Trent Jansen completed a Bachelor of Deisgn at UNSW Art & Design.
The new ideal for Australian design marries function and form with storytelling and sustainability. UNSW Art & Design graduate Trent Jansen’s work epitomises each of these four elements. Since attending design school, Jansen has sought to create work that consumers treat as “life-long companions rather than disposable things”. While many designers have sought to achieve this goal, Jansen is unique in that he uses myth, emotion, and stories of real people to inform and inspire his designs. As a result, his work tends to speak directly to people’s need to relate and belong.
Jansen produces design outcomes in two ways. He works from his own Sydney-based studio, set up in 2004, making what he terms “honest, poetic, and sustainable” items for the home. His other mode of creation is through partnership with Broached Commissions; a Melbourne-based company dedicated to research and context-driven furniture and object designs done through collaboration with outstanding Australian designers. In cooperation with Broached, Jansen has been able to realise highly original bespoke creations, catering to those interested in a distinctly Australian design identity.
Whether the design originates from his own studio or that of Broached, Jansen’s works have stories to tell.
His Kissing Pendants series won the Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award in 2008. These immensely popular lights are a dedication to love and attraction. Designed to hang in pairs – suspended in parallel – each lampshade features a flattened magnetic edge allowing them to connect in the form of a kiss. It’s a replication, says Jansen, “of the moment when two people give themselves, emotionally and physically to each other, and lose all concern for what's happening around them."
Jansen’s 2012 light pendant (also refashioned in 2016 in the form a standing lamp) follows a similar theme, this time a testament of long-lasting love. The Nuptial Pendants are fused cylindrical globes that together create an impression of two distinct objects permanently merged. Jansen says he created this design as “an expression of the beautiful intimacy that exists between two people who have spent their lives together”.
Jansen’s highly acclaimed, Broached Colonial Briggs Family Tea Service, selected for presentation in XXiT – the 21st International Exhibition curated by the Triennale Di Milano, takes storytelling through design to another level. This six-piece set references the real 19th century lives of George, Woretemoeteryenner, and four of their children, Dolly, Mary, Eliza, and John. It’s a potent portrait of a relationship between a colonial migrant from England and a local Indigenous woman.
George, who arrived in Australia in 1805 as a 14-year-old to work as a fur seal hunter, is represented by a tall teapot; an object that combines a white porcelain spout and head with a battered, hand-built copper-glazed base and handle. Woretemoeteryenner, a young woman who was likely given to Briggs by her father Mannalargenna, is represented as a sugar bowl, the shape of which is in keeping with traditional Indigenous water-carrying vessels. Their eldest child Dolly, who married an ex-convict and bore 11 children, is presented as a hybrid of both parents: a single continuous porcelain milk jug wrapped in a wallaby skin. The three remaining children, Mary, Eliza and John, are given the forms of teacups. The girls’ teacups are misshapen and non-functional to reflect their hard lives and early deaths, both at the age of 21, while John’s teacup is stable and centred, featuring an insulating kelp grip around its girth. John married a Victorian Aboriginal woman, Louisa Strugnell, in 1844 and together they had ten children, eight of whom lived to be adults.
Another highly-acclaimed design by Jansen is the Chinaman’s File Rocking Chair, created in memory of the roughly 16,500 Chinese gold diggers who undertook a gruelling trek from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian goldfields in less than two weeks in the mid-nineteenth century. To create this work, Jansen conducted a series of movement studies to perfect the arc and rhythmical flow of the chair. Jansen says his goal was to “mimic the comforting rocking motion experienced by an infant slung to its mother's back”. The result is beautifully-crafted asymmetrical chair made from Manchurian Ash and designed with a wide flat seat and slated back in keeping with traditional Chinese furniture aesthetics. The original was exhibited at the prestigious Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art located in Beijing’s 798 Art District in 2014, however, a limited-edition series also is available for sale through Broached Commissions.
Trent Jansen’s awards include: the Space+Edra Design Residency in 2010, the Bombay Sapphire ‘Design Discovery’ Award in 2008, the Spiral ‘Rendez-vous’ Japanese Manufacturing Residency in 2006, the Australia Council for the Arts ‘New Work’ Award in 2005 and the Object ‘New Design’ National Graduate Award in 2004.