In April this year, young Tasmanian designer and maker, Duncan Meerding, will take his latest collection of timber lights to Milan Design Week. There they will feature in Euroluce 2017, an exhibition heralded as the global benchmark in lighting design. Meerding’s works will sit alongside those by designers who rely primarily on sight to guide their creative process. Inspired by an ever increasing myriad of visual design options, many will bend to current fashion, trends and imitation. Meerding, however, is one step removed from such influences, due to the fact that his dominant design sense is touch, fuelled by his internal imagination. This tactile approach has evolved as Duncan’s sight narrowed to such an extent that he is now considered legally blind.

“My experience of inheriting Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy at the age of 18 has left me with 5% peripheral vision. The alternate sensory world that I live in has definitely affected my design sensibility. I tend to concentrate on overall form rather than detail and have become attracted to shadows and the way light disperses in and around objects, because that is the way I see.”

This perspective has resulted in Duncan’s work being applauded for its unique design outcomes. His Cracked Log Lamp in particular has been nationally and internationally awarded for its witty, fresh and sustainable approach.

Kees Dorst, Professor of Design at the University of Technology in Sydney, was an early champion of Duncan’s work, describing it in a Radio National interview as having “a very, very strong design sense that has got a depth to it [that] could not have been made by a seeing designer”

At Milan, Meerding will be pushing the creative endeavours of his design practice by including large-scale, flat-pack, sculptural light installations. Other creations on show will include Stump – the latest outdoor iteration in the Cracked Log Light range – the Log Bankers Lamp – a humourous take on the office desk lamp – and the Propeller Light.

The original form for the Propeller Light was developed by Meerding while undertaking a mentoring opportunity in New Zealand with internationally renowned lighting designer, David Trubridge. Trubridge’s studio places environmental consciousness before profit and employs a team of local designers working on bespoke projects and products for an international client base. Meerding’s studio too has a focus on sustainability with the majority of the timber sourced from waste material or faster growing timbers.

“My experience in New Zealand proved that it was possible to sell globally while manufacturing at a local level. It was heartening to realise that customers are prepared to buy environmentally responsible designs that are not manufactured cheaply off-shore”

When Duncan returns from Milan, 102 of his handmade, bespoke lights will be installed at the Macquarie 1 site in Hobart. Meerding is well aware of the significance of such local interest in his designs.

“Making a living as a furniture designer and maker in Tasmania is a tough ride. Cheap imports and the cost of getting product off the island are definite barriers.”

Over and above talent, persistence, intelligence and focus are required to make it in the industry. Duncan sites the UTAS Hobart Furniture Design Department, Designed Objects Tasmania, Arts Tasmania and his designer/maker peers as key supporters in his progress. However, it is evident that he has worked hard at pushing back against the restrictions imposed on those that operate outside of dominant paradigms. Through his determination, Duncan has proved that different ways of perceiving the world are fertile grounds for fresh, creative visions.

Jen Sharman

More info: duncanmeerding.com.au

Stump outdoor Light/Table/Stool

Modern Bankers Lamp

Propeller Pendent Series