Growing up in renovation sites and on building projects with his carpenter father Tom, it’s no surprise Fort Kingsley founder Liam McCallion developed a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and thoughtful, timeless design.
Not only would his father renovate and sell multiple houses throughout Liam’s childhood – which resulted in countless moves for the family - he’d also make furniture and mirror frames for the family as well as their friends.It’s fitting, then, that Tom has been on hand and back on the tools to help Liam set up his new workshop and first ever Fort Kingsley shop front at Mermaid Beach, set to open soon. Three Balls Red caught up with the talented artisan to learn about the beginnings of his furniture brand, the world’s renewed appreciation for handcrafted and sustainable products and how mistakes can lead to a new idea.
Tell us about the beginning of the Fort Kingsley journey?
Inspired by Mid-century modern design, I decided it was time to make the transition from the boat building industry to making furniture in 2016. This is a dream that has slowly been coming true since then.
Fort Kingsley focuses on making a quality product that will last and now has a range of furniture - including tables, seating, entertainment, audio and more - which has been designed, crafted and wired in Mermaid Beach. All of these pieces have the flexibility to be personalised to suit the client’s needs in the way of design, dimensions and timber species.
Whom or what inspires you?
I have always been inspired by furniture from the 50s, 60s and 70s from some of the world-famous Danish designers of that era to Australians alike.
I take a lot of inspiration from [iconic Australian designer] Gerald Easden and I can see a lot of similarities in my furniture.
It sounds cliched but inspiration can really come from anywhere if my antennas are up! From architecture to nature, even mistakes in the workshop can lead to a new idea.
Favourite piece of work to date?
I could have a different answer for this question each time I’m asked! I tend to get pretty excited about whatever I’m working on at the time. I recently finished a round pedestal table that was a custom design. It's minimal and a little different to my usual work and I really love the way it turned out and I’m proud of working out the round tapered base. It was the old trick of “sketch something cool and figure out how to make it later.” Thankfully it worked.
There seems to be an appreciation for handcrafted, thoughtfully-designed furniture and objects instead of mass produced, cookie cutter products. Would you agree and why do you think this is so?
I’m definitely noticing more and more people leaning towards handmade products. I think the customisation is a big positive to buying “handmade” rather than buying something off the shelf. This way, they get to choose the colour of both timber and fabric so it goes with their space and is also made to the ideal dimensions so that it fits perfectly in its forever home. There’s also a story that comes with every piece of handmade furniture such as the materials used, where it was made and what techniques may have been used to build it. I’d like to think one of the reasons people are buying handmade is for the environment. The more quality, longer-lasting products we use, the less crap will end up in landfill at the end of the day.
Why work with TBR?
To be honest, I was a bit nervous when first meeting with the guys at TBR, especially after seeing the amazing work they do. However, from the moment I walked in, I felt totally welcome and have seen them as friends ever since. They are a very down-to-earth group of legends.
Aw, thanks Liam! What do you love most about what you do?
I love making. Seeing something take shape from its early stage as an idea to being stoked on the final result is truly rewarding. When the client is as stoked as me, it’s even better. Running a small business can be challenging at times but being able to get lost in the workshop makes it totally worth it.
Who would be the dream client to have a Fort Kingsley piece of furniture in their home?
My dream client would be someone that shares common interests in how furniture is designed in the way of style and functionality, trusting me enough and giving me the creative freedom to come up with something special. I’m lucky to have some clients just like this.
What is next for Fort Kingsley?
I am currently setting up a new space that I’m really excited about. The workshop is a lot bigger than I have had in the past giving me space for projects on a larger scale. There will also be a clean area to display and photograph the work. It will be set up as a working studio where people can come and see the furniture and the workshop it is made in.