What happens when the mind of a celebrated record producer collides with a sustainably minded furniture designer? You get Plank Audio: a two-man team that could very well be the future of studio design.
Based in Melbourne, Aaron Dobos and Tim Denshire-Key's partnership focuses on crafting impeccable studio furniture and decor, favouring sustainable timbers and cutting edge modular designs to create pieces which are as beautiful as they are functional.
We spoke with Aaron and Tim to find out more about Plank Audio's ethos, process and practice, as well as the importance of crafting from sustainable timbers and where to find out more about the exciting new business.
Can you give us a quick overview of Plank Audio - what do you guys do, who’s involved in the business and what's your background or areas of expertise?
Plank Audio is a collaboration between producer Aaron Dobos and designer Tim Denshire-Key, we create a sustainable range of furniture for audio production.
Aaron Dobos is a Producer, Mixer and Engineer based in Melbourne. Over the last ten years he has developed a strong reputation, collaborating with The Avalanches, Danny Brown, G-Eazy & Britney Spears, Angus and Julia Stone, DYGL, Ceres, Swell, Big Words, X Factor, Alex Lahey and many more.
His works have received various awards and nominations, charted in top 10 ARIA charts, accumulated hundreds of millions of streams and achieved critical acclaim in a wide variety of publications.
Tim Denshire-Key is a Melbourne based designer/maker/thinker. His work crosses the creative fields including exhibition work, bespoke recycled timber furniture (Tall Sticks Furniture) and intermittent experimental sculptural practice.
Tim’s design practice looks at what we as a society view as waste, and how we can re-work and re-imagine alternative outcomes to avoid or delay the landfill destination.
Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment that made you decide to set up shop, or how did it all come about?
It’s been more of a slow burn than a lightbulb flash. The idea for creating a range of recording studio furniture has been in the works for a number of years, since we first collaborated on a customised desk for Aaron’s then spot at Fall Back Studios in 2017. From this beginning we have collaborated on a range of projects including a bespoke mixing desk for musician, Tash Sultana.
Plank Audio itself has been born out of the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions of 2020. It wasn’t until this year that we both found time away from our individual creative practices to bring these ideas into reality.
With Tim’s background in furniture design and Aaron coming from the world of recording studios, I imagine it would have made for some super interesting conversations at the design end. What were some of the key considerations that were independent to designing furniture for the recording studio and how did this differ from the standard design process?
I think the design process is something that can have similarities across the industries but is also always changing and pivoting depending on the brief presented. We’ve tended to take a collaborative approach. It’s been a fascinating way to gain insights into each other's creative practices. Over successive projects we’ve built up a shared understanding of what goes into both creating a great piece of furniture and the considerations needed for audio production gear and studios in general.
In deciding to create a dedicated range we first looked back over past bespoke projects. From there we discussed what had been the important considerations for each piece and the common themes between. We also looked at the realities of day to day usability in a studio environment and how this could be improved. Sustainability, combined with the impacts of material choice and manufacture is something we see as a key consideration in the creation of Plank Audio. Over the last few months, we have refined all of this into a dedicated range under the Plank Audio brand.
You guys are one of the first companies that I’ve seen really focus on the ‘furniture’ component of ‘studio furniture’ - I mean on an aesthetic level, the Plank Audio pieces have just as much in common with the world of designer furniture as they do with traditional studio furnishings. How important was it to make sure the Plank Audio pieces had their own unique aesthetic, especially with more and more studio furniture finding its way into the home?
That’s great feedback to hear, maybe we’re onto something… From the outset we wanted to create pieces that were not only functional but also beautiful. Drawing on Tim’s furniture experience and work with recycled timbers, we wanted to incorporate the beauty and uniqueness of recycled timber into the range.
We also didn’t want to over complicate things. We’ve intentionally kept a restrained material palette that really makes the recycled timber the feature of the range. Once they are set up with some rack gear, we feel the pieces make for a really striking combination.
A lot of furniture for studios can be very utilitarian. We wanted to create a range that will not only do the job needed, but also lift the space to create an environment to foster great creative work.
Speaking from experience I know that moving a studio or transporting studio furniture can be a bit of a handful. How important was it from a design standpoint to allow for easy pack down and transportation?
Super important. From Aaron’s many years of experience working in studios and the music industry we know this would be a key design consideration. A lot of work and research went in early on, as to how to achieve a balance between a solid work piece, that’s also easy to assemble/disassemble.
We experimented with a range of fixings and methods before settling on the final design. Focus was also put on designing the pieces in a way where minimal tools are needed. The Plank Production Desk flat packs to allow for easy transport while specialised fixings allow for quick and easy assembly, and a sturdy structure when in use.
I imagine that the same modularity would be awesome, given our readers tendency for gear acquisition syndrome - being able to add and subtract elements to fall in line with a growing set up?
Modularity was a super important aspect of the design and it has been built in from the beginning of the design process. The basic design allows ample space for rack gear with a total of 30U of space, but we really wanted the user to be able to adapt the desk to their own way of creating.
Currently a desk fill panel is available to convert the centre rack space into additional desk space. Soon we will have a keyboard tray add on, as well as drawers available. All these add ons are designed to be compatible with the desk, so that they can be easily retrofitted as people’s needs change.
Can you quickly run us through the range? What’s on offer and what kind of prices are we talking?
The range currently includes the Plank Production desk and studio rack boxes, with further products currently in development. The studio rack boxes start from $350 and the desks from $4000. We have a range of other products in development that we’re looking to release in time.
I know that you guys pride yourself on being an ethical and environmentally conscious company. How has this affected production/the kind of woods used and how important is it for Plank to remain a sustainable enterprise?
We believe that being ethical and environmentally conscious is something that should be built into every business, rather than an addition. Sustainability is at the core of Plank Audio’s range.
The evidence around climate change has been here for some time, but the tide is slowly moving towards a more circular economy and way of living. When creating a new brand and range of products, it was important for both of us to incorporate this ethos into the range.
The pieces are built from recycled timber and FSC certified plywood, allowing a balance between precision manufacturing and handmade aesthetic. Timber is reclaimed from old buildings which enables the material to live on in a new form. We have developed the range in Melbourne so far and look to continue building on this beginning.
By using the combination of recycled timbers and modern batch manufacturing techniques, it means the products become a living design in a sense, that can be responsive to both the needs and feedback of the users and also the materials available on hand. As Plank Audio develops we plan to maintain and build on these principles of how we have begun.
I understand that for the Plank Production desk, there are some different reclaimed timber options. Can you run us through the different woods and how they differ?
For the launch of Plank Audio, four different recycled timber options will be offered for the Plank Production Desk. This includes recycled Eucalyptus, recycled Baltic Pine, recycled Basketball flooring and recycled Jarrah.
It must be pretty cool (albeit a tad stressful!) knowing that you are working with materials that are finite in their supply?
Everything is finite in the end. Working with timber in any capacity has an inherent scarcity to it. The reason for Tim getting into using recycled timbers for his furniture practice was to work with the inherent scarcity of material and create new objects from what was framed as waste.
We’ve carried this over to Plank Audio. The intention is to have limited runs of recycled timbers to reflect the scarcity of the materials. It means that the range will evolve and change over time, depending on what we are able to source. It keeps it interesting for us too, seeing what we can find.
Where can we find out more about Plank Audio, or place an order?
Readers can head to our website to view the full range and pricing. They can also contact us there to discuss custom pieces. We encourage everyone to sign up for our mailing list also to hear first about new releases as we develop further products.
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