In 2004, Design Island was the name given to an exhibition coordinated by Arts Tasmania and featuring artwork by 20 leading Tasmanian designers held in Sydney and Tasmania. Following the success of the exhibition, the Design Island name was then used by Arts Tasmania to describe a five-year strategy of design related events aimed at growing and inspiring the design sector in Tasmania.
The Design Island exhibition was developed in a partnership between Object – Australian Centre for Craft and Design and Arts Tasmania, the Tasmanian State Governments arts agency.
The exhibition was held at the Sydney Opera House opening on 23 March 2004 and closing on 16 May 2004. It was officially opened by Tasmanian Government MP Ms Kathryn Hay, Director of Object Mr Steven Pozel, and the Executive Manager of the Sydney Opera House Ms Maria Sykes.
The exhibition then travelled to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, opening 17 June 2004 and closing 29 August 2004, followed by the Design Centre Launceston, opening 15 September 2004 and closing 31 October 2004.
The exhibition featured work by 20 Tasmanian designers: Di Allison (jewellery) Simon Ancher (furniture) Peter Battaglene (ceramics) Les Blakebrough (ceramics) Claire Byers (textiles) Hermie Cornelisse (ceramics) Linda Fredheim (furniture) Lola Greeno (jewellery) Patrick Hall (furniture) Indeco (utensils) Hugh McLachlan and Mary Phillips McLachlan (jewellery) Rosemary O’Rourke (textiles) Kevin Perkins (furniture) Peter Prasil (furniture) Kiyomi Reid (accessories) Craig Rosevear and Stuart Houghton (furniture) John Smith (furniture) Penny Smith (ceramics).
The exhibition was co-curated by Brian Parkes Associate Director of Object and Pippa Dickson Project Officer – Design at Arts Tasmania.
The exhibition was conceived following the success of a Tasmanian Government initiative from 2002 known as Young Designers Month, and was developed as part of the Tasmanian Government’s Bicentenary celebrations in 2004.
The Young Designers Month strategy, initiated in 2002, was an annual event to bring together Tasmania’s design community and continued until 2005, but after the success of the Design Island exhibition the event was re-branded as Design Island and a three-year strategy, later increased to a five-year strategy, was implemented strengthening the event and forging greater opportunities and links with national and international design communities.
Over the duration of the five year strategy, which concluded in 2009, it attracted significant national and international media attention, designers from all corners of the globe and a wide range of professional development opportunities, forums, workshops, grant funding and sponsorship.
Some of the other positive industry outcomes following Design Island events included;
- a touring exhibition of Tasmanian design in Sydney in 2006;
- Singular and Multiple, a selling exhibition of Tasmanian jewellery in 2007 that toured to the Singapore Design Festival;
- Red Island, a follow up selling exhibition of Tasmanian jewellery at the Singapore Fashion Festival by invitation in 2008 following the success of Singular and Multiple; and,
- The Arts Tasmania/Vitra Design Museum Fellowship, an annual program enabling a Tasmanian designer to attend a week-long international design workshop at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in Europe