Benjamin Reddan Artist – Up Close & Personal

JahRoc Galleries are excited to introduce Victorian based wood artist Benjamin Reddan to our stable of Australian artists. 

Benjamin is an award winning wood practitioner who makes heirloom quality timber products such as cabinet furniture, keepsake boxes and jewellery. With a strong Japanese design influence, Benjamin uses the practice of Yosegi, creating timber patterns from a variety of different coloured thinly sliced woods. His resulting designs are hand made with longevity in mind, confirming his practice of striving for a non-throw away society by acquiring an item once and treasuring it.

Enjoy getting to know Benjamin Reddan

When did you first feel the desire to be artistic and realise you had talent? 

I have always been creative, even from an early age. As a kid I enjoyed going into my dad’s garage and making toy boats and Billy Carts from recycled and scrap timber. I realised I had a talent for woodworking during my time studying furniture design and production, in years 2008 and 2009. I surprised myself with the pieces I designed and created. At the same time, I knew I had high aspirations and therefore much to learn and explore to go to where I wanted to be in my career. I needed to hone my talent. To this day I’m still on this creative journey. I don’t believe it ever stops. 

Where did you learn your art? 

I studied furniture design and furniture making at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Victoria from 2008 to 2009. Afterwards, I completed an apprenticeship and Certificate 3 in Cabinet and Furniture Making from 2010 to 2014 through RMIT. Even though I heavily appreciated my formal training and tertiary study, much of what I have learnt has been self-taught through experiential learning in my own time and workspace. 

What inspires you most? 

I believe my strongest inspiration today is Japanese art and design, specifically the practice of Yosegi. (the art form of creating timber patterns from different coloured woods that are thinly sliced) I’ve only started to involve this inspiration in my work. I envision this technique and visual style will be a centre point in future pieces. 

What message are you sending to the viewer of your art? 

The main message is quality. Every aspect of a piece should be treated with the same respect, with no cutting corners. I want to convey to my viewers that we need to start thinking more long-term and investing in quality through buying a well-made piece only once and treasuring it.  We live too much in a throwaway society. Change can happen through the collection and appreciation of heirloom designed pieces. I like to think about creating for the future. 

Describe your studio? 

My studio is at the back of my parent’s house in a small country town in Healesville, Victoria. I built this studio from scratch, designing the layout and collecting machinery as my business has grown. 

My studio walls are lined with hand tool and tool bit cabinets, which I made and mounted myself in a french cleat system. In the middle of the space is my primary work bench, surrounded by my collection of old and new machines. I have a mezzanine level, full of timber materials ready for future projects. Any spare wall and floor space are filled with additional timber racks and timber piles.

Describe your typical day of creating art? 

On a typical day I try to balance my time between machining and building, as well as designing through problem solving and testing. Depending on time frames, I’m usually working on multiple projects at once. I find this keeps me more interested in my work and keeps the creative energy flowing. 

What mediums do you use and why? 

My work is heavily timber based. I mostly use shop-made and manufactured veneers. There are a few reasons why I use veneer over solid timber dominantly in my work. 

  1. It is more stable in the long term. 
  2. Reduction in waste, as I can produce more usable ‘face’ material from a board (especially important if it’s rare or expensive exotic timber.)
  3. Most importantly, it allows me to form complex patterns and matchings e.g. book matchings and marquetry. 

What are you working on now? 

I’m currently working on a few different batch series pieces. One project I am focusing on involves a batch run of keepsake boxes. These involve small complex Yosegi inlay features that compliment tiny lock wedges and latches. This batch run consists of 109 boxes. Each batch of pieces I create is a limited batch, as I do not repeat batch runs. This keeps me and my followers from getting bored. 

What are your recent career achievements you feel proud of? 

My most proud career achievements include winning the Andrew Kossenas Apprentice of the Year award in 2014. I received this award for exhibiting my final apprentice assessment piece, an Ikebana Cabinet (Flower arrangement cabinet) with stylised cherry blossom inlay in contrasting timbers.

My 2nd most proud career achievement involved receiving both ‘People’s Choice’ and ‘Best in Show’ awards in the 2017 Double Take in Wood Exhibition, held by the Victorian Woodworker’s Association. For this exhibition I especially created a Japanese-inspired Tea Set. 

Both of these achievements have led to some media exposure, mostly within Australian Wood Review Magazine.

What do you love most about what you do? 

The passion of what I do revolves around the idea of creating something that will stand the test of time. Pouring my entire soul into something that will hopefully be passed down through generations. I love being the creator, and also knowing that I am only involved in the first chapter of the piece’s life. I always wonder how the next chapters will unfold. Where will it go? Who will use it? How will they use it? Will it get lost and rediscovered at some stage? I enjoy thinking of the possibilities of the piece’s future. 

Where can you see yourself in 10 years’ time? 

In 10 years’ time I’d like to see myself in a studio workshop space that is 100% mine. Ideally, I would like to own a property with my own house and studio workshop alongside it. This is not just for practical business purposes but to have my future family involved in my work. I would love to have a close space where I can share and teach what I know to them. 

Recently I have decided to concentrate my design efforts towards decorative box making. I’d like to think in 10 years’ time I’ll still be developing new ideas and techniques to create unique and beautiful decorative boxes. I would ideally see myself creating even more complex and intricate pieces.

Shop Benjamin Reddan Boxes