If you asked Rory Unite that he'd be running a successful bespoke furniture brand from the comfort of Bali a few years ago he definitely would be shocked. It's not because Rory is lazy, in fact he's clearly an incredibly talented and motivated craftsman, it's just that he is perfectly content to go with the flow.
Rory's career so far has been one where he has calmly accepted the direction the wind has pushed him in, and so far that method has paid off in droves.
Rory's background is in architecture, sculptures, and set design. His first gig in the industry was in Jim Henson's creature shop for the production of Farscape. This led to him working on sets of massive blockbuster movies like Superman, Narnia, Peter Pan, The Matrix and Star Wars.
His last gig in the movies, before he moved onto crafting his own line of furniture, was on the set of The Great Gatsby. He then moved onto something a lot smaller, but a whole lot more personal; renovating his in-law's house in Palm Beach.
"I got quite into it," says Rory.
"I created all the furniture pieces for the house and it ended up being quite a big reno. The beauty of it was because it was their home I got to spend quite a lot of time to interact with the house over time. I created all these pieces that we've all lived around, and it made me realise how great it was to create a space that affected you in your everyday life. It was a really good thing."
Renovating his in-laws' place became the starting point for a natural progression into his own furniture design. The process and the materials he used on movie sets were largely the same, however, the context was completely different now.
"Going down this new path to creating my own furniture line didn't happen overnight," says Rory.
"It was a transitional thing. When I did the renovation I made all the furniture for my in-laws, and I had a little workshop out the back. I started getting a few commissions for different pieces and it just started gradually like that."
The change of environment and an exposure to the booming furniture industry in Australia allowed him to meet new people and engage with materials on a whole new level.
He now designs bespoke furniture and interiors for some of the leading restaurant and bar groups in Australia and around the world, including The Boathouse Group, Camperdown Commons, Acre Eatery and, most recently, Caves.
He also creates functional hand-crafted pieces for consumers at home under his eponymous furniture label Rory Unite including tables, chairs, vases, pots, chopping boards and customized furniture requests.
To create these pieces Rory moved to Bali to pursue the rich culture and history of Indonesia and to be influenced by the expertise and materials of the local craftsman.
Rory Unite at his house in Bali, Indonesia
"For the first couple of years I was living in Java because that's where the craftsman that I was working with were," says Rory.
"We started to set up the workshop and started training the guys to create a product line. It was important that I was there. Now Bali is where I've got my studio and it's where my family live."
His studio and 50 staff mix large scale industrial processes with local traditional craft and materials. If Rory isn't carving and designing on the workshop floor, he is travelling through Indonesia to find particular craftsmen or elements to add to his furniture.
However, because his clients are in Australia, he says the distance does sometimes make business hard.
"Now I've got to be around my clients more, and most of them are in Sydney," says Rory.
"It has been a challenge being away in Indonesia and not being in Australia, but it is just a series of stages and I'll probably end up being more and more back in Australia."
As for his secret to success, Rory says it is all about who you trust, not where you're located, that matters.
"Follow your passion 100 per cent, and surround yourself with really good people because you don't know everything," says Rory.
"The people around you fill in the gaps, and if you have good people who can fill in the gaps around you, the that's great."
Business News Australia
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