Anne-Claire Petre is a furniture designer who has done the leg work to get where she is today. Just two years ago, she took the big step to go out on her own, launching her successful boutique sustainable furniture design business, Anaca Studio in Melbourne Australia. But she has quite the story to tell on how she got there. Rewind the clock thirteen years. Anne-Claire was just starting her three year industrial design course in France. After completing her degree she went on to study furniture design and ceramics in Edinburgh, Scotland. As fate had it, an opportunity then arose for Anne-Claire to cross the oceans to participate in a two year design making associateship at the renowned artist hub, JamFactory in Adelaide, Australia. Throw in some South Australia University tutoring in Industrial design into the mix, and a move to Melbourne to work at various architecture and design firms including renowned Jardan Furniture, and you get one well rounded furniture designer and intrepid traveller!
2012 was a pivotal point in Anne-Claire’s career.She was listed as a finalist in Vivid 2012 and her hat stand (pictured below) was nominated in the House&Garden Style Awards. This was also the same year she went out on her own to launch her business, Anaca Studio! So after years working and learning under a range of professional disciplines, what is Anne-Claire’s design ethos? She says,
“What lies behind the brand is a passion for design principles, a belief that simplicity of forms and thoughtful details are essential to creating beautiful and lasting products”.
Anne-Claire doesn’t seem to sit still for long. It has taken me three months to get this interview, and was completed amidst her jetting off back to France, and then on to the Milan to scour the famed Furniture Fair. Such a thirst for knowledge is so inspiring!
1. What is your design background?
I guess I dabbed into a few different countries to achieve my design education! I started my design studies with industrial design in Nantes, France were I studied Industrial design. 3 years on, I realised that I wasn’t so passionate about the “industrial” part. So I left to go on a two months working holiday in Scotland and ended up staying to study at the Edinburgh College of Art to complete a BA in Arts in Designs and Applied Arts majoring in Furniture and dabbed into Ceramics also. ECA was incredibly inspiring; so many arts disciplines encompassed in one place, let alone being in Edinburgh… Most fabulous city!
After my move to Australia I eventually settled in Adelaide and got into the 2 years associate program at the JamFactory’s in the Furniture department. I was very lucky to be involved with an incredible array of creative people and I have some very fond memories of the place. Being there involved lots of work, long days, late nights, BIG learning curve as a designer-maker but I enjoyed being in the workshop, making, creating, being able to transform and build something. At the same time I was also working at Uni SA as a tutor in Industrial Design.
I later moved to Melbourne where I worked for a few years at Jardan Australia, being involved amongst other things in the design of a few of the early timber pieces and working on many of the custom items.
2. Starting up your own business can be daunting/ Why did you decide to go it on your own, and can you share a tip for others thinking of doing the same?
After working at Jardan, I got into the retail side of the furniture industry, but after a while I felt it wasn’t right and I was determined to get back into designing furniture. I was spending time at home creating pieces on paper and at the computer but there was no further outcome and I felt frustrated.
Going solo was a scary decision but I felt it was right and I just had to give it a go. I felt that I had something to offer and I wanted to share the love! Around the time I made my decision, I was given an opportunity by Chelsea Hing to manage her interior design studio for a few days a week, doing some PR/marketing and helping her out with the general running of her busy office. The timing was perfect and I could just ease into anaca studio. Most of the first year consisted of settling into the business, doing research and product development and by September/October I finally could see Anaca’s range of products coming to life and felt that the business was only just starting then.
As far as tips… you have to follow a passion, because when times are hard, that the only thing that keeps you going. Be willing to learn, talk to your peers and be ready to fall, dust yourself off and get back at it stronger and wiser. Mostly… trust your guts and don’t be too impatient, some things take time (I’m still learning this one!) – and also give yourself credit when things go well. All the hard work pays off. To me it’s such an amazing feeling to deliver a piece and know that your client loves it.
3. Sustainability is at the core of your business. How do you incorporate sustainable design principles in your creations?
From the time I put the pen on paper, I think about the amount of material that will need to be used. I either modify the design to make it more material efficient or sometimes decide to drop an idea if I feel there will be too much wastage involved in the manufacturing process. I also aim to use materials and finishes with lesser impact on the environment. The timbers used in the products are sourced from sustainable forests and the metals are powdercoated, which is a finish that is eco-friendly and doesn’t release any toxic fumes.
Also everything so far is locally made in Melbourne. It is important for me to keep things made in Australia. Not only it reduces the carbon footprint but it is also a personal decision that allows me to have more control on the finish and quality of my products. A product that is well made will last for years and in my opinion that’s extremely sustainable.
4. What would be your dream project?
Big Dream: I’m a big fan of Ligne Roset (not just because they’re French) – they are very involved in collaboration with various designers, so maybe one day I can be one of these lucky guys…
A more accessible dream would be to work with a top interior design firm to collaborate on some bespoke designs for a fancy restaurant or for a place like the NGV. That would make me feel pretty proud.
5. Can you give us any sneak peeks into what’s happening in 2014?
I have recently released a few new products: a range of ottomans (Coco) and a small stool & table (Tetra). I’m keen to work a little more on the upholstery side, so there will probably be an armchair or sofa coming up in the year.
I will also be exhibiting at Design-Made-Trade in July, which I’m really looking forward to and there will be a new product released then.
6. Share with our readers your easy eco living tip :
Less is more. I know it sounds very cliché but I think it’s crucial these days. Buy less but better. I believe it is best to spend a little more into a good piece of furniture that will stand the test of time and won’t end up in landfill within a couple of years of its life. There’s a greater sense of satisfaction knowing you’ve invested in something that’s a little more special.
You can purchase Anne-Claire’s forestry certified timber furniture designs direct through her studio baed in St Kilda, Melbourne, or through interior designer Janie Collins in Brisbane. Merci Anne-Claire!