Fred Ganim Interview | Yellowtrace

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex


This time last year, I attended an excellent Australian design exhibition held at the Old Government House in Parramatta. Curated by the respected design expert and former editor-in-chief of Vogue Living, David Clark,  showcased objects from some of Australia’s leading contemporary designers sitting alongside Government House’s significant Georgian collection. The show was an absolute visual feast and an intelligent and beautifully executed celebration of what makes Australian design so unique. Positioned at the entrance of the show was  which snaked its way across the large open space. I, like many others, was immediately drawn to this captivating piece, and soon discovered the table was created by young Melbourne-based designer .

I have to admit that, at that point in time I wasn’t too familiar with Fred’s work so I promptly jumped on his website and stalked every social handle I could find, which revealed… hmmm, how should I put this… f*ck all, really. It was clear to me from the get-go this guy was too cool for bios.

Not only did I not know his work too well, I was also completely unaware of the major design bloodline Fred came from. His late father, Anthony, was a savvy entrepreneur, and his mother, Rae, an Australian design legend and iconic textile label’s namesake, who together built up a niche clothing business that became a globally coveted brand in the 1980s. Perhaps I’m the only person around who did not know any of this, and it was at a recent dinner that my new friend, Susan, mentioned Rae Ganim and I sheepishly had to admit I had no idea who she was talking about. I blamed it all on the fact I didn’t grow up in Australia (my excuse for most things these days, really.) Anyway, as it turns out, this same friend also used to babysit Fred when he was a little boy. I mean, seriously!? Does the world get any smaller? She was also totes profesh and didn’t offer any ‘dirt’ on today’s interview subject, which kinda sucks. Dammit.


What I love the most about Fred’s work is that his talent feels organic and intuitive, and his vision very much his own. I suppose that growing up in such a creative family, he was always destined for artistic greatness. It’s also quite evident that this dude doesn’t pay much attention to what is happening in the furniture design market. An untrained designer by his own admission, Fred honed his craft and problem-solving skills by creating props and sculptures for the film industry over a number of years. Having eventually completed a course at Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, Fred continues to follow his own unconventional path with his only concern being that his furniture pieces last, and what he creates is beautiful.

A mark of a true artist.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Plane Table (2016). Materials: Ebonised European Oak. Photography by .


+ Hello Fred, welcome to Yellowtrace. Could you please tell us a little bit about your background and the path that led you to where you are today?

I grew up in a creative household, where ideas and projects seemed to be the focus of life, with day-to-day tasks working in and around them.

I have never really had any formal training, I worked for a number of years in a sculpting team that focused on creating film sets and theme parks, which is pretty much as informal as it gets. Basically creating whole environments without the traditional linear approach, so a constant dialogue of problem-solving occurred. A great industry with incredibly talented sculptors with an extraordinary knowledge of materials and more importantly the nuances of those materials, to solve problems and get the finishes needed.

Being a tentative industry, we often worked intensively for 3-4 months, followed by an often-long hiatus between jobs.

I enrolled at the owned and ran by Alastair Boell. I was training under Alastair, learning traditional forms of furniture joinery.

Working between film and studying furniture was great as it allowed me to develop ideas, and more importantly allowed time. Time to step back and focus my imagination on furniture projects, whilst emerged in work that was hands on and opening new interests.

In 2015 I had a show, presenting the work I had produced and I have been focused on my furniture projects since.


Credenza by Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Freddy Sideboard by Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Freddy Sideboard by Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Credenza (2017). Materials: European Oak (locally sourced, as the tree fell down in Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens 10 years ago). Photography by Earl Carter.


+ How do you go about establishing a concept and an overall direction for your furniture pieces? Do you have a certain process that you always follow?

I don’t do final drawings, but lots of problem-solving drawings of joinery to inform fabricators of what needs to be done. Often they are quick hand drawn working sketches which can be drawn all over a number of times, to get the project rolling.

I’ll start with an idea, do the fundamental tasks in putting it together and then once it starts to take shape, then the work starts to talk. For example, a problem will present itself, a shape doesn’t roll into another the way I’d like, you constantly rebut these challenges and it drives the direction of the piece. The problems inform the work and my interest. So essentially the core of the original idea is there, but its developed to somewhere that could not have been originally anticipated. This is where I like to work.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
U Coffee Table (2016). Materials: European Oak. Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.


+ How important is the ability to balance the design and business in today’s market? How much time do you spend on each side of your practice?

I’d like to say it’s an 80/20 scenario, but it’s a constant battle to maintain this balance, whilst running a small business. Wherever possible I’ve learnt to seek the skills of others in areas of business.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Lucy Folk Playa Table (2016). Materials: Travertine. Photography by .

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Lucy Folk Sunglasses Display (2015). Materials: Maple, Steel & Felt. Photo by Peter Tarasiuk.


+ What are some of your methods to stay motivated, focused and expressive? And your main sources of inspiration and references you are drawn to regularly?

Books are a main source of inspiration I would say, pretty much on anything and everything but in particular architectural books.

Materials and more importantly fabricators are a large drive. You become interested in something, you talk to them, try to push their processes which can be frustrating for them, though when you find someone that understands your language and you start to learn theirs, its exciting and opens are whole range of possibilities.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Cabinet (2014), Edition of 5. Materials: American Oak. Photo by .

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Suspended Shelving (2015). Materials: Pine, Steel Screw Jack, Powder Coat & Two Pac Paint. Photo by Peter Tarasiuk.

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Book Stand (2013), Edition of 5. Materials: American Oak. Photo by Peter Tarasiuk.


+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a designer today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

It’s really an issue of time. The industry in its nature doesn’t allow for it. Time for ideas and also for craftsmanship to develop. It seems to be a kind of a constant turning wheel of repetition, though it has its place in the market.

In terms of sustainability, I think it’s important to look at it in different ways, not only the materials, but finding a certain kind of design honesty that is sustainable. If made correctly, a design should stand the test of time.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Dining Table (2016). Materials: European Oak. Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.


+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other designers, peers and creatives do you admire?

My friends, Art, Films.

Design wise the Bauhaus, Vienna Workshop, De Stihl, Shakers – too many more to mention.

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

I’d say follow your interests and focus in on those interests. Talk to people, trades, craftsman and anyone that can facilitate your ideas or interests. In five minutes of drawing and jamming on your ideas you’ll learn a lot more from these people and get you closer to your projects.

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision, some of your goals and some of your current projects?

Alongside my other projects I’m currently working on a number of smaller piece, with a particular focus on lighting, and looking to have a show later in the year.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Do Not Sit Chair (2015), Edition of 50. Materials: Rock Maple & American Oak. Photography by .

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Side Table (2015). Materials: Rock Maple. Photo by Peter Tarasiuk.

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Round Coffee Table (2015). Materials: Rock Maple & Black Strain. Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.


Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

I look forward to mistakes, you learn the unexpected from them.

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

However long you think a new project will take, times it by 2 then add a week.

+ Your most treasured belonging?

My surfboards, which you wouldn’t know, as they are all dinged and sadly seldom used these days.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

Not telling.

+ It’s not very cool but I really like…

Woodworking. We are basically a bunch of timber geeks out at the workshop.


Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
Spin Side Table (2015). Materials: Euro Beech, Black Stain, Steel & Powder Coat. Photo by Peter Tarasiuk.

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace

Interview: Fred Ganim | Yellowtrace
T Coffee Table (2015). Materials: Rock Maple & Japanese Black Stain. Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.


Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex


[Images courtesy of . Photography credits noted.]


About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

Leave a Reply