Between the cracks

Man sitting in his woodwork studio surrounded by his artwork, smiling at the cameraAward winning Tasmanian Artist Duncan Meerding (link opens in new window)always had a passion for creating. When his vision deteriorated in 2005, he was left with less than 5 per cent vision concentrated around the peripheral field. At that point he didn’t think he could make anything again.

‘I was lucky enough to find out about a safety course for people to learn how to use machines with low amounts of vision. I then went into a mainstream university furniture and design course as part of my overall Bachelor of Arts.

I kept going back to that interest in making things and going back to that creative side of things through that course, furniture design ended up being one of my majors. 6 months after finishing the furniture design side of my degree I went straight into a scholarship with Designed Objects Tasmania – another mainstream organisation that was very opened minded to having me there.

From there I was able to start my own design and maker practice and have been doing it ever since that was in the middle of 2010.’

Cracked log lamp with light beaming through the cracks
Cracked log lamp

Nine years on Duncan is still creating beautiful functional objects. His stump light won best floor lamp of 2018 in a peer vote and his work is sought after around the globe. The tactile irregular character of the lamps reflect the variations present in nature with the relationship between light and shadow and how the light is dispersed through the cracks is an integral part of the design. Duncan has donated a special edition log lamp to go up for auction at Archie’s Ball in June.

The unique piece, made from Macrocarpa is an in-between size of the stump light and cracked log lamp. Light that disperses from the cracks of the logs imitates the alternative sensory world, which Duncan designs.

‘The things Guide Dogs Tasmania did for me when my vision first degenerated were quite important. When my vision first went I found that it was hard to leave the house initially. It was thanks to the Orientation and Mobility instructors at VisAbility/ Guide Dogs Tasmania that I was able to actually partake in society.

It meant that the turn around time to be able to participate in society was much faster than if I never had Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instruction.’

‘I wanted to travel by myself overseas for three months to some quite different places like South America and the O&M instructor just thought their way laterally around it. They got me doing some mock travel scenarios, where I was put in foreign situations.

For example I was put in a shopping centre that had just been build and was told to find something and I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. So that was really quite an interesting thing and I am still wondering how I did it! Now as I have access to talking GPS through my phone. Back then I did that trip without a GPS and without people like Roseanne who worked at Guide Dogs at the time, I wouldn’t have had the skills to do that and in terms of living a more normal life and do things that I wanted to do.’

Hopefully I can give back to the organisation that helped me earlier on so they can continue to broaden their horizons. Maybe, thanks to fundraisers like this they can continue to broadening ways of helping people with vision impairment adapt.

Thanks to the support from people like Duncan, Archie’s Ball raised $12,000!

If you live with vision impairment, we have a range of services designed to offer support to live independently including Orientation and Mobility (O & M), Assistive Technology and more. Contact us for more information.