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PD Custom Furniture
Paul Darlison is a designer and maker of fine furniture. His workshop at YREC, which he established at the beginning of 2018, is home to his brands mi mi minimalist and PD Fine Furniture. His ethos is‘simple pieces, exquisitely done’.
He is a teacher who, after many years of generalist teaching, including woodwork and design tech, set himself the goal of career shifting. For now, establishing and growing his furniture design business is happening in tandem with his teaching career, and the low-cost space at YREC is enabling him to adjust slowly around his working and family commitments.
Paul’s love for furniture making started to take shape a couple of years ago. He took a twelve-month working sabbatical and completed an intense training course at the prestigious Sturt School for Wood in Bowral. He specialised in fine furniture making and was one of only twelve students to be accepted. The course was an immersion with the very best furniture makers in Australia, and after Paul’s graduation exhibition at the end of 2017, he returned with his family to Warburton ready to put his new skills to work. When a suitable workshop became available at YREC, he moved in and started experimenting.
“I have notions of what my business will look like, but now I’m seeing what people are willing to buy.” Through his brand mi mi minimalist, a Chinese word for ‘secret’, Paul is developing a range of small-scale production pieces that he plans to sell via an Esty shop, and through galleries. His proven sellers include Ikebana vases, Kumiko (Japanese boxes) and bread boards.
“I love to do one-off, bespoke commission and spec pieces and PD Fine Furniture is the high-end part of my business where I get to be creative, and work with incredible, exotic timbers. The prestige is in the detail and part of my work is to educate people to truly appreciate those finer details. My mission is to make pieces that are modern heirlooms. I love the process of taking an idea, understanding a piece’s purpose, making sketches and even models, and then making the full-scale piece,” he says, running his hand over the smooth surface of his finished work. He cites his influences as George Nakashima, Shiro Kuramata and Wharton Esherick.
“Timber is an incredible form to work in. You can take a rough sawn piece and turn it into something beautiful and practical. Every sand, every polish, reveals a unique marking. Grains and colours appear quite magically. It’s an exploration. I’ve enjoyed developing my eye for timber and where to use each piece.”
For Paul, YREC is the ideal site as he transitions to ‘making and creating a lively business’. It’s provided space to breathe and get things right – from the most workable layout of his workshop, to understanding how to upscale his production, and work-life balance. The first business plan is due for an update, and version two will be, according to Paul “even more grounded and practical.” YREC has been an excellent testing ground for this new beginning.