Meeting object designers Daniel Emma—return exhibitors to Wallpaper* Handmade, collaborators with cult furniture haven Tait and Parisian cosmetic brand Guerlain and most recently on show in the National Gallery of Victoria.
Once, or maybe on multiple occasions, the profanity-laden speech of Emma Aiston was heard by Daniel To long before he registered her physical presence. The Adelaide student’s voice, excitable and packed with expletives, was the signal that she had arrived at their university lecture—as trustworthy, perhaps, as her corporeal form. (On that note: Aiston is petite, with delicate features; surely one of few people content with the nose they’ve been dealt.)
Aiston and To met studying industrial design, in the second semester of their first year. They weren’t immediately fond of one another—Aiston remembers To as an “arrogant dick”, he of course sees his past self as infinitely politer. Eventually, somehow, the two became an item. They graduated university, paid their dues with internships at a slew of London studios (Marc Newson, Committee, Thorsten Van Elten) and on returning to Australia, launched a product and industrial design business of their own, aptly titled Daniel Emma. As partners in work and life, the designers aim to work together in such a way that neither voice overrides the other.
What to make of Daniel Emma’s aesthetic? It certainly doesn’t look like one born from Adelaide, even though the duo are still working there, in a small studio painted the colour of a stick of spearmint gum. They make lamps, drawers, drinking vessels and desk objects (the latter a means of referring to brass paperweights, red magnetic cylinders and sleek silver pen holders that stand permanently on 45-degree angles.) Recently, with small Melbourne watch label AÃRK Collective, they released two marble-faced timepieces with hands of Japanese Quartz. Our creative director describes Daniel Emma’s output as “pleasant.” These are entities composed of only one or two materials, strong and tactile bronze and glass, steel and aluminium. These are things you want to pick up and cover in your fingerprints.
“Much of the time we are creating problems for ourselves,” notes Aiston. “It’s rare that we identify an issue in real life that needs amending. For us, it’s quite often about how we can turn this odd thing into something people will like.” To affirms this. “We are obviously driven by aesthetic, so if something doesn’t look right but works perfectly, it most likely won’t make the cut. We despise superfluous additions to things—every part of the design has a reason for being there.”
Below are the studio’s notes to Museum on four salient pieces.
On Hemispheres, an unearthly metallic and wood series comprised of paperweights and containers:
“This was the first work we ever showed in Milan; it was for a show [at the Milan Furniture Fair] called The Other Hemisphere. Hemispheres seemed like a fitting name considering that is what all of the forms are made from.”
On water bottles—available in two sizes—which are the exact colour of the sky on a cloudless day in spring:
“We were asked to design on a tight budget for Melbourne restaurant Attica, so we decided to repurpose these beautiful Sake bottles that were previously being thrown out … They had begun making their own sparking water rather than importing it from Italy.”
On a prototype for a pencil box, made with machined resin:
“This is a design that looks nice in photos, but was an utter failure. We have never used superglue as a fixing since!”
On a gold plated and machined aluminium thermometer, as slender and exquisite as a tall-stemmed flower:
“Leo Sawyer has one of these.”