Have you been to the Tim Burton retrospective at ACMI yet? If so, you may have noticed some huge otherwordly creatures adorning the entrances –  but what you may not know is that they were made right here in Melbourne by BiGfiSh, a design and construction company with their workshops in Footscray. Today’s HOT Chat is with Renata Slusarki, one of the founders of BiGfiSh. Thanks Renata!

Renata, tell me a bit more about your background and how you founded your design and construction company BiGfiSh?

My background is in graphic design but after working as a festival artist, building sets and props, I decided I wanted to move into 3D design. I discovered this disused factory in Footscray 18 years ago. It had been the home of generations of pigeons and was covered in layers of dirt and pigeon shit and the abandoned remains of its former industrial factory life. After a rudimentary set up, we worked on our first sculpture job …. a big fish.

Where can we find some of BiGfiSh‘s work?

Right now, hanging out into Flinders Street from a building in Fed Square you’ll see a toothy, striped serpent, there are giant seed pod boats in a little park in Docklands that you can sit in and row on a lyrical little stream and we’ve designed and built a lounge suite which sits permanently in a plaza in Dandenong. Our stuff is all around Victoria and Australia!

Where do you go for art and design inspiration?

I can get inspired anytime anywhere …. the patterns on my cat, a shape against a lead grey sky, getting out and about. I’d like to say thru travel to inspiring destinations but that’s next year…… art and design mags, exhibitions can be good ……..talking ideas with my partner and fellow designer, Alfons always works well too.

BiGfiSh is very much involved in the Footscray arts scene – what do you think makes Footscray distinctive from other creative areas in Melbourne?

Traditionally the river Maribyrnong created this physical cut between the West and the rest of Melbourne. The West was raw, cheap, affordable, a melting pot of people, factories and ratbags. So artists, who are often poor and can be ratbags and agitators, were drawn here. They lived in the old factories and workshops and cottages and looked out across the Maribyrnong to the beautiful city lights and the rest of Melbourne. There’s still a sense of raw rather than nice and the feeling that anything is possible here, but the developers are slowly having their way!

What are some of the most interesting or challenging projects that you’ve worked on?

We recently built some huge honey coloured chandeliers that are like none you could imagine. Taking a simple line drawing from the Architects (ARM), all the way through to a detailed design, we produced these beautiful sculptures which are suspended 14 metres above the audience in the auditorium of the Melbourne Recital Centre. They’re huge, weigh about as much as a small car and are gorgeous.

What are your next plans for BiGfiSh and what exciting projects are coming up for you?

There’s a huge, new railway station in Laverton, double storey, excessively grey and souless and kids keep hitting it with tags and graffiti. We’re about to change the face of it with masses of colour and pattern and I’m looking forward to the transformation.

We’ve recently been commissioned to design urban elements for River Terrace at Fed Square. The designs are bold, look out for them soon!

Finally, what are your HOT tips for places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

What’s hot, honestly? In one word Melbourne. Why? Because there’s a feeling about it, an increasing awareness about the importance of public spaces, about exciting, edgy, generous places …. and not just in the city. The realisation is bleeding out into the suburbs … give people better spaces, so they feel like they can ‘own’ their parks and plazas and nature strips. Check out Dandenong, its HOT!

Oh and the rooftop of BiGfiSh….. our view of the river and the melting city at sunset….. priceless!

(All images from BiGfiSh)