The Sea Spirit bespoke furniture range is the result of a collaboration between the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA), Birrbay artist Angela Marr-Grogan and fine furniture designer Dean Bridgeman from Ashton Designs.

Art

Marr-Grogan’s traditional language name, Gurrwa Marraygan, means Sea Spirit, and it’s not hard to see this eponymous inspiration shine through in her art. The range of Sea Spirit designs reflect Marr-Grogan’s love of her saltwater roots, and, in particular, in her rendering of familiar coastal shell-shapes, honours her Ngaya (mother’s) favourite saltwater food, abalone.

As an Aboriginal woman and artist, I am extremely passionate about celebrating and promoting my culture through art and language. I am inspired and driven by the depth of my culture and my place within it.

Angela Marr-Grogan

Printed on organic hemp in sea foam and in pink salt, Marr-Grogan’s bold, symmetrical designs suggest, stylistically, old-school block or lino printing. But this belies an underlying complexity of intricate dot work, lines and curves — just like the seashells (duran gurrwa) the designs celebrate.

Design

Complementing Marr-Grogan’s art, Dean Bridgeman’s fine furniture skills bring design flair, technical skill, and finishing detail to the Sea Spirit collaboration. 

Like Marr-Grogan’s art, it can be easy to underestimate the complexity of Ashton’s work. Its clean lines and seemingly simple shapes highlights Marr-Grogan’s striking designs, without competing with them (or against them) which a less restrained or more intricate approach might do. Ashton’s skill here is in underplaying his hand, letting the art shine, while applying his high-level technical skill to aspects that remain hinted at: hidden joinery, fine finishing, complex simplicity.

I am really looking forward to seeing the pieces in someone’s home, being appreciated for what they are but being used as they should be.

Dean Bridgeman, Ashton Designs

The result is a framing of Marr-Grogan’s art, albeit a frame that is functional and beautiful design in its own right.

Collaboration and opportunity

The Sea Spirit collaboration was pitched to Dean from Ashton Designs by the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA). 

All parties were excited by the opportunities of working together and have been thrilled with the results. In complementing each other’s skills, it was a first for all and a big win for everyone involved.

We have been dreaming up a collaboration of this calibre for many years and honoured to be working with such a fine craftsmen as Dean from Ashton Designs. And always a pleasure working with Ang — she is an incredible artist and a true professional. We love this work and can’t wait to see it in homes across the country.

Jane Tavener, NADA

Local branding and design agency, saso.creative, supplied the digital graphic skills to render Grogan’s art into a format that could be digitised, replicated and repeated in a form suitable for textile printing.

Print Ink Studio took care of the final printing onto unbleached organic hemp, which was then supplied to a local upholsterer

Home is where your art is

Furniture of this nature is, ultimately, functional art, and its test of form and ‘fit’ is in someone’s home. 

Stylistically and functionally, the Sea Spirit range speaks to our coastal lifestyle: saltwater motifs, pale (sun-bleached?) wood, and simplistic and sturdy design adds up to a modern-retro aesthetic that whispers relaxed, beachy comfort. 

And if that’s your thing, it will find a place in your home. Turn on the lamp, grab a magazine from the magazine rack, sit back and relax. You can almost hear the surf and smell the sea — how fitting, given the range’s provenance.

The Range

The Sea Spirit furniture ranges consists of a chair, magazine rack, floorstanding light and table lamp. Each piece is custom made to order and can be upholstered in your choice of design and colourways (sea foam or pink salt).

All profits are shared between Ashton Designs and NADA, which NADA, in turn, shares with the artist. 

NADA is the commercial arm of the Saltwater Freshwater Alliance and, through their representation of Indigenous artists, offers design, licensing and development services to the wider community.

The Sea Spirit collaboration was proudly funded by the NSW Government.

Angela Marr-Grogan https://culturalindustries.com.au/

Ashton Designs https://www.ashtondesigns.com.au/

saso.creative https://sasocreative.com.au

Print Ink Studio https://www.printinkstudio.com/

Project Artist

Angela Marr Grogan

Angela Marr-Grogan is a Birrbay woman with connections to the Dhanggati and Warrimay people on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. Ang specialises in custom commissioned works of art, and creating meaningful imagery and designs for individuals, organisations, Reconciliation Action Plans and Aboriginal programs.