Brigitte Owers-Buccianti @_brigittesamantha @realnonreal
Hi Brigitte, let's start with your basic spiel so everyone knows what it is you do.
I’m a Naarm (Melbourne) based multidisciplinary designer and photographer. I recently returned from a decent stint abroad in Detroit, New York, & Toronto, and I’ve just launched my own practice, Real Non-Real (RNR). RNR is interested in the performance, rituals and gestures of the everyday, and takes a research approach to design by looking at the inherent narrative of furniture, the poetics of daily life, and the spatial relationship between objects and the body. RNR aims to challenge current notions of furniture.
Tell us a bit about your creative path, how did you get to where you’re at now?
I’ve loved customising furniture and the spaces I inhabit ever since I can remember. When I was 5 or 6 I demanded my mum paint every piece of furniture in my room in Bananas in Pyjamas blue and yellow (let’s just say it didn’t date well…). I also recall pulling the plastic wood laminate off my TV and painting the chipboard hot-pink to match my hot-pink desk (which I’d also painted, of course). And at least once a week I would spend all night re-arranging the furniture in my bedroom. No matter how heavy it was I always worked out a way. In high school I never thought I could do something like that for a living, so after a gap year, where I mostly focused on my health, I started studying Nutritional Medicine. But as I was going through the course I realised I was in no way near ready to take on that kind of responsibility —helping people through their physical and mental health problems. My love for putting my own spin on objects and making spaces my own has never left me. I always felt that I was half/half in school terms, I didn’t fit into either the art or science categories. So I decided to switch to a Fine Art degree. After a year of majoring in sculpture and ceramics I felt that I wanted to scale it up a notch so I transferred into Interior Design and here we are now. My life seems to have come full-circle.
How did you find Detroit, New York and Toronto? Do you feel like travel was a turning point for you? We hear you’re pretty good on the tools now and welding is firmly in your wheelhouse.
I would definitely say my trip overseas was a turning point for me, especially in the sense of gaining independence and having more confidence in my creativity. Before I left for my overseas trip, I doubted myself a lot and feared judgement from others. But once I was away from the small bubble of home I just let myself have fun with what I was doing, which really gave me a chance to practice and explore new mediums. While I was on exchange I took a furniture making and design class where I learned traditional woodworking techniques and how to work with steel. I really love the flexibility that steel allows.
You’ve mentioned that the spaces you inhabit have been the subjects of your drive to create in the past, how do they interact with your design practice these days?
Having a calm, ordered, and aesthetically pleasing space to live and work is hugely important to me for both emotional and physical wellbeing. And I think that really feeds into my work. I’m constantly trying to make my spaces more functional and that’s exactly what I aim to do with the pieces I create. I hope to improve daily life through creating objects that are sculptural but also highly functional.
Do you work from a studio? What’s it like?
My partner and I are really lucky because we recently moved from a tiny, one-bedroom home, I’m talking 29 square metres, to a two-bedroom house where we use the spare room as a study and studio. At our old place, during lockdown and when I started RNR we were sharing a desk with two huge iMacs right next to each other. It was so hard to concentrate because we were both constantly looking at each other's projects and getting distracted! Now we have our desks on opposite sides of the room which is a huge relief. I also recently moved into a workshop in North Coburg with other furniture makers. I'm so excited to make new prototypes for future pieces in that space!
Tell us about your design, Formosa, and tell us a bit about where the design comes from.
Formosa is a catch-all for domestic spaces, like a coat-stand but with a broader range of uses. It was influenced by a few different elements in the urban environment, repeated icons that I saw really frequently during my time in Detroit. The curved form is inspired by the public bike racks there, and the base is the form of a hazard cone. It’s designed so that the weight is centred which means it doesn't fall over like more traditional coat stands where all the weight falls on one side.
What’s your next project?
My next project is a wall mounted version of Formosa. It's launching at an exhibition called Future Proof, which I’m co-curating and organising with Ella Saddington for Melbourne Design Week. I’m curating and exhibiting, so this show is a double-whammy!
Introduce us to your doggo!
Laylou is a very unique creature… Less of a dog, more of a slug x piglet x seal x potato x loaf of bread. There isn’t another like her, if you’ve met her you know.
Where do you like to spend time? Where are your favourite places to head out or take Laylou?
We don’t eat out a huge amount because I love to cook. We’re lucky to be on top of the hill at our new place with an incredible view of the city, so we hang out at home a lot. I’m definitely a huge homebody! In terms of walking, we love walking around Royal Park, its a little slice of bush so close to the city.
What’s the most significant thing you've recently learnt?
As plain as it sounds… simply backing myself more! Learning how to fail, being okay with not being good at everything the first time I try it and not giving up when things get tough. For such a long time I held myself back from trying new things for fear of not being good enough, but when I got away from home for 6 months, I realised that the only person judging me, is me.
We’re all torturing ourselves with plans for our dream overseas trip because we can’t go right now. What’s your favourite international holiday destination and why?
The list is LONG! But a few places at the top are Italy, Brazil, and Egypt. I was recently thinking about how I would love to move to Italy in a couple of years so I thought, why don’t I do some research and see if I could get citizenship though my grandparents, who are Italian… or so I thought!! This is a long story, but basically I logged into an ancestry website to see if there was anything on my family, only to find a cousin in Brazil had my family tree together and there are over 600 people on it! And that’s not even the crazy part. Turns out, the family I thought were Italian, have been living in Egypt going back 8 generations. The first documentation is in 1706. For some reason it still says their nationality is Italian on documents which is strange but yes, a big discovery for me! So yeah, turns out I have family all over the world. I’d love to meet them and find out more about my heritage of which I clearly know very little!
If you could have a couple of wines with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Eileen Gray for sure! She was a protagonist during the Bauhaus era, and one of the first women to pursue a career in furniture and architecture at time when women were usually delegated to the ‘feminine’ arts like textiles. She was brave, unapologetic, put Le Corbusier in his place, and is hands down my absolute icon!