— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

Chopstick & Kilt

A collaboration of two mountains craftsmen is turning out remarkable sculptural works (along with a constant stream of nearly indecipherable banter) from a Katoomba studio.

We met with Chopstick & Kilt to find out what’s behind this dynamic duo.

Chris Byrne and Chi Phan began sharing a studio in late 2009, shortly after Chris moved to the Mountains with his family.  Chris had been looking for a studio for Left Hand Make, his children’s furniture design business, and found Chi’s studio through a mutual acquaintance.

Chi, a successful sculptor, was working with figurative forms and over the next couple of years the pair began to work on the occasional project together.  What became apparent was that the pair shared a common outlook – they wanted to work on large signature pieces for public spaces.  ‘We realised that we kept on talking about the jobs we wanted to do, rather than the ones we were doing’, says Chris, ‘we both wanted to produce dynamic, large scale, punch-in-the-face style work’.

‘That’s right’, adds Chi ‘Chris was banging on about the psychology of public spaces and I was keen on interactive public art – it seemed like a good opportunity to do something together.’

In December 2011 Phan and Byrne decided to work towards the launch of a partnership and set the target as Design Made Trade, the Melbourne trade show for designer and makers.  ‘We wanted to showcase our design and manufacture skills across a range of materials and forms so we worked on three lighting pieces that were very different from each other’, says Chris, ‘We chose to incorporate light into the pieces because it really adds a dynamic quality to an object.’

The show was a great success and has paved the way for the pair’s entry into commercial, corporate and large scale residential work. ‘The response couldn’t have been better’ says Byrne. ‘We were approached by exactly the people we wanted to attract, architects and interior designers – they really understood what we were on about and that was essential feedback.’

What was more difficult was finding a name for the partnership. The two workshopped a lot of names – they wanted something that reflected their personalities and was unforgettable. Chi laughs: ‘Eventually we went with the name that we jokingly called ourselves before we even thought of working together: Chopstick & Kilt.

I’m Vietnamese and Chris is Scottish – we wanted to embrace that in a tongue-in-cheek way.’

At the moment Chopstick & Kilt are working on a series of proposals for interactive public art projects in New South Wales and Queensland, all of which would be produced from their Katoomba studio.

‘Working in the Mountains is good for us’ says Phan, ‘we have a terrific community of artistic, capable friends and it really feels like there is space to create up here.’  Byrne agrees: ‘it really has been the best move for my family, even when we’re neck deep in work we’re surrounded by tranquility.’


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  1. Pingback: Cubby House Cool | The Cloudscape

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