At Australian company Axolotl, brothers Kris and Kim Torma have developed a seemingly impossible marriage – combining bespoke design with cutting-edge technology and, in the process, inspired designers and architects around the world with their must-have metal, glass and concrete products.
Tiffany & Co was so impressed with Australian metal, glass and concrete designer wunderkinds, Axolotl, that the internationally-renowned jeweller asked the company to craft a stunning entry facade for their new flagship store in Melbourne.
The result – a glowing, translucent sapphire glass border which surrounds an internal frit formed glass feature over two levels and mirrored balustrading, announces Axolotl has arrived, putting its stamp on sophistication in design and décor.
Axolotl has become the darling of designers and those craving greater levels of craftsmanship in their homes and workspaces.
Catering to our increasing desire to reflect our individuality and embrace cutting-edge materials, Axolotl has grown in only 16 years from inspiration to an operation employing 16 full-time staff and an international brand with licensees worldwide in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The company was started by brothers Kris and Kim Torma, after years of research and development in metal technologies, as a small operation run out of a warehouse in the backstreets of Sydney’s Redfern in 1995.
Kris’s background prior to being at the helm of the Axolotl juggernaut as Managing Director, was in film and television set design and cinematography. His design background and experience allowed him to identify an untapped niche in the market – a need for solid metal aesthetic without the associated restrictions such as weight, cost and availability.
Collaborating with brother and artist Kim as Creative Director, who brought his practical knowledge, hands-on experience and creative drive to the table, Axolotl was born.
The name “Axolotl” was chosen, according to Kris, as “we wanted the name and brand to be able to stand alone. “We also wanted the company name to be free from the constraints of being a one product company as we knew the company had the potential to evolve to encompass other innovative products and ventures, which it has with glass and concrete.”
Using the proprietary technology, Axolotl has developed techniques which enable designers to fuse metal into glass, concrete into glass and metal into concrete.
“In fact, all three surfaces can now be used together to create virtually anything at all,” says Kris.
Kris believes that metal is a natural element and sits perfectly incorporated into Australian residential design “whether it be a façade of richly-coloured Axolotl orange rust or aged copper, bronze or zinc.
“Australia has an incredibly harsh climate. It is testament to the durability of Axolotl products that after 16 years in our harsh environment, Axolotl coatings look as good today as they did when they first came out of the factory.”
Kris and Kim can proudly describe their work as “bespoke”: “Everything we do is completely custom-made and hand-finished; we don’t stock any off the shelf products,” says Kris. “As metal is a natural element, it is unpredictable and can react in completely different ways from one day to the next. I think that is where the beauty lies in our finishes, the idea that no two Axolotl finishes are never completely identical.
“Every job that is undertaken is a true one-off, from creating a copper front entrance door to bronze screens, carved glass balustrades and concrete furniture.”
Inspiration comes from many places, says Kris – and some of Australia’s most talented artists, architects and interior designers often come to Axolotl with their idea of what they want to create – “We find a way to make it happen”.
Axolotl’s work can be seen on feature walls, garage doors, front doors, gates, in kitchens, bathrooms, on stairs and counters.
Some well-known locations include Sydney International Airport which features Axolotl Metal on shopfronts throughout and the Sydney Opera House with feature pieces in the prestigious Guillame at Bennelong restaurant
Kris’s favourite works
“Rouse Hill Food Court in the new Rouse Hill development is a favourite – designed by Philip Chia, it features over 1,000 square metres of rusted screens, beams and door frames. The same design was even incorporated into the glass. It was a very brave design and it works wonderfully.
“The sculptural work we produce is also a favourite – Artists including Mark McClelland (winner Sculpture by the Sea in 2008 using Axolotl bronze), Jane Cavanough always pushes the boundaries with our products and Janet Laurence’s work is just exquisite.”
Tiffany’s flagship store was created after collaboration with New York architects and designers. Five totally custom-made works of art in glass also feature in the store.
“We’re currently working on totally new designs for their new shop in Sydney and have been asked to produce work for one of their stores in Mexico City,” Kris proudly says.
Audrey Hepburn would also be proud.