Featured Designers: TMOD

FK talks to Georgie and Milenka from Sydney label TMOD (Turn Me On Design)

Tell us about the Turn Me On Design story – how did you both meet and come together as TMOD?
We met studying Design at COFA, UNSW where we worked closely helping each other with our individual projects. After completing our studies we decided to start developing lighting and furniture products of our own; hence the name ‘Turn Me On Design’, which was not only a literal reference to ‘turning’ on lights, but also a metaphor to turning on spaces and creating an ambience. During this process we started developing smaller and more affordable interactive objects: our jewellery. We abbreviated to TMOD which now represents our collections of all things experiential (jewellery, stationary, homewares & furniture): challenging the expectations of the functionality of a product.

What product have you worked on and released under TMOD?
Over the last 3 years TMOD has released 4 ranges of conceptual jewellery into the marketplace. Each range is an extension of the former, all of which are interactive and provide a purpose and function to the wearable object.

The first range ‘Oh Fiddlesticks’ consist of wearable wooden puzzles and mazes that provide a purpose to the act of fiddling.  We developed this into a sterling silver range ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, which were a more complex and challenging jewellery enigmas, including two interlinked keys that use a grove system to separate them, and double horseshow; whereby a twisting motion is needed to remove the middle horseshoe from the puzzle.  ‘Poetry In Braille’ was a collaborative jewellery range with artist Andy Uprock in support of Vision Australia.  This range was also experiential in the way each piece spins and rotates to ergonomically support the reading of the poems in Braille and on the opposite side, the english translation.  Our latest range, which has just been released is titled ‘Long Lost Secrets’ and it explores the concept of the wax seal as they break to reveal secrets. Each necklace, bracelet and ring comes with TMOD wax sticks and a box of TMOD matches.  The Lost City Of Atlantis is a metaphor to demonstrate this, as relics from this long lost city appear in the form of anchors, shells and compasses and they are fossils that reveal something about a hidden past.

TMOD has also released a range of interactive puppet creatures which we handmade for a collaborative female artist exhibition, and also for The Finders Keepers in 2009.  We were also involved in Oxfams exhibition ‘Footprints’ at the Museum Of Contemporary art, where we created a burning wax sculpture called ‘ Burning The Candle At Both Ends’. This piece was aimed at creating awareness of the impact we are having on global warming and encouraging people to make attempts to reduce their own personal ecological footprint.

Our latest TMOD products are our ranges of stationary. Most know are our ‘TMOD scratchies’: a range of 13 different card designs including ‘happy birthday’ messages and ‘thinking of you’.  Each card comes with a metal heart charm slotted into the card to use to scratch the silver layer and reveal the image hidden beneath.  We have also just released a range of TMOD popup cards including a fold-out train and a cockoo card where the bird pops out when the doors of the clock are opened. Similarly, we have a range of ‘thaumatropes’ which are inspired from old spinning toys, where when the disc is spun the 2 sides of the disc merge to form the image. An example is one side has an image of a cake and the opposite side has candles, so when spun the candles appear on the top of the cake.

What inspires your work and what continues to drive you?
We are inspired by all things interactive. We love movement and surprises. Alot of our graphics and illustrations are inspired from old world mechanical imagery. We spend hours in second hand bookshops. Travel and spending time in new places is also another avenue of inspiration, by experiencing different cultures. We have just booked a design market in Japan for May and we are really excited about exploring their design and paper culture.

We are also inspired by other local artists and designers, which is why we have worked on, and will continue to do collaborations with other local Sydney artists. We feel honoured to be able to share and pass on what we have learnt too, through such things as our regular lectures for BA Design final year students which we do for COFA, UNSW.

How has the journey been since you started and what have you gained along the way?
Since we started TMOD it has been a journey of learning through both experiences of success and failure. We feel we have come along way from when we started, through persistence and patience we moved from handmaking all our designs in a garage with no running water or toilet in Newtown, to now having our own studio/warehouse in Darlinghurst where we can concentrate more on designing and creating new products. We consistently joke about ‘now we are running a business’, as the business side of TMOD has been something we have slowly been learning along the way. I don’t think we realised at the beginning what this actually meant, but it is a satisfying evolution for us, although sometimes quite frustrating when we don’t have enough creative time.

All in all, our design studies at COFA was a crucial background to our journey, however it really is the learning through experience that has progressed the two of us. We are always open to opportunities and to learning and experimenting with new materials and processes, which is why our work is constantly changing. We have gained most of our knowledge through trial and error and by talking to everyone and asking questions. We have made alot of mistakes too, and i’m sure we will make make many more but this too is always a gain in the long run as it points us in a new direction. One of our greatest achievements was our nomination in the SOYA Design awards for our jewellery last year in the ‘Object & Industrial Design’ Category.

What are you working on at the moment and where do you hope to continue to in the future?
We are currently working on new designs and concepts for both TMOD jewellery and TMOD stationary, including our scratchies. Simultaneously, we have been steadily developing concepts for our furniture and lighting, which we hope to develop into collections in the future. We expect to release these 2011.

We are also working on a collaborative ceramic homewares range with illustrator Kareena Zerefos. This will be in the form of a teaset including sugar bowls, milk jugs, tea cups and saucers and of course a teapot. We are also working on TMOD accessories, including bags that will be consistent with our interactive and experiential design.

When your not creating and busy at TMOD, where can we expect to find you?
We spend most weekends at markets or sourcing vintage furniture from the auctions and our favourite little finds around Redfern and Newtown, including Seasonal Concepts and Mitchell Rd. A perfect sunday is checking out what is on at the MCA or the smaller boutique galleries, drinking coffee, having a swim and browsing through the paper shop on Crown St.


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