Sydney based menswear label, Assembly Label recently asked to do a interview with me.
| In Focus |
with a fresh breath of creativity, we are introducing a new artist to our Assembly community, martin johnston. Born and bred on the north coast of NSW, Mrty was brought up by a talented cabinet maker, his father. He was destined to work with timber and after finding his love for design, Marty has grown into a fine craftsman himself.
Firstly Martin, where abouts are you from and how did you originally get into woodworking and design (furniture maker) ?
I’ve grown up here in the Byron Shire and was born with saw dust in my blood. My old man is a talented Cabinet Maker who could probably make a chair with his eyes closed. The guy is seriously a machine. After building a house he then built himself a workshop just north of Byron in a cow paddock you may know now as the new Splendour In The Grass site. As a young kid I was always pinching his off-cuts to make tree house’s, skate ramps and things but could never figure out why they would turn to shit whenever it rained. In hindsight, I guess MDF craft wood wasn’t the best choice of material, haha.
It wasn’t until I picked up a job in London at the Oxford St Urban Outfitters where I really started to channel my energy into design. This inner city five story building included a semi equipped workshop two levels below ground where we would pull apart pallets and somehow try to make shop fittings out of them. I didn’t spend that much time there but it sure did leave an impact.
Nowadays I’m living back in the Byron area and working along side my old man, learning something new everyday and focusing on my own craft.
We are obviously interviewing you because we love your sense of fine design and style. Where did your inspiration come from?
Japanese craftsmanship, British tradition and Scandinavian design. These are the three cultures I have the utmost respect for when it comes to style and design. I also find that people inspire me more then anything. Someone else passions can almost have an infectious impact on you and its always refreshing to meet new people who have that buzz. Whether it be a future client or somebody who is a master of their craft. A talented surfboard shaper, tattooist, graphic designer or even someone who can effortlessly put a magazine together – its these people who inspire me to push on and create something worth having in your house. I love running along side, or trying to keep up with people who push themselves.
I've noticed you have made a few surfing hand planes. Are you a surfer and what else are some of your hobbies?
Yeah, the hand planes are rad. I use mine whenever I can and lately the waves have been so good Its hard to pick the right craft. I have a lot of surfboards but the plane always come to the beach with me. Even on a recent trip to Agnes Water in QLD, we didn’t have enough room for our boards after all the camping equipment so we just packed in our hand planes and fins and surfed the most northern point break
What materials do you like working with the most and what was your favorite piece of furniture you have made?
I love timber. I cant help it. It spins me out every time I use it. I mean think about it for a sec, here is a material that grows for free. It cleans our air and provides shelter for living creatures and if used correctly it is the most sustainable resource known to man. Not to mention how beautiful it smells and feels. There’s really nothing like it. I guess that’s why Rhys Thomas and I got along so well as we both have a love for timber. He is a young Brisbane based designer who I recently collaborated with to make a series of four legged stools. However my favorite piece would have to be my most recent sideboard. All the Silky Oak and Red Cedar used came from the hills behind Byron Bay. It also features hand-cut dovetailed drawers on soft close runners for that modern functionality. Its nice to use and looks neat too.
Lastly Martin, what is the name of your business? Is it a big one or do you work by yourself? are you planning to expand or do you want to keep it exclusive?
For now, I believe that putting my name in front of my craft is the most honest and reliable way to produce quality workmanship. So I guess I’m happy to keep things smart casual and continue to collaborating with interesting and creative people. My workflow at this time is manageable for just myself but one day I do hope to pass on all my wood wizardry.
All photos by the talented Katrina Parker