Thom Port and Guy Paramore are both independent designers, who’ve recently collaborated to become Dancing Bear Studio. Originally, I’d had Thom Port on my radar for the sunglasses that he’s been designing and making from Tasmanian hardwoods as Lovejoy Design Co, but I’d struck the jackpot realising he was now working with another excellent designer, Guy Paramore, on a cafe interior in Hobart, called Room for a Pony which was also already on my radar for an interiors shoot. It was a triple win. This is all par for the course in Hobart, a small city with a collaborative, cross pollinating design community, where everybody knows everyone (in a good way!). Their story goes a little something like this….
The Dancing Bear Story started when Thom and Guy met at the furniture school in Hobart. Guy had just graduated from the Launceston furniture school and was tutoring. Thom was majoring in graphic design and doing some furniture design units. They hit it off after realising that their social circles and design interests crossed over a fair bit and worked on a couple of small projects together. Also a mutual appreciation of low quality jokes helped cement the partnership. At that stage Thom was looking for workshop space as his time in Designed Objects Tasmania’s springboard scholarship was up and he wanted to set up independently. Guy was working out of a workshop in North Hobart and offered Thom half the space he had.
“We were talking about doing something larger and how that might work when the Room for a Pony project popped up and made sense for us to share workshop space. We started designing on the kitchen table at Guy’s house and making in the shared workshop”.
Soon a decent sized prototype table was in the front room of the house and Dancing Bear Studio was in motion. Six months on from the first kitchen table design session and the two are now firmly ensconced in a first floor studio in Salamanca Place on Hobart’s waterfront.
What were you doing before this collaboration?
TP- I was working solo on a range of Tasmanian timber sunglasses under the name Lovejoy Design Co. This started as a project while I was at Uni, I designed the manufacturing process and figured out how to make the glasses by hand. I still have this as a sideline project, but am enjoying having a more varied practice.
GP- Working solo on a variety of bespoke projects. Furniture mostly, but everything from fairly basic joinery to large scale sculptural artworks (not mine, I would work with the artist to realise their ideas).
What’s the design culture in Hobart like?
It’s a close knit community down here. We’re quite isolated geographically which means we face challenges in terms of logistics, manufacturing and exposure. The culture has emerged with this in mind, and espouses teamwork, giving a leg up to fellow designers, and working together towards a common goal – that being creating a vibrant Tasmanian design scene. It might be best described as constructively competitive.
There is a lot of focus on making as well as designing, which can have both positive and negative outcomes. Certain local groups seem to get stuck in the paradigm of ‘If you don’t make it yourself, its not worth making’, and are therefore constricted by the limits of their personal manufacturing capabilities and skill sets. Conversely, the Tasmanian making culture has become world renowned and produces objects endowed with the value of the makers mark.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’re working on the second phase of the ‘Room for a Pony’ project, a North Hobart restaurant we designed and fitted out. This will involve a big ass 10 metre long bar, furniture, outdoor oases and lots of other exciting stuff! We’re also in the late stages of a fit out for a new shop called Adrift, which will be aboard the Brooke St Pier development which, amongst other things, services the ferries to MONA and Peppermint Bay.
The other project we have on the go which we’re most excited about is creating our own range of furniture and small products. We’re planning intensive development on this front early this year, followed by some travel mid year to source materials and manufacturers.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot on, what’s the overall plan from here?
TP- The focus is on making sure we can stay fresh – challenged, with opportunity to do and create quality spaces, objects and ideas. We’re keen to develop product, but also to continue to do the sorts of projects we’re currently working on. We’ve been lucky so far, but we’ve worked hard to put our best foot forward every time. It seems to be working, people are responding positively. I feel like the work we do together has potential to be far stronger than the work we do individually.
GP – Fast cars and faster women. And dope shoes