Studio Visit: Alex Cashmore
Alex Cashmore has always been interested in the physical process of making. It's why he quit his engineering degree and chose to follow a career path in Industrial Design. This decision has taken him all over the world and allowed him to work on some pretty interesting projects.
Melbourne's Covid Lockdown proved the catalyst for Alex to devote more time to developing his own products. Through the utilisation of everyday materials and tools, Alex has found a way to create objects that challenge the notion of quality and how we perceive the mundane.
Pogo: What first got you interested in design and following it as a career path?
Alex: I’ve always (since early childhood) been interested in mechanical things and understanding how they work. I was studying mechanical and manufacturing engineering, enjoyed visits to manufacturing plants and thinking about the cool things that could be made with those processes more than hardcore maths. I eventually learned of Industrial Design and changed to that, as it was more creative, hands on and very much focused on materials and manufacturing processes. Since then I’ve just been taking opportunities as they arrive and following my fascinations.
Who are some designers who have had an influence on your work? What similarities do you think exist between your work and theirs?
When I was completing my masters, at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, I had some incredible mentors. Most notably Maarten Baas, Simone Ferresin of Formafantasma and Aldo Bakker. These mentors all had a huge influence on my design process. They encouraged me to follow my interests and curiosities and to think with my hands, which is essentially what they do in their work, I think of this as being the key to creating truly original and sincere work.
You currently work in exhibition/spacial design if i'm remembering correctly, but you didn't always work in this specific role. Can you give us a brief history of your working career to date and the type of projects you worked on in your various roles?
That's kind of right, the majority of my professional work has been in exhibition design, but I’ve always had furniture / product / workshop stuff on the side. My first real design job was at Arketype in Adelaide, we designed exhibitions but also had a workshop and did a lot of fabrication and install stuff ourselves, I learnt a lot from the team there.
After I finished my masters I worked for Vincent De Rijk in Rotterdam, who fabricates cast resin furniture for designers like Wonmin Park, Hella Jongarius, Sabine Marcellis and OMA architects. I learnt allot about casting and machining there.
In London I worked for Nissen Richards studio and MET studio, we designed exhibitions for the British Museum, Natural History Museum, V&A etc. I also set up my own little metal working studio and did a bunch of custom fabrication for a friends fit-out company.
I’m currently working for Museums Victoria.
You have quite an interesting history in terms of designers you've worked with and under during your working career and time spent studying in the Netherlands. Who are some of the more interesting people you've worked with and projects you've been a part of? How hands on where you on some of these projects in terms of physically creating objects.
I've already mentioned my mentors, but my classmates from the Design Academy were just as inspiring, we all came from such diverse backgrounds but had a common passion for design.
I learnt a lot from Vincent De Rijk when I was in his workshop, they call him the godfather of dutch design because he has an incredible ability to master processes and fabricate things that seem impossible. I made a pair or Wonmin Park haze chairs and a bunch of Hella Jongarius Gemstone tables, for Gallery Kreo in Paris under his guidance. But I learned how to do it all, casting the high slabs of polyester, machining them flat, shaping and assembling them.
For the longest time I don't remember you making products for others or making much stuff in general. When did you set yourself up with a workshop and start taking on projects for others, and did this organically lead to you experimenting with making specific products of your own (such as your lamps) or was it a conscious decision to make your own product?
I’ve been pretty low key with making stuff, since leaving the Netherlands I’ve mainly focused on Exhibition Design, but even with that work I’m pretty hands on with model making and prototyping.
During one of Melbourne's early lockdowns I was approached by a friend to make a bunch of custom display units for his business. I had the spare time so I set the workshop up and did the job. I’ve had quite a few commissions since then but when things are quiet I make furniture for myself and play around with ideas. The lamps came out of that spare time Lockdown created.
Your work is quite focused on using readily available materials that people can pick up from their local hardware store. Is there a particular reason for this?
My masters thesis was all about craft fetishism and challenging the notion of ‘quality’, I made objects with industrial materials and raw MDF. I tried to merge the object and the process, like the tool to make the object was actually part of the object or the tool was something ubiquitous, like water.
This thinking still plays into my work, as does the notion of 'thinking with your hands’, when I’m holding a material or looking directly at it, thats when I have an idea, so a hardware store is a real place of inspiration for me.
Any plans for the new year? New designs? Personal projects etc.?
I have a few furniture projects lined up, but I’m also keen to keep making some small products. I recently picked up a sheet of polycarbonate diffused prism sheet from Bunnings, can’t wait to get stuck into that.
To learn more about Alex and his work visit his website
To shop Alex's products click here