Interior designer Fiona Lynch is known for creating beautifully crafted spaces. She’s behind the stripped-back, modern fit-out at Asian-Australian diner Anchovy; the refined but approachable design of Viktoria & Woods’ retail stores; and the luxurious but intimate design of (now-closed) South Yarra wine bar Smalls, among others. Lynch champions aesthetic invention and experimentation, but there’s an underlying theme of relaxed elegance woven through her designs too.
Through her eponymous Melbourne-based design studio, Lynch has won awards for melding disparate disciplines in her approach to retail, residential and hospitality projects, a reflection of her dual background in fine arts and interior design.
“I see art and design as being linked,” says Lynch. “I like when there’s a merging of disciplines instead of them being so separate.”
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Two years ago, the designer had the idea to create a space that offered the general public – rather than only her private client base – a tangible insight into the products, people and processes that inform her firm’s projects.
The result, called Work Shop, opened in Fitzroy in March. The name responds to the idea that the space is not quite a gallery, not quite a showroom, but instead a space where Lynch can share works, and works in progress, of artists and designers she admires.
“[It] gives people who have work that might not be quite ready for a gallery exhibition the opportunity to put their works in progress on display,” Lynch says. “It’s nice to see those processes in action. At the moment everything is almost too polished and compartmentalised, and I want everything to become a little less polished.”
Work Shop is down a cobbled lane just off Gertrude Street, in a tiny warehouse next door to Lynch’s interior design studio. Lynch and her team transformed the blank, utilitarian space into a more colourful and tactile canvas to display their wares. Walls are coated in dark terracotta paint, which was handmade from ground pigment, giving it a rough, touchable texture.
Aside from featuring in Fiona Lynch interior design projects before, there isn’t much tying the artists exhibiting in Work Shop together. “All of these pieces are borne of completely different processes,” Lynch says. Inside you’ll find everything from ceramics and jewellery to photography and statement lighting pieces for sale.
The first exhibition at Work Shop brings together four artists and designers working in completely disparate disciplines. Makiko Ryujin is a Japanese artist whose works primarily use burnt eucalyptus logs as a material; Mary Wallis is a New York-based lighting designer who works with bold lines to create balanced, refined shapes; Olivia Walker is a British ceramicist who creates highly textural and dimensional vessels; and Jiaxin Nong is a Chinese-born artist who brings chaotic and lyrical works to life on canvas. Other works on display are from Lynch and her team; they’re multidisciplinary design objects that cover diverse material ground, from weighty steel to sheer drapery, and bespoke glassware.
Lynch says Work Shop will exhibit twice a year, but every couple of weeks will bring in new items.
“We want to grow it organically and keep it quite flexible,” says Lynch. “We’re not calling it a gallery – our first exhibition feels a bit like a gallery – but it has to be a lot more relaxed than that … It’ll hopefully become a destination for finding unusual objects and art.”
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