DesignFreo: Object, Space, Place looks at Fremantle through the lens of design and draws attention to how design shapes our experiences as individuals and as a community. The exhibition explores our relationship to designed objects, spaces and places and features local architects and furniture makers, and fashion, industrial, interior and graphic designers.

We recently caught up with Pippa Hurst, founder of DesignFreo and curator of Object, Space, Place, to find out more about the exhibition and Pippa’s vision. You can hear from Pippa and a whole slew of Fremantle designers at a FAC Artist Talk tomorrow night.

Hi Pippa, you’re the founder of DesignFreo. What inspired you to create the organisation?

DesignFreo was created as a platform to shine a light on our city’s thriving design community. We’re a small town but we have a high concentration of talented designers, working and winning awards across every discipline. These include architecture, interiors, landscape, fashion, communications, product and digital design.

DesignFreo aims to make this work more visible and accessible. Our events, workshops and exhibitions create opportunities to see what these designers do, hear their ideas and join a broader conversation about why it’s important. Good design brings joy to the every day and also tackles the bigger challenges facing our communities – both thrown into sharp relief in 2020.

Sharing local stories adds another layer to our city’s rich creative identity and strengthens our connection to the place where we live. In a time of global pandemic, it can also build economic resilience. A passionate team of local creatives has worked hard to get DesignFreo up and running. We’re all volunteers who care deeply about the future of our town and our planet.

Can you tell us about DesignFreo’s first exhibition Object, Space, Place and the vision behind it?

Object, Space, Place celebrates everyday design in the context of our unique geographic location. Three galleries offer three different experiences, all drawing attention to how design shapes our lives and reflects particular values.

We all make myriad design decisions in a day – we choose what to wear, use, buy and discard. These design decisions, and the legacy they carry, radiate outwards from the individual to the communal to the global. This idea forms the conceptual framework for the show.

The main gallery looks at our personal objects and spaces. spaceagency architects has created a ‘house’ within the gallery, a demonstration of architecture’s capacity to offer surprise and intrigue. The installation references renovation, a common practice in Fremantle, and within the newly-created ‘rooms’ sits the work of five local designers, each expressing a different design intent. Varied in form and function, the work reveals the thought and complexity behind the design of common objects. From an electric bike to a deconstructed table, the work is linked by a common concern for our responsibility as designers and consumers to reduce carbon emissions, waste, and over-consumption.

DesignFreo: Object, Space, Place opening night. Squarepeg home table design. Photography by PIxel Poetry

In Gallery 3, Penhale & Winter shift the design focus from the personal to the communal. Shadow Space is an immersive, site-specific installation that draws attention to the strong relationship that Fremantle has with the physical matter on which it is built. Referencing the verandah as an in-between space, the work invites consideration of how design shapes our sense of place in the wider city, where contrasts between limestone and timber, public and private, open and closed, influence how we feel.  A map on the accompanying floorsheet encourages moving beyond the gallery and into the city itself.

Penhale and Winter, Shadow Space, 2020. DesignFreo: Object, Space, Place exhibition opening. Photography by Pixel Poetry

In the Kathleen O’Connor Gallery, What’s My Type? brings a playful tone to another aspect of design we encounter every day but often give little thought to – typography. Isabel Kruger’s photographs in the hallway feature local found type. Inside the gallery, Becky Chilcott’s super-sized characters offer a fresh perspective on the familiar, inviting visitors to identify the typeface that best aligns with their own personality as a fun way to explore the way type communicates.

DesignFreo: Object, Space Place exhibition opening. What’s by Type. Photography by Pixel Poetry

As a whole, the exhibition invites audiences to slow down and look at the world through a design lens. Questioning the provenance and values embedded in everything around us is an opportunity to engage more deeply with everyday life and elevate the ordinary. Embracing local design strengthens our connection to place and our community’s capacity to be more resilient – ‘buy once, buy well, buy local’ rewards the individual and the collective.

Fremantle is home to a bustling creative community. Why do you think creativity thrives in the port city more so than other areas in Perth?

Frremantle has a long history as a creative hub. The artists came when real estate in the working port was cheap and laid a strong creative foundation that is now deeply embedded in our city’s culture, despite the rocket in property prices!

Creatives are drawn to Freo’s cultural diversity, urban fabric, progressive politics and coastal lifestyle. I think a lot of people who leave Perth come back to WA and see Fremantle as the closest thing to the vibrant, gritty urban environments found in bigger cities, with the added attraction of the river and ocean. The city’s scale promotes a connected, tight-knit community. And like attracts like – our creative community continues to grow. Being able to collaborate with other creatives is a big drawcard.

What can visitors expect at tomorrow’s event?

I’m really looking forward to introducing the designers who are in the show and sharing some of the stories behind their work. I could easily talk to each of them for an hour – there are so many layers to what they do, from the pragmatic to the political. But I promise to keep to a time limit!

After the talk audiences will be able to explore the show, where the designers will be alongside their work to answer questions or just have a chat. It’s a great opportunity to meet some talented local creatives and learn more about what they do and how it might be of benefit in your own life.

What does 2021 have in store for DesignFreo?

We’ll be building on our events program, including a weekend design festival that was postponed earlier this year. We’ll be continuing our Conversations series, where we pair up designers from different disciplines who have collaborated on interesting projects – we’ve already got some amazing graphic designers, filmmakers, landscape designers and fashion designers lined up.

We’ll also be inviting audiences on-site to view new architectural projects as they are completed. And telling more design stories on our website – subscribe to stay in the loop on upcoming events, and keep an eye on our socials. We are excited about all the great design being created in our town and all the things we have to share.

Want to know more? Join us Wed 9 Dec for the exhibition talk.

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