Jeremy Lee is the designer, maker and creative visionary of JD.Lee Furniture. At the heart of his furniture practice is a passion to create honest and sustainable furniture that considers the environment in every aspect.
Jeremy’s eye for meticulous design is evident in his craft - from the thought out idea, to the sketches (often made in his children's drawing books), to the hand selection of natural materials, it’s a deeply considered process that results in a tangible piece of furniture that hasn’t sacrificed the environment.
In celebration of our newest heirloom design, the Guardian Chain, we connected with Jeremy to learn more about his craft, ethos, and how his life has overflowed with love since welcoming his four children, Dali, Zephyr, Bobby and Mika into the world.
Your love for the environment is apparent in the work that you do at JD. Lee Furniture. From the use of non-toxic and natural materials to certifications of forestry, it seems that consciousness is always at the forefront of your design consideration. Can you share a little bit about why it is important for you to have a holistic approach to woodwork?
Growing up on the coast, I think you get an inbuilt appreciation for the natural environment. The holistic approach I take has always just felt like the only option. It seems crazy to me how little the life cycle of a product is considered in design and the amount of waste that we create as creators and consumers of seasonal products.
This idea of reducing wasted energy, time and materials as a maker and buying quality/buying once as a consumer has been our goal in helping to look after and appreciate the world we live in, which has become so much more important to me since being a father and facing the human made impacts on our natural environment.
A perfect balance of meticulous simplicity and intricacy is found in your craft. How did you find your minimalist design style, and has it evolved over the years?
Thank you, that's lovely to hear. My process has mostly stayed the same throughout but the deeper I move into my craft, into the world of furniture and into life, the greater my appreciation has grown for certain aspects and intricacies of design which I try to explore in my designs.
I really like to challenge myself and try new techniques to create my ideas which are often unconventional. I often find myself inspired by different shapes or angles, it might be the curve in a twisting branch on an old gum tree, or the rolling lines of windswept sand dunes - they sit in the back of my mind. I like to think on ideas for a long time until they become tangible and I am able to sketch them down on paper.
My drawings are usually terrible, but I can see if I have a furniture design I want to explore or not and from there I draw it up in CAD to get a real life feel for the piece and work on the dimensions and ergonomics.
There is no real structure to any of this. Often design ideas just come and I sketch them down on miscellaneous pieces of paper (usually in the kid’s drawing books) never to be seen again, and sometimes they hang around, and become dining tables or armchairs.
You're a father of four little ones, Dali, Zephyr, Bobby and Mika. How has your life changed since becoming a father?
Immeasurably haha. Seriously though, I think I was just so young and naive when we had Zephyr I had no idea how much it would shift my perspective and understanding of life as much as it did and has continued to do so the larger our family has grown. My first year of becoming a father was crazy and chaotic, full of love, sweat and tears. I think everyone's experience is different and I have come to appreciate that whatever your journey, it's yours, and I own my whirlwind first year of parenthood as a sort of rite of passage to becoming a father. We always wanted to have a big family but never really planned to have 4 kids in 4 years - but it is truly the most rewarding and continuously humbling journey. It's wild, and full on exhausting, and I would liken it to extreme sports some days, but as much as it takes from you it fills you back up a hundred times with the love and kisses and soft squishy koala cuddles. It has stretched my capacity as a human being past breaking point and into new shapes and ways of being I didn't know were possible. It’s a proper team effort though and this overflowing love that seems to radiate out of my core that I have for my kids is equal to the love and appreciation I have for my wife, whose superhero mum and partner skills are unparalleled and are truly the only reason why I have been able to make it through the last 6 and a bit years of fatherhood alive haha.
Has having children altered your approach to your practice?
Without a doubt. I love my work and I could easily live in my studio and create 24/7. But… I also love being at home and being with my family, and they need me home too. I have had to evolve and become more efficient with my time at work, focusing my energy on what's right in front of me and making sure I leave time for dreaming during work hours too. I have also had to learn (and re-learn, and re-learn…) to leave work at work and to be present when I'm at home. I am so grateful for the way parenthood gives you these ultimatums, forces you to find balance (or die haha), to be your best self - to the best of my daily ability, I'm far from perfect.
What is a piece of advice your father taught you, that you will pass down to your children?
One thing that my dad told me and that I find myself telling the kids all the time is everything’s easy once you know how to do it. My understanding of patience and that things take time to learn has grown greatly in my work and on my journey as a dad. My eldest loves the skatepark at the moment and I constantly hear myself saying ‘it just takes practice, keep going and you will be able to do it soon too. Everything’s easy once you know how to do it’.
A piece of advice you’ve learned from your kids?
Don't take life too seriously and pick your battles. Sometimes things just won't go to plan and sometimes we all need to melt down and have a big cry. I have stopped trying to ‘fix’ this, there is so much going on in our small family that it's totally understandable for the kids (or us ‘adults’) to become overwhelmed and breakdown. It’s so important to make space for this for the kids and ourselves, and nurture this part of life too - we are all still growing.
At NMJ, all of our pieces are consciously handcrafted by our team of skilled artisans, so we have a deep understanding of the love, time and effort involved in the creative process. What does it mean for you to have your furniture designs become part of people's everyday lives?
Yeah, it's really special. It's still sort of a trip for me and I forget that that's what I do, that people want my designs - the furniture I make by hand in their homes. I suppose it's really flattering but also just reinforces our belief that if you follow your passion the best you can, then the world will make space for you, and hopefully hold out its hand and help you along the way.
What is your favourite part about doing what you do?
All of it! There's no fixed aspect. I enjoy all of what I do though I suppose dreaming is probably my favourite. The ideation part, where I'm sort of staring off into space thinking about what could be, putting it all together in my head, and the buzz I get turning that idea into something tangible, a chair to sit on, a table to share meals with your family and friends.
I really appreciate the feedback I get from my clients also, they really appreciate my work and it's really rewarding to be able to feel that and to have their support.
What does your new Natalie Marie Jewellery piece mean to you?
It's really special to have a nice piece of handmade jewellery that's just for me (though Hana has already tried to take it for herself). I love how it feels in my hands, it’s weight, and when I'm wearing it, it's a nice reminder of my kids having their initials engraved on the clasp.
PC: Amelia Fullarton