Jeanie Mulligan proves that mums really are superheros by returning to study the Associates Degree in Design (Furniture) with a four-year-old at home.
“As much as it’s about learning new skills, design principles and making objects, don’t take it or yourself too seriously. Just have fun!”
Why did you decide to study the Associates Degree in Design Furniture?When my daughter turned four I was faced with the realisation that she would be off to school before I knew it. I knew I wanted to return to work but didn’t fancy returning to my old career in biotechnology.
As a full time mum, I had been making bespoke timber furniture on a semi-causal basis so thought why not give furniture design a red hot shot. Studying at RMIT seemed like a good opportunity to brush up on my making skills as well as to incorporate design principles and theories into my practice.
What are you inspired by?
The places and things that I draw inspiration from are endless and are shaped by all my experiences in life. As a scientist I pull inspiration from nature itself, whereas my background as a business professional allows me to identify an unmet need in the market, and as a mother, I am constantly searching for something practical that makes life easier. I try to combine all these elements in my designs but I mainly aspire for beautiful objects that fulfil a need, whether that is functional, emotional or organisational.
Has RMIT changed the way you think about design?
I’ve added quite a few tricks to my design ‘toolbox’ thanks to RMIT. Previously, I hadn’t used technology so prominently throughout my design process but during my studies, I formed a love for computer aided design modelling. These programs gave me the ability to generate a rendered image of my ideas and concepts on the computer before even stepping foot into the workshop.
Being a student gave me the space to indulge in exploration and experimentation that I might not have had the luxury of doing if I had a client or market to answer to. I was able to experiment with laser cutting and 3D printing to produce a number of scale models, something that I may not have had the opportunity to try before my training.
I now have a lovely little collection of prototypes that is constantly growing. Some have become full scale pieces, while others are seeds of an idea that require some germinating before being taken to the workshop for further development.
My design process is ever changing and I try to be material agonist. One interesting approach I have incorporated is to select a material, spend some time to study, explore and play with it, and only then begin to design the form. It’s a bit uncomfortable to not know where you will end up, but it can be delightful and surprising in terms of the results. So it’s a bit like trusting the journey and not having any pre-conceived notions about what something is supposed to be. Certainly it doesn’t always work out. But there are always little bits that actually do work that you carry forward into your next design!
What are your aspirations for the future?
I’d like to spend some time exploring different paths for my design career so I’m not really sure what shape that will take as of yet. On the one hand, I’m keen to establish my own design practice, but can just as easily see myself working with other creatives as well. At this stage, I’m happy to see it unfold organically. Mainly, I want to be able to continue to learn and grow as a designer in the years to come.
Story: Mikaela Ortolan