• Interview: New Zealand designers | George and Willy

February 10, 2017

We love a feel-good story of childhood friends who end up working together because they share the same passions. New Zealand designers and makers George Wilkins and Will McCallum have done just that and judging by their after-hours fishing and rafting trips and the helicopter spotting game they created, their friendship certainly doesn't seem to have suffered.

The founders of George and Willy design, make and produce quality handmade goods - all things they wanted or needed themselves. It's the process of making and creating that spurs them on.

As they say on their blog: 'We love making stuff ... it is our passion and it continues well after the working day is done. Many after-work hours are spent here in the workshop, creating and bringing to life personal projects we all get excited about.'

And here at Who'd Have Thought, we're thrilled to be featuring one of their products, the Studio Roller in the store! The idea for it came from a roll of kraft paper, which developed into a simple wall-mounted bracket to hold the paper so that it can be used as you would a whiteboard. It's now the guys' main instrument for brainstorming ideas and making lists. As with many of their products, when others saw it, they wanted one too. And so a business was born.

Come and meet George and Will ...

George & Willy
George Wilkins and Will McCallum

Please introduce yourselves. What are your backgrounds? What’s your story?

We are childhood mates who went to university in Dunedin. We started making stuff in the university workshop - we had access as we were doing a design paper together - then we never really stopped. We never set out to be in business together but I guess if people are buying your things it becomes a business!

The George and Willy Daily Roller
The Daily Roller

How do you know each other and how do you find working together? Is there a formula?

We’re family friends who met skiing at Whakapapa [a ski resort on Mt Ruapehu in the North Island of New Zealand]. Will does the creative side of things and George is the skipper of the business and makes it all work. But everyone does everything. Every product has input from at least 10 different people - friends and family. Collaboration is the best.

Bang Bang Pegboard by George and Willy
The Bang Bang Pegboard

What’s your design philosophy?

Simple and functional. If you use quality materials and design something to serve its purpose. It will always look good.

You design quite a diverse range of products from stylish fire-starter kits to dog leads and furniture. Where do your ideas come from and what was the first item you designed together?

All our products are things we needed for ourselves, and we thought if we needed them other people must as well.

George and Willy Firestarter Kit

The George and Willy Firestarter Kit designed to make lighting fires easy

The Studio Roller is such a simple idea that takes kraft paper to a whole new level. Tell us more about it and where did the idea came from?

We needed one in the workshop for jobs and ideas. We didn't really like whiteboards so thought this would be a nice alternative.

What inspires you?

Things you know you are going to have for life - we love that.

George and Willy Coffee Table

Plywood and galvanised steel coffee table

Can you tell us what the future may hold for George and Willy? Any new designs/products you can tell us about?

In the next couple of weeks we are releasing a hanging drying rack. Stay tuned on instagram to see more @georgeandwilly.

It’s not very cool, but we really like…
We have a workshop by the airport and we now know all the different types of helicopters. We have a competition running – when you see a chopper, you have to name what type it is and that gets you a point [on the tally board]. It's getting pretty serious – ha ha!

Helicopter spotting in the George and Willy studio
The George and Willy office where they spot helicopters and are running a tally!
The Studio Roller
The Studio Roller

Thanks George and Will for your time!

You can find George and Willy here and on Instagram and Facebook.

And buy the Studio Roller from us here.

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