Leading Australian Designers are Transforming Broken Design Objects Into Future Heirlooms

Imagine fashion waste transformed into upholstery for a high art, collectible sunlounge; a model aeroplane re-imagined as a crown; or a broken designer pendant lamp painstakingly rebuilt into a one-of-a-kind floor lamp.

These are just three of the nine pieces that will be auctioned off on 9 June 2022 as part of Transformative Repair, an upcoming exhibition opening from 2-10 June 2022 at the Australian Design Centre (ADC) in Sydney that celebrates repair over waste.

Transformative Repair features broken design objects collected from high-profile leaders in the arts and climate change activists including actor Yael Stone, gallerist Sally Dan-Cuthbert, the Campana Brothers for Edra, conservationist Tim Flannery, Flight Facilities musician Hugo Gruzman and designer Bianca Spender.

The objects have been reimagined by leading Australian designers and artists including artist Lucy McRae, designer Adam Goodrum, Nyikina artist and craftsman Illiam Nargoodah, weaver Liz Williamson with Tulla Carson, industrial designer David Caon and jeweller Kyoko Hashimoto with Ebony Fleur, to give them new life.

Led by Guy Keulemans, Enterprise Fellow at UniSA Creative, and Trent Jansen, Lecturer at UNSW Art, Design and Architecture, the initiative aims to generate discussion around the environmental impact of our culture of discarding rather than repairing broken objects.

“The project responds to the pressing cultural and environmental burden of product obsolescence and consumer waste through innovation in transformative repair,” explains Guy Keulemans, Enterprise Fellow at UniSA Creative. “This designed reworking of broken consumer objects transforms their aesthetic appeal and cultural value.”

The exhibition includes a wide range of responses to the “transformative repair” brief. Some objects – such as a broken Vespa donated by actor and climate change activist Yael Stone and repaired by industrial designer David Caon; a pair of disintegrating 1950’s ‘Plan-o-spider’ chairs from gallerist Sally Dan-Cuthbert revitalised with new webbing by weaver Liz Williamson and collaborator Tulla Carson; or a damaged pendant lamp by the Campana Brothers for Edra reconstructed by Adam Goodrum as a floor lamp using only the existing aluminium components – have retained their original use.

Other objects have been completely transformed in both appearance and function. Take the unsellable garments from Bianca Spender that, together with a vintage Knoll chaise lounge, are repurposed into functional art by Lucy McRae, or the model Qantas Boeing 747 – known as the “Queen of the Skies” – belonging to Flight Facilities musician Hugo Gruzman and magically transformed into an ornate crown by jeweller Kyoko Hashimoto. Then there’s the poetic storytelling of Nyikina artist and craftsman Illiam Nargoodah, who has created a tableau artwork from a broken axe belonging to scientist, explorer and conservationist Tim Flannery.

“Our hope is that the exhibition will test how transformative repair methods extend object lifespans,” says Trent Jansen, Lecturer at UNSW Art, Design and Architecture. “This project has the potential to address problems of unsustainable consumption and explore a new transformative repair market for craft and design professionals that will position Australia at the forefront of sustainable design.”

On the evening of the exhibition’s conclusion, a selection of these reimagined objects – alongside other associated objects, including an animated NFT of a model Cessna 310 by Kyoko Hashimoto and collaborator Ebony Fleur, and a series of woven artworks by Liz Williamson made using the scrap elastic from the old webbing of the Plan-o-spider chairs – will be auctioned off by renowned auctioneer Andrew Shapiro, Managing Director of Shapiro Auctioneers Australia. There will be nine lots with estimates ranging from AUD$1,500 to $22,000, with 85% of the profits going to the artist and 15% to the ADC.

Exhibition Details


Transformative Repair is an ARC Linkage Project for the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The exhibition runs from 2-10 June 2022 at the Australian Design Centre, with an artist talk on 4 June at 2pm and the auction at 6pm on 9 June 2022.

More green updates