Kevin Perkins is considered one of Australia’s foremost furniture designer-makers. Born in Launceston in 1945, he competed his technical college training as a carpenter in 1965. Perkins went on to study industrial arts and studio sculpture at the Tasmanian School of Art in the early 1970s. Since that time, his furniture has been widely appreciated for its balance of a unique, personal aesthetic, great technical skill and functionality.
Perkins grew up in Northern Tasmania, where his father ran a small timber mill and where he also gained a love for both the living bush and for working with wood. A sense of place is central to his work and he is inspired by the environment, history and wildlife of Tasmania. The Cape Barren Goose, endemic to South Eastern Australia and the species to which this chest of drawers is dedicated, is a recurring motif in his work. By rendering its distinctive pale cere (the growth at the top of the beak) in solid silver, Perkins makes an understated and poignant reference to the preciousness of the bird and of all living things.
Perkins’s designs are informed by a deep respect for the character of the wood, its very ‘treeness’.. Huon pine trees can grow to about 30 to 40 metres high, and live for several hundred years. In Tasmania there has been a tradition of using the timber for boat-building and furniture-making. The wood is treasured for its beauty combined with a rare combination of flexibility and durability. Since the colonial period, the decorative and highly figured timber has been prized for furniture making and Perkins’s use of matched veneers on the drawer fronts of this chest references that tradition and its celebration of the wood’s beauty.
In 2006 – after 25 years spent teaching Australia’s future furniture designers – Perkins retired from the Tasmanian School of Art’s Centre for Furniture Design to concentrate on furniture-making. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, and his designs can be found in many important collections.