This set the course for a project that included participation and creativity as its main principles. It’s also why Zaishu supports organisations that help people and why we inform about other cultures and hidden parts of society. Angourie is a surf culture – the world of design magazines is not a priority here.
And locals would never dream of spending $2000 on a chair.
Yep, yep. With Zaishu I didn’t have this kind of social epiphany or this mental shift at all, because the design industry and its mechanisms still does have its place. My reasoning was that being my own client, I can set my own agenda and I didn’t just want to plug new designs into the pre-existing Bluesquare system. I wanted to really look at the whole way it worked and not just have a design that’s cool or in the magazines.
The Zaishu is something that can come out of the pages of a magazine and have a lot of relevance in a wider community.
Is it so far the most rewarding thing you’ve done?
And ironically, has it been far more successful in terms of general interest and coverage than anything else before?
Yeah, yeah. Before, whenever I’d come up with a new design I would take it to Space furniture and they’d say, “Matt, we love your work but, you know, we’ve got all this other stuff from Europe we have to sell.” Then one day I was walking down the street with a couple of Zaishus and the Melbourne manager of Space asked me what they were. I explained the idea and he bought them off me then and there, on the spot. Then the manager of another design store, DeDeCe, phoned me up and said, “Do you still have some of those Zaishus? I want to buy one.” They were the first sales that I had. And last week the Sydney manager of DeDeCe phoned me up and he said, “Matt, we’ve got Giulio Cappellini [owner of Italian furniture company Cappellini] here in the showroom and he wants to meet you and see one of your Zaishus.” It’s a wooden box, but they loved that point of difference.
In terms of where it goes next, are you thinking of pushing the design any further?
Yeah, definitely. The next thing I want to do is look at truck pallets… So much wood and millions of pallets just get thrown out, and you can make things out of it. They’re all standard length, they’re already cut, they’re right there. It looks like I’m going to be doing a project at QUT [Queensland University of Technology], a residency project, so I think that’s what I’ll do with the students, look at this whole idea of wooden truck pallets and also tyre inner-tubes.
So you’re using all the contacts you’ve built up over the years through Blue Square to help Zaishu now.
Yeah. I guess I’ve had nearly 15 years now in the design and development thing, it’s easy to come up with a new idea and get it out there. And instead of me just running Zaishu, I’ve asked a friend, Helen Punton, to partner with me. Her background is in graphic design and marketing and she speaks German, so the plan is that she’ll go back to Berlin and she’ll set up some projects there. We’ve got another guy, Djaffar, who’s a flight attendant and he speaks five different languages and travels the world weekly, so he’ll use his global network too. And then there’s Jacqui Doyle from Playgroup in Sydney, who’s doing the same thing and has just finished a Zaishu project with artists in Noosa. So it’s almost like we’re setting up these connector points that keep putting the feelers out. So in 12 months the Zaishu might not look like this, it might be a documentary about what’s happening in India, and the loss of traditional craft and art in India.
How did your interest in Japanese Samurai culture, which then influenced the Zaishu design, develop?
Where I live is a famous surf break, Angourie Point, so we get a lot of Japanese people travelling there to go surfing. A couple of years ago I was also involved in an exhibition in Tokyo. I went there for a couple of weeks and I really liked looking at how the temples in Kamakura were constructed without any nails or other fixings. The beams slotted together without glue and there was consideration for subtleties in texture, sunlight, shadow and air circulation.