Ash Allen <em>Deep rocker</em> 2022; galvanised steel weld mesh and enamel spray paint. Courtesy of the designerAsh Allen <em>Deep rocker</em> 2022; galvanised steel weld mesh and enamel spray paint. Courtesy of the designer<br/>
© Ash Allen

Ash Allen

Ash Allen
(b. 1973, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Ash Allen is a furniture designer whose exploratory practice is grounded in sustainability. Drawing on his industrial design background, Allen’s furniture often combines machined and handmade processes to engineer heirloom items with a minimal environmental footprint. His simple and elegant aesthetic challenges designed obsolescence.

Deep rocker, 2022, comes from Allen’s series Caged, which reinterpreted iconic furniture designs in industrial materials. First exhibited at Kew’s Villa Alba as part of Melbourne Design Week in 2022, the series comments on design ‘knock-offs’ and copyright protection.

The idea for Caged emerged from Melbourne’s pandemic lockdowns. As Allen recalls: ‘I was thinking about cages and I started seeing mesh everywhere – all very square and functional’. He began playing with the qualities of galvanised steel mesh, learning how to MIG weld and fold the material into curvaceous shapes. His experiments included copying Thonet chair no. 14, the iconic bent wood design first embraced in European cafe culture. Realising that the indoor chair could now be used outdoors, Allen imagined ivy growing through the mesh, with new life emerging from this mass-produced item. ‘The careful nurturing and pruning of the “slow-cooked” furniture would be the ironic antithesis of the fast-paced, disconnected world of cheap replica goods’, he explains.

With the support of Authentic Design Alliance, Allen sought permission from designers and distributors to obtain the dimensions of ten classic furniture pieces and produce accurate re-creations. Deep rocker is an homage to the Volley rocker, 2012, a modern outdoor rocking chair created by Allen’s mentor Adam Goodrum for Tait, which has fought to protect this signature design from imitators. Less functional than the original, Allen sees his version as a symbol of our ‘troubled times’.

Since launching Ash Furniture in 2014, Allen’s award-winning designs have been widely exhibited locally and internationally. His work has appeared at Melbourne Design Week (2022, 2021, 2020, 2017), Sydney Design Festival (2019), New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair (2015), Milan Design Week (2015) and London Design Festival (2014). He has received prizes in various design competitions, including VIVID (2017, 2012), London Design Festival’s Delight in Light (2014), Edge (2013) and Fringe Furniture (2012); he was also shortlisted in the IDEA Awards (2016) and came runner-up in Indesign’s Launchpad (2013). Allen holds an Associate Degree in Design (Furniture) from RMIT University (2014) and a Bachelors of Engineering (Mechanical) and Arts from the University of Melbourne (1996).