IWD2020 Series: Elliat Rich, AFDA 2017 Winner

IWD2020 Series: Elliat Rich, AFDA 2017 Winner

Speaking with designer, Elliat Rich, as part of our 2020 International Women’s Day conversation series.

About Elliat Rich

Elliat Rich works across a broad spectrum of design and is based in Alice Springs, Central Australia. Her practice covers cross-cultural resources, exhibition design, public art, furniture, and limited-run objects. All projects align with an ethical imperative to increase equality between people and across species, now and into the future. Winner of the Australian Furniture Design Award 2017, for Rich the design process is a creative translation between materials and culture, alive to a broader context of power and social value, always calling on the possibilities of the imagination. Elliat’s debut collection with Stylecraft will be launching during Melbourne Design Week, 12-20th March.

What did winning the 2017 Australian Furniture Design Award mean to you?

Place was the first major work where I balanced my head (conceptual thinking) with my heart (intuition). To win and receive positive feedback on the work has provided me with the confidence to trust in my process; which follows the unmeasurable and decisions not always able to be tracked back through a rational process. I also promised myself it was the last work I’d produce for competition, so phew!

How does being based in Alice Spring shape your design and practice?

Central Australia isn’t any more or less complex than anywhere else, but it is at a scale where you can understand and relate to most of the threads and layers that interplay. The town itself is dominated by the non-human; the landscape and the weather. The way the rain brings plants; bringing insects; which brings reptiles and birds, suddenly the place feels abundant and alive. The endless winter sunshine, the trying and increasingly desperate heat in summer. Being a member of a community that includes, but isn’t exclusive to humans. Someone used the word mytho-poetic to describe the region in a conversation recently, it vibrates with it.

Then there is the constant visible eroding of human (and other-than-human) rights. The very real truth that colonisation is an active and ongoing process. That policies made through political incompetency or ideological bias have terrible consequences for First Nations people not able to make decisions for themselves. Please read the Uluru Statement, support it wherever you can. It’s an incredibly generous and wise offer to move toward a more just world together. We (me and you) have to hold each other to higher account. Our ongoing acceptance of the inability of this nation to close the gap is not ok.

So Alice is a town of give and challenge. The connection I’m afforded to the more-than-human and worlds outside of the western neo-liberal viewpoints is incredibly fulfilling. The need to constantly assess what is means to be a human at this moment in place and time is hard. I’m not trying to score ‘woke’ points, this is a call to the design community to engage with the politics that constantly bends in our favour.

Can you describe your philosophy behind your new Different Thoughts collection?

There are conversations the living world desperately needs us to have. The way we relate to each other (human and more-than-human) is deeply flawed. Somewhere in the past we rationalised that humans were ‘above’ and of more value to everything else (and that some humans were worth more than others). Any assessment of this with our current understanding of how ecosystems works shows how untrue this is, and it’s impossible to ignore the damaging ramifications of this valuing. Different Thoughts are expressions of our current underlying and unhelpful moral metaphors and the wondrous possibilities of moving away from them and reconnecting with this miraculous planet! The Other is More Same Than Different, Our Edges Are Mist and The Moment Always Passes - but whose moment is it? I hope the collection provides rifts within the day that creates moments to pause, provoke reflection and make the potential we have for connection to each-other and the more-than-human the more desirable option.

Elliat Rich’s Different Thoughts collection will be launched at Melbourne Design Week, between 12-20th March 2020.