Nick Pearce returned to study at Melbourne Polytechnic to start a career in furniture design and manufacturing. As a final-year student in the Diploma of Arts – Furniture Design, at Melbourne Polytechnic, Nick Pearce knew what he would create as his final assessment piece.
He would design a contemporary desk which he wanted for his own use at home; a desk that was functional and utilitarian that would be in a class of its own.
Now, Nick, 27, of Glen Iris, has won the 2007 Furniture Designer of the Future Skills Recognition Award presented by the Furnishing Industry Association of Australia (Vic/Tas) Inc. for his desk design and manufacture.
Nick designed his desk from a general brief that had a compulsory frame and a panel included; and then turned to cable television programs about amazing feats of bridge construction for inspiration.
'We could choose our own themes for whatever we designed and I opted for a cantilevered bridge concept for my desk that involved the two legs on one side of the desk supporting an overlapping drawer unit on the other side with a glass desk top resting on the frame,' Nick explained.
'The two features opposite each other rely on each other for support of the structure which is how many bridges are constructed.'
The desk, 2m long and 75 cms wide is made from a powder-coated steel frame, the drawer unit from plywood laminate with a glass top.
'I am fascinated by bridge and building construction and have been watching TV programs about them for five years,' Nick said.
'They are amazing as they defy what you think can be constructed and are beyond our realistic imagination.'
He added he had always been intrigued by how they were actually constructed and decided to research cantilevered bridges on the internet for more information.
'The main thing I got was that the two sides rely on each other for support and that's when I had my desk theme in my head. I downloaded the photos and visual images of the bridges to use as inspiration for my desk.'
Nick then worked out what he needed – the size and storage space and made about 15 sketches before narrowing his drawings down to one design.
'I wanted a glass top so it would be completely smooth to draw on for my future work as a designer,' he said.
'It was actually pretty straightforward to make. I outsourced the steel frame but constructed the drawer unit myself with three drawers in it on the left of the desk. I did have some mental blocks while I was making it; then I'd walk away for a day and come back to it fresh.'
Nick said he had also googled desks on the internet to ensure there was nothing else like his design out there in the marketplace.
'Mine had to be different and the most demanding aspect was actually creating an original design.'
He said when he was sketching the design, he didn't think about how he would make it; achieving functionality with a unique design was the challenge ahead of him.
'Making it then just came along as I went; it came together pretty easily.'
Excited and happy about winning the award, Nick said initially, he was 'completely shocked' by it.
'I finished the desk last year and have been using it at home for the past six months and I had no idea what award I was up for. I was told I was a finalist, but that's all. It certainly gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement that your hard work pays off.'
Nick, who returned to study at Melbourne Polytechnic in 2005 after years of working as a shift supervisor at KFC and then as a house painter, wanted to make a career change as a furniture designer and manufacturer. He enjoyed design at secondary school and also liked working with his hands.
He saw the Melbourne Polytechnic furniture design course on the internet and realised instantly -'that's what I wanted to do.'
Since completing his diploma at Melbourne Polytechnic last year, Nick now works designing and manufacturing original furniture by commission in his own business.
It's building up slowly and to win the award will help establish my credentials as a designer.'
Diploma of Arts - Furniture Design