Max Hunt in the studio. Image: supplied
When Max graduated from what was then called the product innovation program at UniSA in 2011, he had hopes of practicing as an industrial designer. Things didn’t quite go to plan – but the success and ubiquity of Max’s business, Hunt Furniture, since its inception soon after graduation, speaks for itself.
“Initially I thought I’d be a pure industrial designer who designed a little furniture, but I ended up the other way around,” says Max. “I decided to continue to push through with self-initiated projects until something worked. Expect nothing but the unexpected.”
Though often dismissed in terms of career opportunities, Max sees South Australia as a prime destination for furniture design thanks to its long history of craftsmanship that has resulted in irreplaceable expertise.
It is true that South Australia has a rich history of local knowledge in furniture design and manufacture. Many staples of the mid-century modern – for some, the golden era of Australian design – were locally design and made. National players T.H Brown, Leo Conci and E.R Noblett all called Adelaide home. Small to medium generational manufacturers thrived, and demand for these pieces steadily grew. A fascination with this influential era in South Australian design persists – original modernist pieces that carry the T.H Brown or Noblett seal are a staple for vintage stores, second-hand sellers, and collectors, and fetch a high price for their notoriety.
Since the collapse of the manufacturing sector, a gap between history and cultural knowledge has emerged. A catalogue essay that accompanied a 2018 exhibition at Adelaide’s JamFactory acknowledged the difficulty of tracking the industry’s development: “the furniture manufacturing industry has been overlooked in records of the State’s relatively short history since colonisation … information about furniture manufacturing in South Australia is scarce.”