Local TAFE students install custom-designed public seating in Valla

Valla residents have just been gifted the best seats in the house.

Chairs with flair have appeared on the Valla landscape in the last month, courtesy of a couple of local North Coast TAFE design students.

The chairs are the end product of a course in the Diploma of Furniture Design, run by teacher Bim Morton, who envisioned the course as a lesson in collaboration and an entrée into the design industry.

The dozen or so students were tasked with collaborating from project start to finish:

  • Over 30 designs were imagined from a multitude of on-site thumbnail sketches, from which the class shortlisted six to take to the general public to vote on.
  • The students learned to cooperate with council over compliance issues, choosing materials that would be practical for long-term wear and tear.
  • Funding for the project came from local community groups—the Valla Lions Club, the Valla Beach Community Association and the Valla Public Hall Committee—which gave students a taste of liaising with clients.
  • And finally, the students learned to collaborate with other trade professionals in order to get a handle on working with new raw materials.

Valla locals Tracey Suter and Sarah Andersen along with colleague Erin Wood were the authors of the designs that were selected by the community after a public display at the Valla Beach community markets last year.

While another Nambucca local, Greg Parker, designed the concrete bases that the chairs rest on.

Tracey is the artist responsible for the ‘thong chair’ near the headland lookout, which has received a lot of attention from selfie snappers.

“I laugh every time I go past—I just can’t help myself I think it’s so silly,” Tracey said.

Tracey said she’d noticed a lot of public seating which riffed on a beach theme, but most had stopped at the cliched surfboard design.

Her lightly iconoclastic design has led to her receiving a commission to design more furniture.

“I started the course off not even knowing how to screw in a nail,” Tracey said, laughing.

I had to have sawing practice to learn how to saw straight. And now I'm out in the world making furniture.

Meanwhile, those walking down to the Valla Reserve foreshore will have their day brightened by Sarah Andersen’s ‘ray of sunshine’ design.

“Although it could be a shooting star or a flower—it’s open to interpretation,” Sarah said.

Sarah said the course taught her a range of skills including how to mix and form up concrete, bend steel, and work with Replas— a high-density poly-urethane product which uses recycled plastic waste, making it resistant to termites, microorganisms and moisture, so it will never split, rot, crack or need painting.

“I think it’s wonderful to see the final product out in the world,” Sarah said.

“It’s a really proud moment.”

Since graduation where she received a student excellence award for her efforts, Sarah has also gone on to forge a career in the industry, starting up a furniture business in collaboration with two others, including her teacher, Bim.

“I would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone thinking about doing design because it gives you a foundation in the whole process, from concept to creation,” Sarah said.

Both Sarah and Tracey will be exhibiting some of their more recent pieces in the Valla Expressions Art Show, sponsored by the Valla Beach Community Association from January 6-12.

The two other designer chairs can be found at Valla Beach South and the Valla Public Hall and have already been fondly welcomed by locals.

“It’s just so good that this is here now because I often have trouble getting down onto the sand. But now I can enjoy the view from here,” Yvonne Jarman said of the chair at Valla Beach South.

“They’re really wonderful.”

Yvonne Jarman can finally enjoy the view too courtesy of the TAFE students' chairs.

Yvonne Jarman can finally enjoy the view too courtesy of the TAFE students' chairs.

The quirky designs are a perfect antidote to the post-bypass angst that has gripped the Valley, and all eyes are on the Nambucca’s creative populace to see what other unique architectural gems will spring forth to grow the Shire’s public identity.