Sittin’ pretty; Alice designers spring into Venice Biennial action

Phil Coombe, Elliat Rich, Aaron Burdett and those chairs. Photo: Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd.

From Alice Springs to Venice, designer chairs hand made by Indigenous craftsmen are set to make a splash in Italy’s city of love at one of the world’s most celebrated design and art shows.

Sixteen of the Anerle-aneme chairs — the name means sit a little while in Arrernte  — were shipped to Venice in February and will debut next Saturday as part of a historic international festival.

They will take pride of place in an Australian pavilion with a pool and garden theme at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, part of the giant Venice Biennial, which was first held in 1895 to celebrate the silver anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. Thirty-seven countries are taking part in this year’s architecture program.

The Anerle-aneme chairs, made from steel with powder coated steel slats and will be on show until November, were designed by Alice Springs designer Elliat Rich and made by  craftsmen at the Centre for Appropriate Technology.

Phil Coombe, one of a team of five who worked on the project, said it was their first and biggest international project.

“We knew that it was for a designer and that they would be going to Venice,” he said. “We put a lot of effort into them. We’re all happy with them.”

While the craftsmen won’t get to see the chairs on display in Venice, they are eagerly waiting on photos and video from the exhibition.

Mr Coombe said they celebrated their accomplishment in March when they flew to Sydney for the official preview of the Australian exhibition. A CAT spokeswoman said the chairs — available in two colours, Clay Pot and Apo Grey — can be made on demand and are available on application at CAT.

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