Darren is pragmatic, though not utilitarian, in his approach to furniture design. He considers both form and function to be vital. From a personal perspective, he doesn’t see any point in investing the amount of time he takes in making a piece if it can’t be used by its new owners. At the same time, he recognises that form has to come into play or the piece won’t attract a buyer in the first place. He believes in traditional joinery, but is not a purist. If he can make an extremely strong joint using a jig or machine, then that is what he will do. People are purchasing his furniture because of its design, not because it has hand-cut dovetails. Responsible timber sourcing is also important to Darren. A vast majority of his pieces are made from reclaimed Australian native timbers. These are trees that have been cut down to make way for developments – usually housing estates, roads and highways, industrial and commercial sites. Most of this timber is destroyed but there are a few people around with portable timber mills who harvest these beautiful trees, which allows him to make beautiful furniture with it. When he is not using this, Darren tries to use Forest Stewardship Council accredited timber. A lot of Darren’s furniture involves the use of curved elements, the majority of these being bent laminations. Darren tries to keep the lines of his furniture simple but also design pieces that will not blend into the back ground. In essence Darren is aiming to produce collectable antiques for the next century to come.
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Darren was born in Perth in 1965 and spent all his childhood and young adult life there until joining the Royal Australian Airforce in 1987. After postings in all mainland states and territories, a posting to Malaysia and several deployments overseas Darren left the Airforce after 20 years service for his new life with timber.
Darren first started working with wood in the mid-1990s, but it wasn’t until 2007 that he took it up as a full-time occupation. He had begun his professional career with wood by restoring and reproducing antiques, but it was only in the early part of this century that he started to design and create fine furniture. At the time, Darren was still self-taught, but he quickly realised that he needed to hone his woodworking skills and techniques to a much higher level if he were to make this a full-time vocation. In 2006, he studied under Terry Gleeson at his school in Dural. Then, in 2007, he left the Airforce after completing his twenty years to study full-time for a year under the late Tom Harrington at the Sturt School For Wood in Mittagong. His flair for creative design enabled him to leave Sturt with a number of completed and future commissions under his belt, ready to start life full-time in the design and creation of fine furniture.
On finishing his studies, Darren opened up his own studio and workshop in Windsor, NSW. He was already exhibiting and selling work in the Sturt Gallery and after leaving Mittagong, he was invited to exhibit in other galleries in NSW: in Bungendore, Leura and the Hunter Valley. After submitting a piece for a design competition run by Australian Wood Review magazine, for which he was runner-up, Darren was invited by the authoritative magazine to submit an article for publication. His crystal-clear writing style and ability to make complex things sound easily achievable by non-specialists have led to sixteen feature-length articles being printed in this magazine.
In early 2010, Darren entered the Studio Furniture exhibition held at Bungendore Gallery in NSW, receiving a High Commendation for his “Parabola” hall table. This success has led to over one hundred of these tables being sold around Australia and overseas.
After twelve full years as a designer/maker, Darren now has a steady stream of private commissions and gallery work. He has designed and made over four hundred pieces during that time. His uniquely creative pieces have become much sought after and have been sold to discerning purchasers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as to overseas buyers in Europe.
Around ninety-five percent of the materials Darren uses are from reclaimed timber. The sources for this are trees that have been felled due to man’s progress. These are trees that are removed for the building of highways and roads, along with bushland that has been cleared for residential, industrial and commercial zones. This allows Darren to use native timbers in his furniture, his preferred choice of timber to work with.
Darren lives on the fringe of the Blue Mountains with his wife Penny and their little rescue animals.
1996 Took up woodworking as a hobby making various small pieces
1998 Started restoring antique furniture, mostly for private use and some for sale
1999 Commenced the production and sale of Bonsai display tables.
2005 Completed six week course at Terry Gleeson’s School Of Fine Wood Working
2006 Completed a further six week course with Terry Gleeson
2006 Completed the Certificate IV in Training & Assessment at TAFE Richmond NSW
2007 Completed the Certificate IV in Fine Woodworking & Furniture Design at Sturt School for Wood in Mittagong NSW
2007 Moved into a factory unit purchased in Windsor NSW and commenced full time fine furniture production
2009 Prize winner of $1500 in furniture design competition held by Australian Wood Review magazine
2009 Commenced writing articles for Australian Wood Review magazine. Articles written to date include:
• Perfect resawing on a budget bandsaw
• Curves for your furniture Part 1 & 2
• Mortising jigs and machines
• Improving dust extraction on wood working machinery
• Spend less on machinery Part 1 & 2
• Making endgrain edgings
• DIY veneer press
• Evolution of a jig
• The ultimate chair jig
• Final finish before assembly
• Sharpening your bandsaw blade with a shop made jig
• Stitching long veneers on your panel saw
• Using long push sticks on your jointer
• Glue up cauls for curved furniture
2010 Finalist in 2010 Studio Furniture Competition with my bent laminated hall table being highly commended.
2012 Taught the bending phase of the Certificate IV course in Fine Furniture Design and Technology at Sturt School For Wood in Mittagong NSW
2012 Solo Exhibition “Heartwood” held at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in Windsor NSW
2012 Solo Exhibition “Reclamation” held at Sturt Gallery Mittagong
2013 Taught the bending and batch work phase of the Certificate IV course in Fine Furniture Design and Technology at Sturt School For Wood in Mittagong NSW
2014 Exhibited at “Creations In Wood 2014” at Gallery Lane Cove
2014 Taught the bending and dovetailed drawer phase of the Certificate IV course in Fine Furniture Design and Technology at Sturt School For Wood in Mittagong NSW
2014 Joined the Hawkesbury Artists & Artisans Trail
2015 Exhibited at “Creations In Wood 2015” at Gallery Lane Cove
2015 Took up position of treasurer for the Hawkesbury Artists & Artisans Trail
2015 Exhibited at “Hawkesbury Art Fair 2015” at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in Windsor NSW
2015 Four page article titled “In the workshop with Darren Oates” featured in the British magazine “Furniture & Cabinet Making
2015 Inlaid wall art piece “The Five Macs” presented to the City of Hawkesbury to go on permanent display in the Hawkesbury Regional Library in Windsor NSW
2016 Invited to exhibit with the Arcadian Artists Trail
2016 Solo Exhibition “Spacial Curvature” held at Bungendore Woodworks Gallery
2017 Exhibited at “Hawkesbury Art Fair 2017” at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in Windsor NSW
2017 Exhibited at “Hunters Hill Art Show”
2017 Joint Exhibition “Contours” at Milk Factory Gallery with Penelope Oates
2018 Exhibited at “Hunters Hill Art Show”
2018 Exhibited at “Expressions In Wood” at the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in Windsor NSW
2018 Shortlisted finalist for “Studio Furniture 2018” held at Bungendore Woodworks Gallery
2019 Exhibited at “Alumni Exhibition” at Sturt Gallery
2020 Exhibited at “Edge Exhibition” at Sturt Gallery
2022 Exhibited at “The Art Of Making” at the Australian Design Centre