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Introducing the TDF Design Awards Emerging Designer Winner Nicole Lawrence!

Introducing the TDF Design Awards Emerging Designer Winner Nicole Lawrence!

Phoenix Tapware
Phoenix Tapware
Articles & Features

Last month, industrial design and fabrication studio Nicole Lawrence Studio won the Emerging Designer Award, sponsored by Phoenix, at The Design Files (TDF) Design Awards. Here, we chat to Nicole about how she got started in design and some of her favourite production techniques.

At Phoenix, we are driven by creativity and excellence, which is why we were thrilled to reprise our relationship with The Design Files Awards in 2021. We chose to once again sponsor the Emerging Designer category due to a shared passion for recognising outstanding talent in the design space, and a desire to help uncover the next generation of Australian designers and creatives.

And last month we were very excited to hear that industrial design and fabrication studio Nicole Lawrence won the Emerging Designer accolade!

Working with a manufacturing-led design approach, Nicole Lawrence is a furniture, metal fabrication and lighting studio based in Melbourne. She manufactures her own in-house collections of furniture and lighting, as well as providing design and production services to other local brands and studios. Her approach to design is technique-driven, with curiosity and learning driving her motivation to design. Functionality before form is a key principle in all works delivered.

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Announcing the winner on the night, judge Adrianna Hanna, director of architecture at Kennedy Nolan, said Nicole’s work consists of, “Carefully considered, sculptural and durable pieces. Unconstrained by typical design precepts. Nicole’s body of work is diverse and bold.”

Read our Q&A with the winner below.

How did you get started in furniture and lighting design?

My first foray into design was studying gold and silversmithing in trade school in Melbourne. This was a two-year intensive course, and I was proud to receive one of the excellence in design awards at my graduate show. While making jewellery was something that I really enjoyed, I had to stop due to a condition in my hands called Boutonnieres that made the repetitive action of making such small objects cause chronic pain. I inevitably had to rethink my trajectory.

It was clear to me that I wanted to continue making objects, so I applied for, and landed, a production position at Christopher Boots, a Melbourne-based industrial design studio creating high-end architectural lighting.

Throughout my six-year tenure at Christopher Boots, I was able to progress through the production team – making the lights – to quality control, production training and eventually landing a position in the design team working on technical design development. This particular position allowed me to grow and learn within a design studio that was growing rapidly in the Australian and international markets.

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Christopher Boots and the team there nurtured my skills and passions and helped me gain expertise in my field and also discover what my real passions and skill sets were. I was always making my own furniture and lighting pieces whilst working at Christopher Boots and I also studied Industrial Design at RMIT during this time, which took me to the Netherlands for a six-month exchange in one of Europe’s best Industrial Design Universities – TU Delft. It was here I was lucky enough to study under a number of incredibly talented designers.

Upon returning home, the start of the pandemic meant I was not able to complete my honours year in the capacity that I had hoped for, so I decided to defer and focus on my own designs and self-education. 2020 was the year Nicole Lawrence Studio came to be and it’s been growing so quickly which has been such a fun journey so far.

Do you have a style that defines your work or does this change with each piece you create?

I think you could definitely say my style is modern contemporary; I often work with organic shapes, bright colours, and clean lines. I endeavour to offer unique interpretations of functional objects that will catch people’s eye, all the while still being a useful piece to have in your home for years to come.

Smooth Side Table and Coffee Table

Do you have a favourite production technique?

Everything in my standard range is welded at some point during the production process. I really enjoy this technique as it requires you to consider a lot of different variables at once – heat, speed, material thickness etc. It’s a lot like the techniques of gold and silver soldering I learnt when I was first studying. These processes that require you to be focused on multiple variables can be challenging, but once you get your flow right it can be a really meditative process.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the industry?

The design industry here in Australia is so supportive of emerging designers, especially those who are focusing on producing considered, quality, locally made products. The suppliers and clients I work with always have time to discuss your ideas and help make them a reality.

I also feel that there has been a real shift in consumer behaviour and more people are seeking to purchase special pieces that are made with care that they can cherish for a lifetime.

How did it feel when you found out you had won the emerging designer category at TDF Awards?

Surreal, and motivating! Operating a business during a pandemic can feel a little like you’re in an echo chamber as there is little contact with your community. Receiving the Emerging Designer Award was a huge honour and reminded me that I was on the right track and the community is there to support me. Danielle and Adriana [the judges of the category] are such incredible designers in their own right so it was especially great to be selected by them out of a category of such talented designers and studios.


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