Brian Tunks, the creative director of lifestyle and ceramics company Bison Home, sits down to chat about design, arts and crafts, and exploring the world.
ON GROWING UP:
I grew up in Grenfell in central western New South Wales and I loved the country and loved the bush, but growing up had its challenges.
My problem was being a boy who was good at music and creating and schoolwork, in an environment that was much more geared towards sports.
So not necessarily an easy time, but a great time with an amazing family.
As a kid, history was my escape hatch. I would read and read in the school library books on history, Japan, or Asian conflicts, or evolution of languages, and that sort of gave me this incredible desire to travel and experience it.
My Mum said I tried to run away from Grenfell on my dinky with my bear in the back when I was two or three. I got as far as the town pool before one of the other neighbours sent me home. I just wanted to see the world and be part of something bigger. I became an exchange student to Sweden when I was 17 and went to school in Malmo.
I found that incredibly formative. It introduced me to light and colour, and to history that was different to that within Australia and our own ancient culture. It was that world of vikings and design. It was quite a remarkable introduction to how a world existed outside our own.
Now travel is a huge part of my life and I do travel a lot for my business, because I work collaboratively with studios and I would never get the experiences that I have unless I actually got to spend time in those spaces.
I've just come back from five weeks in South America for my wedding and honeymoon, and that was something on my bucket list. I travel not for the sake of travel but for what it gives me and what I can hopefully give in return to other people.
ON THE EVOLUTION OF BISON:
I've lived in Canberra since 1994 - I originally came up to do my Master of Letters at ANU and my husband [Professor David Plummer] came up to do his PhD, and we became very quickly part of the local community.
Bison kind of evolved out of the end of that phase of my life in a way, where I realised that my studies [in ancient history and archaeology] would have to be part of my interests rather than my career. And the design side I've always had bubbling in the background.
I started as a self-taught maker and then after 17 years my body basically gave out on me. The business kept growing, but I couldn't. I decided what I really loved was the design more than the creating and physicality of production.
So I decided that the only way that I could continue on was to work collaboratively with studios around the world that shared my vision and shared our standards and wanted to be part of an evolving design studio.
So I went and worked in the Philippines, in Indonesia, India, Thailand, in places where there was a cultural history for production in those particular crafts. And it was incredibly liberating.
What my life has taught me is you've got to be like mercury and flow around a problem. But if you hit a problem and something isn't working for you, be open to change, be open to evolving.
If you, for instance, in 15 or 20 years suddenly discover you'd really like to paint, just get out there, take the risk.
People get scared because of how regulated our lives are and how comfortable people get.
I just can't live like that.