Musings from the Creative Frontier by David Bromley
One of the first memories in my life was my brother having a spark plug. He would play with this thing and seemed to know how it worked and what it was for. I was never that sophisticated. Before long my brother took over the shed and in it was his domain.
My mum was always into craft, leatherwork, spinning and dying wool. My dad worked in an office and on the weekend he read, walked, played golf and if he ever built something you would be wary of it falling down. I remember seeing him out the kitchen window on a ladder, next minute he was falling off it – certainly not a natural workerman type dude, super smart but no builder. I was the same.
At 15, my brother who was now a fitter and turner would make my push bikes suddenly have motors in them and I’d part pedal part motor to school to the jeers of people at school. That was a compliment at my school … if they were impressed they’d bully you or punch you. I was also impressed by my bicycle, impressed but slightly concerned by how it made me stand out … I did though love it when my brother dropped me to school on his motorbike, once without mufflers and therefore as I was always late and the assembly was on and the motorcycle’s arrival distorted the speakers, I was both embarrassed and full of pride.
In no time, at 15 I also had an apprenticeship as a signwriter – note I did two-dimensional things, my brother three dimensional. I could design with colour, brushes etc, Paul my bro could make things out of anything. I didn’t think anything of that, it’s more in reflection that I realise this but… something started to happen…
I was a window dresser for a while – sort of three dimensional, then a potter – very much three dimensional. Then when I made my first money as a potter I got very interested in furniture and started to buy depression era furniture, I was obsessed by hand hewn, folk art, utilitarian with simple twists of decoration. I thought I would try making it but like my dad what I made wasn’t going to pass any engineers test. My brother continued to build houses, cars, machinery, sound systems and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix or make. My brain could think and imagine it but I couldn’t make it. My brother passed suddenly at 43 and I had no longer had him make that stuff I could dream.
I worked a lot with tradespeople on house restoration and could tell a good maker. I could articulate what I wanted and at times the best way of going about it. One of the most common situations was me starting from scratch, pairing a derelict building right back, stripping floors, walls, taking out all the awful additions and poor choices inflicted on a building until a raw canvas was revealed. I would then get tradespeople and builders to start doing things, I wish I could count the times they looked at me like I was a weirdo or laughed at my decisions,
“You want me to do WHAA?”…. under their breathe mumbling “this guy’s craaaaaazy”…
Then cut to the end of the project – ”Can I bring my friend to show them?” or “Wow this looks great, was that Vogue shooting it? “ or “When’s it coming out so I can show my mum?”
I’d say, “So why were you laughing at me 6 months ago?”
“ I wasn’t laughing”
“ OK, so now you think I’m deaf too, it’s OK I forgive you for thinking I had no idea, you can show your friend”.
My confidence in design getting stronger, my love of interiors, architecture, furniture becoming more confident, my memories of getting onto old depression era furniture before most had understood it. People laughing at me (a definite part of the litmus test) at farm sales as I bought old shed drawers, pigeon hole cabinets etc. I even sent scarecrows and old downhill racers in containers to a shop in Portobello Road in London that were snapped up by European interior decorators… I was buying Danish Spanish chairs for $400, Featherstone for as cheap as $29 (a rare cuddle up Featherstone), Danish sideboard for a hundred dollars and the list goes on, I was scouring through railway sheds getting old industrial furniture… railway auctions getting big workshop benches for twenty dollars, old shoe factories buying shoe last trolleys for $15. When I was collecting foundry patterns, the head of the foundry walked up to me as I loaded up my rusty ute to overflowing, he looked like John Wayne and twice as big,
“You are either a fu#*ing lunatic or a fu#*ing genius – we throw those things in the fire!”
Pass a lot more years, I’m in Daylesford and met a ‘window making guy’, Hans Boon. A tall and lanky, clean-cut Dutchman, full dutchy – me, I’m just a quarter Dutch but it’s enough for us to have bit of a common thread .. did I say straight to the point? Man can this guy build. He just did everything with finesse. An old piece of timber turned into a set of windows. A large window frame replacing a smaller one and even though bigger than his wing span put in by himself. And wait for it, he cleans up after himself! A real class act.
Many jobs and conversations later, I proposed a furniture business together, Hans had won apprentice builder of the year in Holland and many other awards for projects… of course he did, he can just make the most simple cut and join look like something over and above. He was heading back to Holland with his family and I planted a seed about going into a furniture business again to him and often thought of him, as Yuge and I, when a particularly interesting challenge came up in building would say, “I WISH HANS WAS HERE!“
He was missed.
In what seemed like an eternity of ‘I wish Hans was here’ statements, he and his wife Christina and girls Anouk and Luna were back. After a few weeks, he said nonchalantly I want to do the furniture business.
.That’s it… sure there was conversation and some planning but really since that conversation Boon Bromley was born and me part dutchy and Hans full dutchy, we just do it… design and make furniture.
I saw and engineer the pieces and he designs as I have now become so proficient with tools… I’m sure you gather by now that’s bullshit…
I imagine, he imagines, we imagine… he makes!