Jack and Mark Fearon know their way around a set of tools. But while Mark, a boilermaker, and Jack, a qualified plumber, are well versed in physically demanding construction work, the Brisbane-born brothers also have a love for design. In 2010, Jack and a friend opened a gallery on the Gold Coast, which by Jack’s own admission “probably wasn’t very smart but was really fun”. They staged a show featuring street artist Shida, among others, before trying their hand at fashion and making branding videos (back before it was “content”). Basically, says Jack, “We were just winging it.”
The brothers did stints in Japan creating installations but moved to Melbourne in 2016, working on shop fit-outs and building water trucks before moving back north at the end of 2019 with the long-held dream of launching their own furniture business, Brothers Fearon Fabrication. But unlike many creatives, they were realistic about the risk. “We knew we had bills to pay and weren’t sure if it would be successful, so we did a lot of commercial fabrication up until the end of last year… building water trucks for a steady flow of income so we could do more of what we wanted while trying our luck at the furniture game,” says Jack. Now, furniture has outpaced their commercial work and there’s a 10-week lead time.
What they lack in formal design training, Jack and Mark make up for with their knowledge of materials, learnt from years on the job rather than behind a desk. And aside from the occasional quick sketch, they mess around with scale and form in situ. “It’s the easiest way to see what dimensions might work and how something could take shape,” says Jack.
The idea for their launch collection, Bread with Butter, came to Jack while eating toast. “Bread with butter is such a staple food and that’s what I wanted the collection to be,” he says. A series of 10 objects, each a cheeky play on plump shapes, with fat silhouettes and chubby tubular legs. Part furniture, part object, blocky platforms double as bookcases, tables and chairs, channelling “Aussie” colours like Terrain, Pale Eucalypt, Paperbark, Headland and Intensity Sunshine in glossy powder-coated finishes. “We try to contrast the harshness of the metal with soft shapes to give the products a warm feel,” says Jack. “Sort of like ceramics.”
The first ‘Chub,’ a tubby plinth, came about through experimenting with steel, but the weight would have made shipping costs prohibitively high. However, a prototype in aluminium proved to be “much lighter but just as strong”. It is produced without any extras like silicones or tapes, and the purity of the material means the units have a long lifespan in addition to being fully sustainable and recyclable.
Byron Bay-based Jack meets Mark, who lives in Brisbane, midway at their warehouse in Burleigh Heads where they weld, cut and sand each piece from start to finish. But thanks to a cohort of creative mates, the warehouse is often filled with friends assisting on photoshoots, styling, packaging and “generally just chatting through ideas over a beer,” says Jack. Some are freelancers and between jobs they are recruited for some friendly sanding. The founders’ dad, a former boilermaker, also comes in to lend a hand.
Under Brothers Fearon Fabrication, Jack and Mark still manufacture for big projects but it has largely taken a backseat to their small-scale custom pieces. Recently they launched a set of ‘Socks and Undies’ cabinets at Yeah, Nice gallery in Byron Bay, featuring ripple effects on pastel alloy sheets, and will add to the Bread with Butter collection towards the end of the year. Says Jack, “It has basically taken over everything else so we can just focus on designing and fabricating furniture full-time.”