Furniture Design

Comments (0) Interviews

Aimee Ryan and Emma L Davies are talented and creative artisans in a field many may not have even considered turning into a career … furniture design. The two women are currently studying furniture design at TAFE, and the quality of the work they’ve produced augurs well for their future within this specialised industry. Aimee, Emma and Martin Tomasoni, Course Coordinator for the Furniture Design Program at Coffs Harbour TAFE, show us just what is possible for those who ‘think outside the square’ …

Hi Martin. How long does the course run?

There are a Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Furniture Design Technology. The Diploma runs for two years and the Advanced Diploma for three years.

What criteria do aspiring people need to have if they’re interested in doing the course?

Passion, commitment and dedication to their learning and a willingness to think outside the square.

What does the course aim to teach students?

The course aims to train students to become designer/makers of studio furniture and provide a path for further study on the field of design – interior design, industrial design, product design, or secondary teaching (Design & Technology).

This course is for people who want to work either as fine furniture makers designing and producing individual furniture for display, customised or limited edition production, or designers of furniture for volume manufacture.

You will study new technologies, including new materials and studio design practices used in the design and realisation of furniture, including the use of computer-aided design, modelling and manufacture. Course work has an emphasis on individual creative and innovative expression, production methods and marketing and business studies.

Where can potential students find out more information?

Contact Martin Tomasoni:  (02) 6659 3367 or

Girls, why did you decide to complete the furniture design course at TAFE?

Aimee: I decided to complete the furniture design course at TAFE as I had already studied this subject at the University of Tasmania. I wanted to enhance skills that I have and use them to produce products either made by myself, or in conjunction with manufacturers. The computer designing elements of this course have allowed me the opportunity to adopt processes essential in modern manufacturing. This TAFE course is very hands on, as well as encouraging creativity in design combined with a basis of functionality. This is integral to my future as a designer of furniture and products.

Emma: I’ve always loved making things and have a background in visual arts and jewellery design. The furniture design course offered a way to update these skills, with a focus on functionality. We moved to Coffs Harbour at the beginning of last year and, as my children are still fairly young, I felt the course would allow me to redirect my career and would be helpful in settling into a new place.

What has the course taught you?

Aimee: As well as the introduction to computer designing, the Furniture Design course allows me to gain confidence in designing and making of furniture and other creative yet functional products. I’ve been introduced to traditional methods of woodworking but also to new machinery, technology and equipment. I’ve also been assigned creative and technical drawing tasks that incorporate researching historic and contemporary design. It’s a fantastic way to learn fundamentals, but is also inspiring and helps me be a forward thinking and innovative designer.

Emma: The course has taught me a huge amount so far. There is an emphasis on wood, a material I had previously had little experience with; we’ve learnt the basics and now some more advanced methods of processing wood using both machines and hand tools. We are encouraged to focus on the design first, and then various materials and production processes are explored to see if they are appropriate for the design. We have also learnt design drawing skills, maquette making skills and have completed units focusing on how to make multiple pieces to sell.

What are some of the pieces you’ve created that you’re particularly proud of?

Aimee: I’ve had the opportunity to create some amazing pieces that I am very proud of. They include a carved hand held mirror that I made with hand tools, a dovetailed hardwood box and a Huon Pine shelf that can be restructured due to magnetic surfaces. I am also making a folding stool that is inspired by the elements and completed a brief that included a recycled chair that I deconstructed and then reconstructed into a hat/coat stand.

I think recycling is a great statement – it’s green, it’s creative and as a designer, I love the fact that I can turn what was potentially landfill into a fresh and modern piece that can take pride of place in a modern home.

Emma: I have really enjoyed making all the pieces. Some are more successful than others, but each one is a learning process. I particularly liked a project focusing on a production run, for which I made a concertina hat rack using both wood and cast resin. I am proud of the end result, which I feel is both practical and attractive and have found that there is a market for such pieces. For a hand mirror project, I decided to carve wood and although it is a time consuming process, I am happy with the result so far.

What are your career aspirations for when you finish the course?

Aimee: When I complete the course, I wish to further my career in design and construction. I plan a career for myself as a designer working with local design companies, interior designers and building companies. I want to provide unique one off pieces, as well as creative affordable runs of unique and exciting contemporary pieces. I would also love to share the knowledge that I’ve gained by teaching it to the next generation. There are so many creative young people out there, and I think it would be amazing to share what I’ve learned with them and hopefully inspire them to follow their designer dreams.

Emma: I would be really pleased if I could become a designer maker of limited edition pieces, small and large. Also, the skills I’ve gained will be very useful when making sculptures and other artworks.

Thanks everyone. 

Interviews by Jo Atkins.

This story was published in issue 25 of the Coffs Coast Focus

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