked about world domination and the like. Our agendas were written on the back of coasters.

What do you think are the pros and cons of collaboration in an opportunity such as this grant, compared to other collaborations such as forming out of art school, mutual friends, working together on another project etc?

 I think the opportunity from the CoS probably gave us a reason to push ourselves, a reason to collaborate. Certainly I think if we hadn’t had the CoS expressions of interest deadline we would still be discussing how to set ourselves up, if we wanted to be a collective, if our practices even meshed. Once you’re out of uni/art school, furniture and prototyping is a solitary sort of project, but the need to keep the space open really required a team effort. It’s turned out to be awesome, having people around to bounce ideas and processes with.

The major pro is location. We would never have been able to afford a space entirely for ourselves on Oxford street without sharing it with 20 other artists, which is where most collectives start out I guess – in shared spaces. Conversely, a major con is that we are temporary. We aren’t going to exist in the space for a normal 2-5 year lease, so there is pressure to accelerate things.

How do HMSM see themselves as a group in the pop up gallery? As craftsmen/ artists/ curators/gallery managers? How do you manage this juggling of multiple roles?

One of us works professionally as an art director, one as an experiential designer, one as an interior designer and one as a furniture resurrector. We all have different backgrounds, and some of us suit certain roles more than others. I don’t think we see ourselves as being one particular thing, even if we all ‘make’ things. There’s a huge crossover of skills and we all attempt to don the craftsmen/artist/curator/manager hat with support from each other.  We all have our opinions about all aspects of the running of the gallery, and we hear and respect those ideas. Some of us prefer the making of things and being able to facilitate the gallery from a practical level. Others have a strong interest in curating, or in running the gallery so the rest of us can take a step back.

Do you think a business/ artistic collaboration has worked effectively? Do you think it is better to have the two roles ideally separate?

 Most of us have worked in our industries long enough to know that 80% of the time you are running a business and 20% of the time you might get to do something creative. It would be nice to be able to get the business to a level of self management at some stage so we can all focus on our own work – but then we wouldn’t be He Made She Made anymore. Every decision we’ve made so far has been together, be it creatively or in relation to business. You definitely wear different hats when you’re working together. Talking about finance or the running of the business is a totally different mindset to discussing the way to join two pieces of wood – or pull your hand out of a silicone mould.

What is the grand plan for HMSM after the completion of the pop up gallery? Do you see a continued collaboration?

 The CoS has given us a low investment opportunity to trial HMSM as we see it now. We don’t know what public response and the local community will bring to the mix. It’s already creating interest and opportunities for us as a collective and individually, so who knows where HMSM will be in 12 months. Hopefully it will live on in some form – we’ll have a model and a business plan to take to the bank.

He Made She Made’s second exhibition: The Second Coming opens Tuesday March 13, from 6.


Design and Art Australia Online  (DAAO) is a e-research tool that has been built on the foundations of the Dictionary of Australian Artists. DAAO captures biographical material, when artists were born, when they died, whom they associated with, but also gathers information on artists’ practice such as their works and exhibitions. It is a dynamic and multifaceted research tool that services a range of researchers interested in Australian art and design. Dr Gillian Fuller, DAAO’s research director, took the time to talk to arts interview about this complex, evolving project that involves organisations from across Australia’s art and design sector.

 Interview by Kim Goodwin

DAAO is going through a change – a relaunch.  Who is involved in this new project?

Academic Researchers have always been at the core of the project, which is wonderful, it has enabled the DAAO to get a solid sense of scholarly authority. For the DAAO to be something you can trust, the academic input into this has been pivotal. Next is to open up the database to researchers who are non-academic, those working in museums, such as the Powerhouse, or amateur researchers who have knowledge about Australian art and design.

It works on two levels; we are opening up technically, so that the actual structures of the database can interoperate with other database, which means we can directly exchange data with organisations such as the Art Gallery of NSW or the Ian Potter Museum. We are also opening up the project at the interface level, so that a whole range of researchers can not only use the database, but they can contribute and update records, and participate on projects together through the database. In addition, we are enabling a whole range of researchers to not only use DAAO, but also to contribute and participate on projects together through it. For example, two researchers at different ends of the country can contact each other, share data, form teams, really start working together and finding new questions about Australian art and design.

What challenges have you faced bringing together so many academic and non-academic organisations to participate in such a complex project?

One challenge and I think this is the area I find most encouraging – once you get the business plan right you have to also make it worthwhile for everybody involved. It is a challenge, but it is an exciting challenge to find out what people want and incorporate the feedback into a design that works. We had to listen to the issues that partner institutions are facing. For example, a lot of museums and galleries have incredible digitised assets but they have nowhere to put them beyond their own websites. By putting things into the DAAO, all of a sudden their collections data is sitting next to exhibitions data, which is sitting next to biographical data. This incredible and beautiful juxtaposition of data enables a really rich picture to emerge. Our partners really understand this; they are driven by a love of wanting to know what influences Australian art and design.

You have made the switch from academia to leading this project, what have you learnt?

I would not say I have made a switch as such – I am still an academic; I still research and publish. When I was working academically I would talk of data ‘coming together’ without understanding the actual footwork that goes into working with institutions with regard to getting the data to be open about obtaining permissions etc.

I have learnt too that when you have a big project with a big budget and a short timeline, you learn to be very solutions focused very quickly. The thing I find very satisfying about working on a technical project is knowing if something works or not immediately.

Also the more detailed and open you are about what you are doing, the better quality feedback from stakeholders you get. I am not particularly concerned if stakeholders disagree with me, just so long as we get a chance to talk. For me these kinds of discussions are part of best practice in design.

After July the project moves into a new phase. When the new site launches, what does ongoing success look like for DAAO?

Success looks like a truly useful e-research tool.  If you can create something that is useful you have solved most of the problems.

Ongoing success means a database that is self-sustainable and active. One that a high amount of people use every day, and saving and exporting our data for other purposes.

However, success is not just people using the database, but using it in surprising ways that I have never thought about. We are putting out a website with new functionality and many different sorts of system capabilities. I cannot wait to see how people hack it, mash it, how they use it, what they do with it.

More information the DAAO journey can be found here:

Lucy feagins artsinterview

Lucy Feagins launched The Design Files, a daily blog in 2008, transforming her hobby into a business with 180,000 visitors every month. Lucy speaks about the challenges of managing a daily online presence and working from home full-time. She also provides great insight into the demands of running your own business and offers some great tips on how to manage your time more efficiently.

Interview by Nina Pether

What is the most stressful aspect of working in the blogosphere?

The single most stressful part of my job is e-mail! Having a daily online presence means people often expect you to be accessible at all times. I spend a lot of my week out and about sourcing and shooting stories, and inevitably, when I get back to my desk at the end of the day I have 200 or more emails waiting for me. It is impossible to keep on top of my inbox.

You run a daily blog and juggle a full-time job as a stylist and set dresser. How do you balance these varied creative projects?

In all honesty, it is so difficult balancing full-time work with any kind of demanding side project. You really have to be disciplined. My one rule when first embarking on this blog was to never miss a post. Once I committed to posting new content on a daily basis, I found my rhythm. It just becomes a part of your daily routine and then you cannot remember a time when you did not have to do it! I guess “The Design Files” is like a baby – it needs feeding and changing all the time!

When I was working full-time, I would come home every night and have about half an hour of getting my things in order, and then from about 7.30pm to after midnight spend time doing blog stuff; catch up on emails, photoshop images, create content, and upload the following day’s post. I would eat dinner whilst staring at the screen, stay up late to get it all done,and then get up in the morning and go to work! Luckily my boyfriend is a saint and I love takeaway food.

You produce a lot of online content on a daily basis. Do you find it challenging to meet this demand on your own? How do you structure your time and the various facets of your business to be efficient?

To be honest, these days, generating content is the least of my concerns… after all, that is the fun bit! There is no shortage of great stuff to write about, and I receive a lot of submissions and tip-offs which are really helpful. What I find more difficult is making time for the business side – bookkeeping, negotiating with advertisers, keeping on top of cash flow and all of that boring stuff.

I have decided to try and make 2011 the year for more delegation. I am such a control freak usually, but I am learning to get help more often, and especially in areas that are not my strengths – for instance, I got a bookkeeper this year. One other simple but super helpful thing that I have done this year is to try and lock in entire days to be at the computer screen, and entire days to be out and about. Monday is usually a computer day when I try not to schedule meetings or shoots. I find that once I leave my desk to go and photograph something or meet someone, the entire day is a write-off! It is much better to spend a whole day out photographing, and then a whole day at the computer screen.

Do you ever find your workload exhausting or overwhelming? If so, how do you keep yourself inspired when you are working on your own and to multiple deadlines?

YES! I am often overwhelmed by the workload, mainly because most of the work comes down to me and me alone. I try to organise things in advance but inevitably I still need to be connected to TDF every day.

Whilst the workload can be quite overwhelming at times, I generally do not have any trouble staying motivated or inspired. My number one motivation is all the wonderful readers.

Having said all that, it is my goal for 2012 to make the site slightly less dependent on just me alone. I would love more assistance for the administration, advertising and technical parts of the job.

Would you ultimately like to focus on “The Design Files” full-time?

This was my long term goal last year and I am there already! So my next goal is to retrospectively make a proper plan and some actual ‘systems’ for this business. In order to grow I really need an office, I need to get better at delegating and I need to hire some more regular in-house assistance. I am also excited to start taking TDF off the screen and into the real world a little more often – we have a super exciting pop-up event planned in Melbourne for early December – stay tuned!

Interested in more reading on stress and well-being?