Meet Robbie Sands the man behind the beautiful timber home accessories created by Sands Made in Melbourne.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background…

Photo credit: Sean Fennessy of The Design Files

Where are you based?

We have a workshop north of Melbourne in Coburg.

Where did you grow up?

Richmond, right near the MCG.

Did you always know you were going to do product design or design some sort … what path lead you to where you are today?

I’ve worked in design since high school, mostly in graphic and web design in my younger years. I soon moved into usability design for web applications and websites which was a fantastic insight into how people perceived the function of an object.

I’ve always appreciated simple handheld functional objects and started working on my own range.

My first plans were very simple, but very hard to produce, the main challenge quickly became the improving the manufacturing quality in order to achieve simple forms. By improving the manufacturing quality we started to simplify and remove unnecessary weight and details. Today our home accessories cater for many different uses, but the entire range remains highly functional and very simple.


What appealed to you about working with timber?

My father is a furniture maker, so growing up around timber led me to appreciate it as a construction medium. Timber is far more durable than artificial materials when used as a kitchen working surface. If made from a good quality timber, a well made wooden cutting board can last well over 100 years. Many butchers will pass down the same wooden chopping block from generation to generation. This type of long-term durability is something I love in a product which is what led me to using timber. It also looks beautiful and makes every product unique.

How would you describe your creative process – from the beginnings of a design to finish product?

Most of the products in the range start with a real world requirement. I talk with chefs and wait staff to find out what they’d like in a product and work from there. Weight, size and small details are very important when handling products every day. I find many of these same requirements cross over into home use.


How did you end up starting Sands Made? Do you have a team or is it mainly you at the helm?

I started Sands Made after a 7 year stint working in design in Tokyo, Japan. I’d had enough of office style work and committed myself to starting my own business. Product design and manufacturing is a tough market to enter, the competition is very tough, especially on price. My initial plan was simple, make a more attractive, higher quality product than the competition and let the customer decide. When I started out, I was making everything in our workshop in Northcote. Over the last few years we’ve shifted the manufacturing of our products to other workshops in Japan, Indonesia & Australia, as a result our small team has grown and evolved from a manufacturing team to a planning, design and customer service team.



What and/or who inspires you and your work?

I’ve always admired the work of modern Danish designers such as Hans Wegner who were able to create purely functional objects which still held an iconic style. I also enjoy the engineering marvels found in hospitals around the world. Small products such as clamps, syringes & drippers are made to save peoples lives, but are produced with absolute precision and on such a tight budget. Months of work goes into the most mundane details, I find it fascinating to reverse-engineer why a feature has been added or removed from one of these super efficient medical products.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Work fluctuates greatly depending on the season. A great deal of work goes into planning and developing products for our two product releases each year. This usually involves a lot of designing of parts, packaging, catalogues and photography, as well as a lot of emails. Christmas is a big time of year for retail so managing orders, packing boxes, organising and sending stock occupies most of the day.

Most days contain – managing outgoing orders, planning/designing new products, improving existing products, managing incoming orders, drinking coffee.

What other creative/artists/designers are you into at the moment?

I’m really liking the work of the pianist Nils Frahm at the moment, he’s a fantastic composer and musician and really captures the moment when playing live.

I love the paper and graphic design by Takeo Paper company in Japan, their mix of print and paper is stunning.

Where is your favourite place to travel?

I travel to Japan at least once every year. It’s easily the most interesting country I’ve ever traveled in. A short trip on the train and everything changes (weather, food, local customs). More than 70% of Japan is rugged and mountainous, making each trip into the mountains an adventure.

Where would we find you on any given Saturday morning?

Saturday morning I usually brew beer, the morning is usually spent writing a recipe, crushing grain and cleaning equipment. The water is usually hot by midday when the mash (steeping crushed grain in hot water) begins!


Thanks so much to Robbie for sharing his story with us.

Visit Sands Made to view his full range and see how we have styled his beautiful timber home accessories.

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