Cool gadgets for the kitchen

16 October 2015

To celebrate ten incredible years, we are thrilled to be interviewing brand founder Alex Gransbury and introducing ‘The Story of Dreamfarm’ – an incredible animated short-movie that takes us through the evolution of this award-winning kitchenware company. Born in an Australian backyard shed in 2003, Dreamfarm offers a portfolio of over 25 award-winning products and is available in over 40 countries worldwide. Known as the problem solving inventors, Dreamfarm are not just about designing product to look pretty on your worktop, their mission is to think up the unthinkable and solve all those annoying food-prep problems that drive us nuts on a daily basis. 

Hi Alex, and welcome to the Forma blog. The Grindenstein (domestic coffee knock out box) was the first product you invented – great name by the way – how did it all happen and where did that first spark of an idea come from?

Great ideas always solve a problem, but before you can solve a problem, you’ve got to find it which more often than not means actually experiencing it. For me that was working in a café whilst I was at university, getting a taste for great coffee and having an espresso machine at home. Back then espresso machine prices had just fallen to the point where they became domestically affordable, but at that stage there was nothing on the market to clean out the machine’s group handle. Cleaning a group handle is a messy affair, so I made a really simple prototype of Grindenstein out of bits and pieces from my local hardware store and it worked really well.  It was a product that solved a problem, did what no other product did at that time, and because I could buy the parts to make it in small batches, it was the perfect opportunity to start the company I’d always dreamed of.

A bit like writing a book, there are lots of budding inventors out there. Did you always want to be a designer and how did you turn one idea into an entire kitchenware brand? There must be a secret ingredient that you could bottle?!

You’d be amazed by the number of times that people say to us “there’s this really cool thing I’ve just seen, you guys should make one too”. That immediately tells me they have no idea what we’re all about. We’d never make something someone else does – honestly, what would be the point? To make money? You can’t take money with you when you die, but if you can make something that truly matters to people, you can leave something behind – that’s the goal here, to make something that matters. Whilst I never set out to create a kitchenware company, making things that matter means making things people use every day.

Was it a conscious decision to focus on kitchenware design and has your philosophy of solving everyday problems we might not always realise at first existed become a bit of an obsession? Inventors are generally pretty passionate about their work!

The difference with Dreamfarm is that we would never make multiple solutions to any problem and say “oh look, there are a heap off different pepper grinders that we’ve made here, you decide which one you like the best”. We would always only make the one that was the absolute best, which is why there isn’t five different varieties of anything in our range. In fact, the only thing that we ever differentiate on in the same product is material, like in our Chopula where we have one made out of nylon for use on non-stick cookware and another made out of stainless steel for cast iron cookware and pans, which gives you a nice sharp edge for scraping crunchy bits off baking trays too! 

You must have a lot of fun in the workshop exploring new ideas to launch, but I guess at times it must also be frustrating to be an inventor? Do you ever fear you will run out of ideas! 

The funny thing is, when you only have one product to your name people are on your case about creating more. They want more “meat on the bone” as it were, and as you add products to your range, you need to be extremely conscious of the fact that the coolness of your brand is the average of the coolness of every one of your individual products. You cannot survive as a brand with three flagship products and a bunch of junk. So every time we’ve made a new product, we’ve made sure that it is the absolute best in the world. The exciting thing for us, even 13 years in, was creating something as amazing as the Garject – a garlic press that scrapes all of the excess garlic off and even ejects the peel.  So every time we bring out a new product, we really are answering our critics and those that ask us “will you run out of ideas?”.

From the Scizza, to the Garject and your Mini-Supoon. There is such originality to the Dreamfarm collection and this is something our customers constantly feed back to us. Not re-inventing the wheel, but thinking of something new and fresh must be an important part of what you do at Dreamfarm?

Absolutely. Even if our critics don’t think we make the world’s best products, they can’t deny us our originality. We believe the world has more than enough products, certainly more than enough junk. We want to add to what’s already here, not just create more stuff. Creating something new is not the driver, it’s the bi-product of creating something worth making. 

The Grindenstein must hold a special place in your heart – being your first invention and all – but what other product in the collection could you not live without now? It must be a great feeling to know you have made life a little easier for people in the kitchen?

You could live without anything but it’s what you wouldn’t trade for love or money, creating that is key.  I don’t want to live without a Supoon and a Garject in the kitchen.  Give me clean counter tops and fresh garlic without the stink on my hands any day! I wouldn’t cook with garlic without a Garject now, I’d just cook something else.

Which product are you most proud of inventing? 

I’d have to say Smood. I love its absolute simplicity. The fact that it’s literally a cone shaped spring on a stick and yet what it does is so awesome and so much better than anything else out there, that the solution seems so obvious in hindsight.  Mashing any other way just seems like hard work!

Without giving any secrets away, how do you see the world of kitchenware evolving as technology continues to take a grip in the home?

I would have to be the opposite of a lot of people that are looking for a smarter home. I think cooking is one of the few times in our lives we can get back to basics, unplug and have fun. The unfortunate reality is that we all spend a tonne of our days in front of a computer. I don’t want computers in my cooking. I want to escape and create something great to share with my family. If anything I hope technology helps people learn how fun (and easy!) cooking can be.

If you could invent anything in the World what would it be?

Really?  Oh, that would totally be a jet-pack.  Are you serious? I’d be able to freaking fly. Hello? {laughs}

Who are your design icons?

For a kid that grew up in the 80s it’s impossible to go past Steve Jobs. I remember spending hours playing Frogger on our Apple IIe and the absolute amazement when our Macintosh first printed in laser. Then 20 years later I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing in the very moment I heard he’d passed away. It was early October, I’d just arrived in San Francisco and was in the process of setting up our US office. I was staying in a hotel over in Oakland because the Oracle conference was on at the time and my wife and I were both sitting on the bed working on our laptops with the news on in the background. It was only our second day in San Francisco when we learned Steve Jobs had died. I remember I cried. He was one of the few people in the world that I actually, genuinely looked up to. Not as a designer, but as a creator. For me it’s never been about the design, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it and I’m very lucky to have a brilliant designer leading our equally brilliant design team at Dreamfarm, but for me it’s always been about what it is that our cool new things does. So in that sense, it’s not designers like Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ives that I look up to, for me it’s the creators. The Steve Jobs and Elon Musks, the Benjamin Franklins, Leonardo Da Vincis and the Thomas Edisons of our world that have created more than beautiful forms, they created amazing things we still use today that had never been done before.

The Dreamfarm collection


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