The Whole Picture

Wholegrain Studio, a budding new boutique furniture design business, is blooming on Angas Street.

Wholegrain Studio, a budding new boutique furniture design business, is blooming on Angas Street. Josh McCallum, founder of Wholegrain Studio, sits casually at his computer in the ordered expanse of The Mill’s warehouse interior on Angas Street. Dusty overalls are slung over an office chair and we chat easily for a few minutes until we’re interrupted by Dave, who comes enquiring about a cabinet McCallum is knocking together for him, as Dave is setting up a spin class in the old JT Cycles shop around the corner on Pulteney Street. They organise to move the cabinet that afternoon and we continue chatting. Such is the way in The Mill. People come and go casually, mingling and exchanging stories about their fledgling businesses. They help each other out where they can, knowing they’re part of a larger family of creatives and entrepreneurs. This is how McCallum’s furniture design business, Wholegrain Studio, got its start. “I was doing some other jobs, some contract work, and got a taste for building and product design,” McCallum says. Trained in architecture, and having worked with the Fascination St design collective, he helped build the brand and mobile coffee stall of Humble Grounds Coffee in Victor Harbor. Then McCallum asked himself, “What do I do for a job?” and found that “talking with people and making things” was the answer. What he describes as “the snowball effect of working in The Mill’s workshop” has developed into an avalanche for the young designer. Naomi Murrell  keeps a space in The Mill, too, but has opened a new shop front in Ebenezer Place. Who helped her set it up and build the shop? Wholegrain Studio. Currently, Wholegrain’s most popular pieces are the Finger Print and Thumb Print chairs and tables. A few have made their way into cafes around town, like Please Say Please on Grenfell Street. McCallum has an affinity for creating work to be used in cafes and to do with food. “If I could, I’d spend all my time designing stuff for food and not worry about money,” he says. Having worked in hospitality while studying architecture, McCallum has an intimate understanding of the functional needs of this furniture. An eye for detail is obvious in his work. The tops of his Finger and Thumb print pieces are marked by almost hypnotic geometric patterns formed by a canny arrangement of exposed wood grain. From a display piece he has sitting in the gallery out the front, to the hexagonal finishing on his chair legs, there is a geometric style imbued into all his work. “I hadn’t even thought of that until just then,” he says, turning to look at schematics and photos of his work on the wall. “I think it comes from being a bit OCD, to be honest,” he jokes, underselling the effort inherent in this work. “It’s fun. It is a good way of pulling back from anything too traditional – people sort of jump at the idea of classic timber, they think it’s that kind of beautiful but well done traditional stuff.” He says that his work uses plenty of traditional techniques, but he aims for something more contemporary and new in its finish. Most of the wood McCallum uses in his work is recycled, and he revels in the opportunity for improvisation and discovery that this affords him. “I sand or shave the wood back to see what I can find in it.” From there, he says it’s a matter of “working smarter, not harder” to build a functional, but beautiful piece. McCallum is quick to point out that his work is not just limited to wood, and he enjoys working with other materials, but his current lumber focus has come from its workability, and his having a healthy stock of things like wine staves, precious jarrah and pine. Asked what 2015 has in store, McCallum winces, saying “I tend to jinx myself talking bout the future” but he goes on, “I want to focus on building Wholegrain up and potentially launch a line of products, perhaps an exhibition – that’s probably enough.”

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