Artist Profile: Marc Harrison
Marc Harrison is a furniture and lighting designer who is passionate about sustainable design. In 2000, Marc received an Arts Queensland grant to study waste almond shell in composite design, before shifting to macadamia shells due to its uniqueness as a native plant that only grows in Australia. These findings led Marc to establish Husque, a design studio centered around an innovative composite material, which combines recycled macadamia shells and polymers to generate interior objects.
His products have been sold at galleries and gift shops internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Museum of Brisbane. In 2007, Husque was profiled in the International Design Yearbook, by Thames Hudson, London, and was exhibited at Maison et Objet in Paris.
In 2019, Marc joined forces with fellow designer and lighting designer Jason Bird to transform the Husque bowls into a ‘tabletop up-lighter,’ exhibited recently at the Museum as part of BRISBANE ART DESIGN (BAD). We spoke with Marc about his creative process and his new Museum of Brisbane project.
How did the idea come about for your Magpie project?
I’ve had a magpie that visits me, and she would sit on the balcony rail just outside from where I would be designing on the computer. Over the years, I learned what she liked to eat, and she learnt my habits, so we became friends. I had been working on a stool, now known as ‘The Magpie stool’, and because it had a beaky leg shape, I named it after her. In addition, I was experiencing a long-grappling a problem with my brand Husque, which involves using macadamia nuts and shells in the design. But because I was also designing other work not related to the macadamia shell, this became confusing to my customers. So, once I had drawn up the magpie logo for ’The Magpie stool’, the penny dropped and I realised that my magpie had given me the answer. And so, the ‘My Magpie’ brand was born for all things other than macadamias. Both the macadamia and the magpie are Austraian icons, and these two words share a nice alliteration. While designing the logo, my magpie flew into the studio and serendipitously walked all over the magpie sketches. I’d like to think this was her way of giving me approval…
Can you tell us about the materials you’re using for these workshop tables and stools?
The Magpie workshop tables are made from solid Tasmanian Oak, and a durable high-pressure laminate. The stools are all Tasmanian Oak as well, stackable with no screws. Both materials and the construction are designed to withstand a beating and designed to last.
What does a typical day in the studio look like?
Half of my time in the studio is spent making products, the other half is spent researching and designing. Every commission that I receive inevitable that I explore alternative ideas. Every commission that I receive inevitably leads me to explore alternative ideas. I always try to improve on anything that is considered ‘the norm’. This approach led to the invention of material process and design details that require research and testing. It’s always exciting to present these findings to customers, especially when it makes a big improvement in their lives, and advances my own design vocabulary.
As you mentioned, you’re best known for incorporating macadamia shells in your Husque products. Why is macadamia an uncommon material to see in design?
It’s uncommon, because it didn’t exist until I made it. No one had thought to do it in this way, but from my perspective, [a macadamia shell] is a unique Australian resource—it makes so much sense to utilise it more. I’m learning about the material all the time, as I discover new properties and manufacturing techniques constantly. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’ve mastered it, but it has come a long way from the initial concept of taking a waste macadamia shell and recomposing it. At this stage, Husque is about creating a discussion about something a lot of people associate with. The primary reason is to tell a story and make something that connects.