Hamming it up: Blackheath-based Studio ham’s whimsical yet practical products and prints
From their Blue Mountains location Studio ham’s owners and husband and wife design duo Mark and Hannah Surtees indulge their sense of quirkiness to create a cocktail of unique works.
“Our designs are inspired by the challenge of visually relating the unrelated to create the unexpected, but it’s got to be useful,” Mark says.
It is far from the bland leading the bland for these talented out-of-the box thinkers who’ve managed to put an imaginative spin on everyday items that they’ve now coined “practical art”.
“Why should we be surrounded by the bland or the utilitarian? We believe there’s so much sensory pleasure to be derived from using an everyday item that’s beautiful or interesting,” Mark says.
“Coming from a commercial design background we’re governed by the rule that ‘it’s got to be useful’. Adhering to this simple directive sets us free to indulge in our love of extreme quirkiness. It’s a delicate balancing act of form and function.”
Studio ham produces a range of limited edition furniture, lighting, graphics and prints forged from a combination of antique items and sustainable materials.
“We also work closely with interior designers to create bespoke site-specific design solutions,” Mark says.
Aside from the quirky, this design team is inspired by what they term, the “fine messes” of comedic duo Laurel and Hardy and the abstract expressionism of artist Jackson Pollock.
“Two bowler-hatted men in business suits constantly embroiled in hilarious slapstick? An artist using standard painter’s tools but from a totally different angle? How could we fail to be inspired?” Mark asks.
“Apart from gifting us a great visual pun, the ‘fine mess’; all were masters of juxtaposition. Silly and straight conventional, but unique.
“They managed to create something special by turning the traditional on its head; (and) that’s a core concept of Studio ham’s design philosophy.”
Mark says he and Hannah are influenced by free thinkers who are unafraid of using their instincts, such as American postmodernist/neo expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, American conceptual artist Jeff Koons and the surrealist painters.
“The things created by passionate people somehow get infused with their passion for the act of creating it. Each one of our pieces is infused with that little bit of Studio ham enthusiasm and passion,” he says.
“We’re also big believers in savouring time rather than saving time. Leave the flat pack to Ikea; our pieces take work and we hope it shows.”