Have you always had an interest in food?
My goodness, yes! I think I have to blame my upbringing for my love of food – my grandmother described us kids as a “league of nations”: our grandparents represent a heady mix of Italian, German, Austrian, Slovenian, Norwegian, Irish, English and Russian-Latvian; for me, the strongest connection I have to these cultures is through food. Cooking, eating and sharing food is easily my longest love-affair, and I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from feeding folks.
This is your second exhibition (having launched in December with home&company), So why Food&company for this second show?
From a personal perspective, good food and great company are two of the best things about being alive. &company is the name of our design studio and is a reflection of the fundamentally collaborative nature of what we do: helping emerging object-designers get their work made and out, and presenting creative opportunities (like this show) for making and sharing new work. Our first range of products (currently being prototyped) are food-focused designs, so it made sense to us to open up the conversation to a broader mix of artists and designers, as well as foodies, chefs, and arts institutions. It’s grown into quite a celebration!
It’s pretty impressive that you got Daniel Puskas and James Parry (award-winning chefs formerly of Oscillate Wildly, now at Sepia and Manly Pavilion respectively) to create treats for the opening night. It was pretty interesting to see them try to finish ‘cooking’ the apples with a hairdryer, too! Can you tell me how you got them involved, and what fascinating things they ended up creating for opening night?
One of the most interesting things about &company is that it’s glued together by so many wonderful people with diverse talents and connections – it’s amazing the people your friends know when you put the word out that you’re doing a show! I met Daniel (properly) for the first time at a friend’s dinner party (I thought she was terribly brave to make a feast for a hatted chef!). There, I cornered him and invited him to come on board. He seemed torn between intrigue and horror; all the usual trappings of a kitchen were absent from the proposal – there were no facilities to work with, and they, the chefs, would be on display before our guests!
Fortunately, his partner is a fairly persuasive lady, and suddenly we had two award-winning chefs making magic in our Design Lab. We were treated to instant ice-cream (made by pouring liquid nitrogen into the ice-cream mix!) and little apples dipped in a mineral that amplifies the hairdryer’s heat – shrivelled skins revealed perfectly cooked fruit inside! We can’t wait to see what happens when Daniel and James realise their dream to open their own restaurant together!
Vert Design’s work can be seen at Gaffa Gallery, but how did you come across Lucy Hall (an intern from Proef) and Chris The (chef/owner of Black Star Pastry), who are all part of the main talks?
In our free talk series, we only invited presenters that we really wanted to listen to. Lucy Hall is a good friend from uni, who returned a couple of weeks ago from a year in the Netherlands. Proef is a fascinating Eating Design Studio in Amsterdam, that combines seriously tasty food with a very strong conceptual design process… [Marije Vogelzang, who runs Proef, does fascinating things with food: she’s made a meal look like a black-and-white photograph, fashioned necklaces from sliced carrots and edible plates out of bread dough; in a collaboration with the Historical Museum of Rotterdam, she took World War II veterans down memory lane by serving them food that many of them had not had since going off to battle]. I’m really curious to find out what the internship entailed, and how the studio works!
I was introduced to Black Star Pastry on a jaunt in Newtown with my assistant curator, Anne-Louise Dadak. I grew up on Austrian cakes and strudels, so I am a serious pastry snob, and Black Star did not disappoint. It’s divinely good, the coffee, the pastry … The rosewater cake and raspberry galette are both a bit phenomenal, but the spinach & mushroom pie and brie & radish baguette also hit the spot! I think I may have to pop in tomorrow morning.
Talking to Chris has been really interesting – you start to realise the extent to which food-thinking overlaps design-thinking. The decisions a chef/owner makes about the style of food, the approach to presentation, even the interior of the bakery, similarly reflects the way a designer aims to tell a story through their work – both are craftspeople working with aesthetics, function and experience.
Vert Design was a pleasant coincidence. I’d seen the studio’s work at Melbourne’s State of Design Festival, but nothing was labelled at the show. I had some wonderful but anonymous photos of Andrew’s water jugs and it wasn’t ’til I went into Gaffa that I realised who was responsible for the beautiful tableware! So again, it was through loose personal connections that these wonderful people have heard about our show and very kindly come on board.
What’s next for &company?
An awful lot – we’re pretty good at keeping busy, and we’re always on the look out for new and interesting projects to work on! We just held a design workshop with chef Tony Bilson, and design curator/writer Grace Cochrane, which was great. Right after the show closes on May 4, we are hosting a share-shop at Finders Keepers at Carriageworks on May 7 and 8; we’re presenting works by independent designers as well as some limited edition &company samples, we’d love you to come and visit! Keep an eye out for our first food-related homewares in select stores over the coming months. We present a couple of exhibitions a year, so if you’re a little interested, shoot us an email to join our mailing list, or check us out on Facebook and at &company.