Interview - Coffee Break with Mark Douglass

21st Apr 2020 • Enrichment

Melbourne based glass designer Mark Douglass knows how to light up a room. Mark specialises in bespoke hand blown glass creations for small and large scale projects and kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us. With the use of muted colours and swoon worthy collection names such as Softserve, Cloud and Float it is hard not to love these bespoke Australian made designs.

Tell us a bit about yourself, what led you here?

My background is ceramic design and glass. I studied glass at Monash University, and I continued my passion of working with glass since I graduated in 1985. My interests have been diverse, in past I have owned night clubs, bars and partnered with Fashion labels, however glass has always been at the forefront of my mind

In 2010, I used the business skills I had developed and adapted them for glass, creating Mark Douglass Design. In 2016, I established Melbourne Glassworks, a state-of-the-art glass studio and arts centre. It has been a 5-year journey and this year we aim to consolidate a Showroom space into Melbourne Glassworks. Melbourne Glasswork is already a multifunctional workspace, with glass finances, Coldworking equipment (to grind and polish the glass and sandblast), equipment for flameworking and for metal work. Many of the pieces of equipment were collected from other studios or old glass factories overseas.

Do you recall your first big break as a designer?

I remember being included in a group show at Linden Gallery in St Kilda 1986. At that show I sold a piece to Irvin Rockman, who later became Mayor of Melbourne. It was a mirror which sold for $800, which you can imagine in 1986 that was a lot more money than it is today.

After that exhibition Irvin asked me to create all the lights in his home. This was a real starting point in my career.

At the same show, I met and started a long time friendship with Donlevy Fitzpatrick, who was a famous restaurateur in Melbourne, and we collaborated on both, St Kilda's Dog's Bar and the George.

These jobs led to a commission for Florentino’s on Burke St, this job was a turning point as I could support myself as a full designer and I was also able to employ assistants to help achieve larger projects and commissions. The group show at Linden really started my career.

(Left: Trixie Cluster - Opal Aubergine, Opal Smoke Grey and Opal White)

You have worked on some large scale lighting installations, do you have a favourite?

A milestone project was in Queensland for the East Leagues Club. It was a series of large chandeliers, composed of over 35000 pieces of glass. It was one of my biggest commissions to date. With a budget over $300k, completing it has given me the confidence to tackle any large-scale project whether it be in Australia or overseas. It was a big contact with a lot of pressure and responsibility to deliver on time and within budget. It was a great relief to see it completed and the reward was to see the client happy.

What advice can you give people selecting feature lighting for any sort of interior?

The best advice I can give is follow your first reaction or instinct, and don’t second guess yourself. There are so many choices out there its can be confusing, there are so many combinations of scale, colour and finish, there are hundreds of options. We try to keep our offering as tight as we can. If they look at our website, they will find themselves drawn to a shape or style and colour. After that we would suggest contacting us and we can work with them to see if the light will work in their space.

Can you tell us something most people wouldn’t know about you?

I am a people person, and I enjoy making people happy. I really enjoy what I do, I enjoy working with people, I enjoy hearing people’s varied stories and helping them achieve their lighting or object goals. The objects I make often become part of a person’s everyday life, and I enjoy talking with clients to help make them an object that brings them joy. Something they can look at that brings them joy or helps complete a space.

I love it when I see a client who has had a piece for over 10 years and their face still lights up with joy when they discuss it.

View more of the collection here

(Below: Vintage Wall Light - Small Aubergine Trixie with Brushed Brass Standard Wall Mount)