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Hotel Hotel Friday 23:42 PM

Suzi and Jai shot by Lee Grant

Suzi McKinnon and Jai Tongbor

Suzi McKinnon and Jai Tongbor are the ones that get the things done.

When we were setting up, they are the Batman and Robin behind the scenes of Hotel Hotel. They have been here right from the very beginning of the beginning – researching, testing, checking, double-checking, talking (that’s mostly Suzi), thinking, liaising with other doers, thinkers, makers… Basically getting things done.

If it exists at the hotel, chances are it’s passed through Jai and Suzi’s hands, and it’s being relies on them in some way.


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Dale Hardiman at home. Photographed by Lee Grant.

Dale, doing good

Dale Hardiman is everywhere (in a very good way). He’s not just an industrial designer but also a curator and educator. He’s always making making making and constantly thinking thinking thinking.

Dale explores many ideas via many modes. He commissions and curates new work through Object Future – a design commissioning platform and exhibition supported by Linden New Art (the third iteration opens this week). He makes one-off objects that explore particular conceptual ideas through his solo practice. He explores mass-production through a commercial studio called Dowel Jones. Oh and he runs a collective with two others called Lab De Stu. Oh and oh, he teaches a studio at RMIT where the focus for students is on ways to manufacture locally.

Yep. He is everywhere. Doing good.

He’s rather obsessed with making things from temporary, ordinary and local materials and his experiments with Plastimake (a biodegrable, remouldable plastic made in the ACT) are a glorious manifestation of this obsession.

It takes around 5 years for a tree branch to biodegrade and the same goes for Plastimake. So its a match made in heaven as they biodegrade at the same rate. Using ad hoc methods that anyone can adopt, Dale has combined the natural with the synthetic to create a collection of practical and experimental furniture items – tables, chairs, benches and ladders. We like to think of them as camp furniture. Items you can make from scratch by hand while setting up your campsite with friends. Eventually the furniture breaks down, leaving no trace.

This weekend, Dec 5, Dale is hanging out at Hotel Hotel teaching people how to make their own camp furniture from foraged branches and Plastimake as a part of Fix and Make. You don’t need to be a designer to sign up. The only equipment and tools needed are a kettle, some hot water and your hands.

Dale’s also right into process over outcome. He’s more interested in the way things were made, why they were made and the idea behind that thing – rather than the monetary value of something. Saturday’s workshop won’t just be about the potential to make excellent furniture from tree branches and plastic but the potential to do more with less – with the simple materials that surround us.

There are still a few places left for Saturday’s workshop. Book your tix here.

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Trent Jansen shot by Lee Grant

The Ownership of Things

For a hotel putting on a series of workshops and talks about fixing and making stuff (that’s us) it’s important to ask the question: What’s the point of stuff in the first place?

“If you look back through human history we’ve always had things. Some are symbols of community; some are used for trade. Many are cultural,” says Trent Jansen, the furniture and object designer who will join a panel of four at NewActon on Wednesday November 18 to really get to the guts of what it means to own all the things we humans do.

Being one of the world’s makers of stuff, Trent thinks about this all the time. “It becomes quite clear early on when you’re designing that you don’t really need anything new if the point is purely function,” he says. And if function was the point, we should have stopped at modernism.

We perpetually make and collect because things carry stories; like that piece of linen that reminds you of a parent, or the holiday you think back on every time you wipe the dust off that useless but beautiful paperweight.

Stuff also helps tell the story of us to others. “Things help identify us as someone. Maybe it’s magazines on display, art on walls, or cars in the garage. These things say to others what our priorities are. They show our ethics,” says Trent.

But let’s stop Trent right there. At ‘The Ownership of Things’ panel discussion he’ll reveal more of his ethics and philosophies along with entrepreneur and co-founder of GoGet Bruce Jeffreys; historian, artist and writer Anne Brennan; neuroscientist Dr Pascal Molenberghs, and the ABC’s Genevieve Jacobs (as moderator). Buy tickets here. Oh, and a drink is included in the ticket price. This will be very interesting.

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Rachel of Many Many and Nic of Honey Fingers shot by Lee Grant

Many Many

Rachel Elliot-Jones (Melbourne) and Stephanie Poole (Zurich) are the co-founders of Many Many – an itinerant curatorial and publishing platform that investigates rituals of making and interdisciplinary design.

Of the many many excellent things they do, worthy of note is their brilliant occasional publication ‘House Wear’. ‘House Wear’ looks at the condition of impermanence in our everyday lives and the effects this has on contemporary design, art, architecture and writing.

They have applied these thoughts to bees. Swarm traps to be precise; as part of a project with collaborative studio and urban beekeeping network Honey Fingers (Melbourne).

Many Many, Honey Fingers and beekeepers Dermot and Sarah Asis Sha’non (Canberra) are holding a Swarm Trap workshop as part of our Fix and Make program.

At the workshop you’ll learn how to make a pre-fab house for bees (to take home) and what to do if bees move in.

If you are in Melbourne a session is being held at the MPavillion Sunday 15.11; if you are in Canberra book your spot now for Spring.

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Adam and Amy in the reception wardrobe, shot by Scottie Cameron

Adam and Amy Coombes

Adam and Amy Coombes (of Kloke) made the Hotel Hotel wardrobe.

The brief was initially a challenging one as we didn’t want a uniform per se because of, amongst other things, the hierarchy uniforms tend to evoke.

They came up with a beautiful multi-form wardrobe that can be worn in different ways according to the individual’s character. Each piece is an unstructured and loose-fitting garments made from natural materials chosen for the way they make you feel – Japanese cottons, linens, cotton-linen blends and cotton-ramie blends.


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Claire Johnson by Lee Grant

Sam and Claire Johnson

Sam and Claire Johnson run the free range farm that supplies Hotel Hotel.

Sam and Claire Johnson of Boxgum Grazing, live at Windermere, a 1500 hectare multi-generational property near Young on the south-west slopes of NSW.

After becoming frustrated with the reality of commodity markets, where food production is dominated by large companies churning out a generic product, Sam and Claire chose to pursue a direct relationship with their customers, mostly through markets or directly to the kitchen door of restaurants.

With a transparent line of sight from the paddock to the plate, they supply direct to people who want excellent food, are concerned about the consequences of “industrial food” and understand the vital connection between healthy land and healthy food.


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Eric Ahlfors

There are a handful of practitioners who have recreated or simply introduced a new level of quality to a part of Australian production simply by virtue of migrating here.

Upholsterer Eric Ahlfors is such a person. In his case he emigrated from France.

Eric and his team re-upholstered much of the furniture at Hotel Hotel. Their particular focus was on returning some of the more elaborate armchairs to their former glory. These chairs now sit in the room, apartments and the lounge.


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Edwin Odermatt

Edwin Odermatt re-upholstered lots of our furniture.

From his workshop in Sydney, Atelier Furniture, Edwin Odermatt is known for his expert cutting, sensitivity to form and ability to accurately recreate demanding vintage silhouettes. Edwin’s work is an integral aspect of the Hotel Hotel interiors.

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Gerard Havekes

Gerard Havekes’ tiles are lain at the Monster kitchen and bar – inside and outside the Mosaic room.

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John McPhee by Lee Grant

John McPhee

John McPhee’s thinking and writing shaped the Nishi Broached collection found in the public lounge of Hotel Hotel and in the Monster kitchen and bar.

Bringing his erudition and extensive knowledge of the history of architecture and decorative arts in Canberra, John guided the Broached designers and artists in creating works that connected Hotel Hotel to the best in design throughout Canberra’s one-hundred-year history and notably the Griffins that designed the city.

You can read more about John’s shaping of the Nishi Broached collection here.

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