31 January 2023

The high-end market is embracing this Wagga-based business

| Dione David
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Craftsman's arm making furniture from wood

Making furniture exactly the way people want is a major drawcard for Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture’s high-end and designer clientele. Photo: Adam Drummond.

Finding its place in the furniture industry has been a decades-long rollercoaster for Wagga’s Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture.

Owner Ross Triffitt and his wife started their business in the ’80s, selling furniture and giftware from wholesalers before hiring one craftsman, who worked from their old tin shed to make small amounts of their own timber furniture.

Starting with country cottage-style furniture in Wagga when it had barely even been seen in metro markets, Eclipse’s style has seen numerous incarnations since as it navigated changing contemporary aesthetic trends.

“My passion for many years has been feature-grade timber with its natural features like knots and sap pockets that give the timber character,” Ross says.

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“We always use timbers from regrowth forests, definitely not from old-growth areas, and we prefer to work with indigenous hardwood timbers from mainland Australia, which I believe have been undervalued … I want to showcase timber from the eucalypt trees that grow on the mainland and build the awareness of their beauty, which is so varied. Having furniture made from eucalypt species in a home gives the occupants a real connection with the Australian landscape.

“It’s not without its challenges – manufacturing furniture in indigenous hardwoods can be time-consuming and unpredictable. We’ve also experienced supply issues as a result of fires and floods. But I don’t see the point of importing wood when we’ve been blessed with the most beautiful range of timbers and hardwoods in the world.

“Our focus has always been very much on bespoke – making furniture exactly the way people want it made, there’s so much added value in that. But the demand for that type of furniture in the general retail market fluctuates according to what’s happening in the economy.”

Though he gave it a red-hot go, it didn’t take long for Ross to see Wagga wasn’t the right market for Eclipse products.

Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture owner Ross Triffitt

Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture owner Ross Triffitt at the Wagga warehouse. Photo: Adam Drummond.

The next step was to venture into Canberra, a more suitable market. Still, Ross would soon discover the impact that political events had on retail businesses in the nation’s capital.

“When the election was called in late 2014, when Julia Gillard was prime minister and Tony Abbott looked like getting elected, that really disrupted retail,” he said.

“Public servants stopped spending, retail died, we tried to stick it out for a while after the election, but it became a real financial struggle.

“We had no option but to try and get into the Sydney market, which we couldn’t really afford to do. But we managed to get there by the skin of our teeth thanks largely to the generosity of Ron Hall from Ron’s Removals in Wagga, who moved us there from Canberra.

“He said to us, ‘It’ll be right, mate, just pay me whenever you can’. God bless him.”

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Starting out in a tin shed in Waterloo, the company progressively moved to better premises, eventually landing at its current location – a beautiful studio in Beaconsfield.

It has been a good move for Eclipse’s latest and, Ross believes, final pivot – the designer and high-end client market.

Here, there is always demand for the kind of timeless, well-made, custom furniture Ross’s artisans love to make.

“The eastern suburbs is right on our doorstep and is our ultimate market,” Ross says.

“But tapping into that market hasn’t been easy, as it requires lots of investment.”

Attending a design show in Sydney’s Darling Harbour in October last year aimed at trade designers and architects was a turning point.

“It put us on the radar in the high-end designer market,” Ross says.

“We’d dipped our toe in this market in previous years but relied hard on the general retail market, which is notoriously fickle. The designer market is less affected by what’s happening in the general economy.

“We’ve very much launched ourselves into that market now.”

man with furniture

Ross’s son Marc largely oversees Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture’s Sydney operation. Photo: Eclipse.

Though sticking with Aussie woods, Eclipse designs in recent times have shied away from the feature-grade timbers that characterised its earlier styles, in favour of select-grade timbers.

“In designer pieces, the size and how a piece works in context with the client’s overall vision is what matters most,” Ross explains.

“In previous years we’ve focused on the look of timber, with the natural features taking precedence. The high-end market calls for a sleeker, select-grade timber, which has its beauty.”

Ross has placed the Sydney operation largely in the hands of the next generation of the Triffitt family – his son Marc.

Liquor cabinet

A liquor cabinet by Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture. Photo: Eclipse.

Using his cabinet-making background and 10 years of experience in furniture design, Marc works with designers from consultation to fine-tuning and creating tailor-made pieces for their clients.

“He has seen so much growth,” Ross says.

“There are so many designers in Sydney and they’re all so busy. I think we’ve found the market for Eclipse Furniture now.”

For more information, visit the Eclipse Furniture website.

Original Article published by Dione David on Region Riverina.

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