Boost your design practice with the Clarence Prize

The biennial Clarence Prize is back with more than $20,000 in prize money for outstanding furniture design.
Boost your design practice with the Clarence Prize Nicholas Fuller, Voyage, 2017. Emerging Designer Award, Clarence Prize 2017. Photo: Samuel Shelly.

Jinghua Qian

Wednesday 22 January, 2020

Function, beauty, craftsmanship, and intelligent thinking are some of the qualities that Claire Beale looks for as one of the judges for the Clarence Prize. Another important criterion is originality and innovation.

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‘Everybody in furniture design always wants to design a chair,’ said Beale, who is also the executive director of Design Tasmania. ‘It’s the thing you need to have in your portfolio to prove your chops as a designer. There’s a lot of them out there, so you, as a practitioner, need to understand what is already in the marketplace and what has come before.’

The Clarence Prize has been championing excellence in craft and design since 2007. Being a well-established prize, it not only offers a lucrative acquisitive award, but also boasts a star-studded history that looks a bit like a hall of fame for Australian furniture design.

In 2020, the winner will receive $20,000, with their work acquired by the Clarence Collection, Clarence City Council’s outstanding collection of craft and furniture design. There are also two non-acquisitive prizes of $1,500 each for a highly commended designer and an emerging designer. Entries close on 22 May.


Liam Mugavin, Koto Light. Winner, Clarence Prize 2015. Photo: Samuel Shelley.

‘This prize gives designers the freedom for studio time and product development, as the work is selected and then presented for exhibition,’ Beale explained. Shortlisted applicants will be advised on 5 June, and they will have four months to complete their final piece for the exhibition in October.

The Clarence Prize Exhibition opens at Rosny Barn on 23 October, and the prizes will be announced at the opening.

‘The other thing that’s great about the Clarence Prize is that it’s presenting a really high quality exhibition to the broader community,’ Beale said. ‘Part of what they’re looking for is works that will be brought into their permanent collection, but also showing how designers can create works that are accessible for community.’

‘Good design understands the world and its problems, and proposes a solution.’

Claire Beale, Clarence Prize judge

As well as aesthetic, ergonomic, and material considerations, Beale said, ‘good design understands the world and its problems, and proposes a solution.’

‘As a designer, what makes you different from a purely arts-based practice is that you’re being presented with a brief that is about solving a need,’ Beale told ArtsHub. Whether it’s an issue on a global scale like reducing our impact on the environment, or on a personal scale like making utensils for people with arthritis, designers have to ask themselves what problem they are addressing.


Bernard Chandley, Lowbow Diner Chair, 2016. Highly commended, Clarence Prize 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Australian designers have proven they are more than up to the task. ‘We have designers coming out of our design schools and colleges and practice who are brave, enthusiastic, creative and not afraid to get out there and present their work on a global stage, and are being recognised for it,’ Beale said.

‘In my experience, Australian furniture design is leading the world.’

Offered by Clarence City Council, the 2020 Clarence Prize nurtures Australia’s exceptional design talent. Entries close 22 May. View the full entry requirements here.

About the author

Jinghua Qian (they/them) is a Shanghainese writer, poet and provocateur living in the Kulin nations. Their work has appeared on stages, pages and airwaves including Melbourne Writers’ Festival, SBS, Popula, Overland and The Guardian. Formerly the Head of News at Sixth Tone, an English-language media outlet based in Shanghai, and a broadcaster with 3CR Community Radio’s Queering the Air, Jinghua currently serves on the board of Asian-Australian arts and culture magazine, Peril.
Twitter: @qianjinghua
LinkedIn: qianjinghua