Tom Skeehan’s Stellar Exhibition!

TomWendy Johnson chats with Canberra furniture maker and designer Tom Skeehan about his craft and upcoming first solo exhibition Thought – Process at the DESIGN Canberra Festival.

You may not realise it, but chances are you’re already familiar with the work of industrial designer Tom Skeehan. Been to the new XO restaurant in Narrabundah? The chopsticks were designed and produced by Tom’s studio called Skeehan. Been to 86 in Braddon to dine? The stools are by Skeehan. Same with some of the café stools at Barrio. Skeehan also worked on the fitout for Remedy Espresso Bars.

Stools by Skeehan

Stools by Tom Skeehan

Beyond the world of wining and dining, Canberra toasts Skeehan for being the first from the ACT to be signed by prestigious Stylecraft, which gives the studio instant access to local, national and international buyers of meticulously designed and produced furniture, lighting and other interior products. Skeehan’s new collection, Hoshi, a Japanese word meaning (loosely) ‘star’, is also available for viewing at his first solo exhibition at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre. Tom is an Accredited Professional Member and Thought – Process, which officially opened last week, is a sneak peek to the quality of design you can expect throughout the upcoming DESIGN Canberra festival (21 to 29 November).

Thought - Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan

Thought – Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan; image by Charlie White

Skeehan studio specialises in commercial furniture, lighting and product design. The Hoshi collection includes a single seated chair, three-seater lounge, coat stand and side table. Working with his hands is in Tom’s blood. His dad is a furniture maker and carpenter who has lived in Canberra for 40 years. “I grew up drawing and tinkering on the job site,” says Tom, who has a drawing by Alex Lundy of his dad’s wooden mallet on his Facebook page.

Skeehan in workshopWhen it came time to study, Tom landed at the Canberra Institute of Technology in the art design program. He then worked with mentor Craig Harris making fine furniture for two years in a workshop in Fyshwick. “I realised I was a maker at that stage, and not a designer, so I went to the University of Canberra to study industrial design,” says Tom. “After a short stint in Sydney I set up Skeehan.”

Thought – Process is all the more fascinating because it includes a ‘process wall’ showcasing the design journey from initial sketches to polished products. Material samples, tools and prototypes all inform the experience.

“The process our studio goes through to create a product involves a series of formal stages,” says Tom. “I think the most important stage, and the one I enjoy the most, is prototyping. This is when an idea is at its biggest and when you’re constantly refining it and pushing the limits.” Tom is currently in Denver, USA, to teach a furniture design class at Metropolitan State University, but he’ll be back in time for DESIGN Canberra.

Process Wall

Process Wall

For the festival, Tom will host a special workshop for children aged 8 to 12 years to open up exciting visual journeys into the world of design drawing. During Drawing our City Tom will get kids exploring, through drawing, some of Canberra’s most exciting architectural elements and next up, the kids can extend their sketches by building simple objects with paper.

Avi Amesbury, Craft ACT CEO/Artistic Director, says DESIGN Canberra increases awareness of our vibrant and diverse craft and design community. “Thought – Process and the children’s workshop offer opportunities for audiences to engage direct with the creative process,” says Avi. “The festival is all about connecting, creating and collaborating.”

Thought Process Exhibition, photo by Charlie White

Thought Process Exhibition by Tom Skeehan; photo by Charlie White

Thought – Process is on throughout DESIGN Canberra (free to the public and drop-ins welcome). Drawing our City is on Saturday 28 November at Craft ACT from 1 to 3pm. It’s also free but bookings are essential (online at Check out the full program at

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