Brass, leather and wood are the types of materials that Melbourne designer Daniel Barbera enjoys working with when creating tables, chairs and other interior products. It's partly because of their natural beauty, and also because they're not heavily processed, and so kind to the environment. This simple yet thoughtful philosophy has been at the heart of his business, Barbera, since launching it in 2004. The sophistication of Daniel's range has been well received by architects and interior designers, as well as various industry bodies. In many ways his back-to-basics outlook reflects his passion for design, which has always been an integral part of his personality, ever since he was a child building with blocks, then working in his father's workshop. This family environment nurtured an amazing creativity in Daniel and his brother, photographer Paul Barbera, who I interviewed (four years ago) here.
Which five words best describe you? Creative, fair, thinker, patient, dreamer.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started my career when I was unaware I was actually starting my career. This began at around age three when I started to take Lego seriously, and I could start to hone my three dimensional awareness and understanding of form and structure with a purpose. I slowly built up a decent Lego collection and then recruited my neighbour and cousin to assist in a few of my first major design constructions. From Lego, I then went on to learn what I could create with my father in his workshop until I went to study Industrial Design, and then later learnt the art of creating beautiful objects with Chris Connell at Map. So probably a few steps to a definitive career path. But my path is, I suppose, where I am at now, building a business that can facilitate my creations and provide for me.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Do what you want, not what people think you should do. To innovate in any sense is about listening, learning, but doing it your way, whether is be about design or a business model. I am pretty unorthodox with about everything I do.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Not going to Milan Furniture Fair, to prove myself to others, but slowly building a brand and production range, and letting the world slowly awake to what we do here.
What’s been your best decision? Starting Babera and specialising in providing unique all Australian-made designs, but that's a boring answer. Probably a more recent best decision was upgrading and moving my factory/studio and then doubling what I thought I needed.
Who inspires you? Great thinkers, like my brother Paul, Heron of Alexandria, James Lovelock, Paul Ehrlich, Ray Kurzweil to name a few, but one main inspiration is a thinker and sharer of knowledge Phillip Adams, who I regularly listen to, forever expanding my thirst of understanding this world.
What are you passionate about? Sculpting structure into usable objects, and my family.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? After listening to countless Late Night Live programs with Phillip Adams, I would love to have him over for dinner.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? A space flight would really be quite wonderful, or at least a ride in SR71, but otherwise, closer to Earth, uh, I would like to design and build my dream home in the bush.
What are you reading? I don't really do much reading these days. I do much more listening. I have a long list of favourite podcasts that I love listening to: Late Night Live is at the top of my list, otherwise a few favourites: Freakonomics, WNYC radiolab, This American Life, the Science Show.
images courtesy of daniel barbera
images courtesy of daniel barbera