Redefining the Future of Furniture Design with Brodie Neill
Sometime in the 1980s, a young Brodie Neill was in Hobart, Tasmania, tinkering around with his grandfather’s carpentry tools. The self-described “creative, curious” kid began by making stools, putting bits of wood together and taking inspiration from the nature around him.
These days, 42-year-old Brodie Neill lives in London and his work as a furniture designer (under his self titled Brodie Neill editions and production brand Made in Ratio, available through Living Edge in Australia) using waste and discarded materials has brought him international acclaim.
In May, Brodie was featured in Sotheby’s London Design series, and earlier this year his work was highlighted at the Melbourne Design Fair. But despite his success, he isn’t too far removed from the Tassie boy who always loved furniture: “I’m as excited today about the new frontier as I was as a 17-year-old. You become consumed by it, and that’s thankfully something that has not waned in any way.”
‘Material Consciousness’ at Sotherby’s, London
With this passion, he has created pieces such as the hypnotic Gyro Second Wave table – it looks like a blue disc with intricate patterns on it but is actually made up of ocean jetsam, including single-use plastics – which was singled out by the New York Times when it first appeared at the London Design Biennale. From that, the Jetsam dining table evolved: “It’s basically what’s leftover after we’ve removed all the colours from the Gyro table. So even within the studio, we’re looking at ways to reuse our own waste, so it’s waste from waste.”
When he describes the creative process, it sounds equal parts thoughtful and mercurial: “It’s quite serendipitous; it’s a stumbled-upon moment where you think, ‘What if? What happens if you make a chair from a continuous spiral loop? It all happens very quickly, almost like a dream. There’s this magical conception of the idea, and then comes the long, drawn-out process of realising it.”
Inspiration can strike anywhere except behind a desk: “Walking down the street, it happens a lot. People think you’re trying to get out of the office, but it’s one of the best things because you’re not going to get that creative surge sitting at your desk. You’re walking down the street, and you think, ‘What if you made a table leg like that…’ and by the time you get to the next corner, the whole thing could be sorted out.”
Although sometimes, it actually does happen in his office. “In the early stage of my career when I’d moved to London, I was designing these beautiful, volumetric pieces, and we got a quote for a material that was not cheap. We couldn’t afford it. I was sitting at the window looking out and thinking about what we could do when across the road was a construction site with a skip containing all these materials being thrown out. I thought, ‘Oh my god, here are these materials for free,’ and that was the start of the Remix [chaise longue, from reclaimed materials], which was my most acclaimed and exhibited and printed limited edition piece. It took two years to resolve, but the idea in its conception was right there at that moment.”
But even though the boy is out of Tasmania, his roots remain. “I was always raised with a ‘tread lightly’ mindset. When you’ve got a block of wood in your hand and thinking about what to make, there’s a lot of responsibility in your hands. It’s taken hundreds – in some cases thousands – of years to emerge, so you don’t want to be wasteful, and you want to design something with longevity in mind. That’s always been there in me…I don’t even want to use the word ‘waste,’ because it’s not waste for me. It’s the building blocks of something new.”
“I don’t even want to use the word ‘waste,’ because it’s not waste for me. It’s the building blocks of something new.”