Designer Elliat Rich (born in Paris in 1978) and bespoke shoemaker James Young (born in Sydney in 1979) cofounded Elbowrkshp in 2013 in Alice Springs, Australia. The design studio focuses on a range of projects—including objects, spaces, and events—driven by an ethical imperative to increase equality amongst people and across species. The studio’s work is largely inspired by its unique geographical and cultural context; as Rich describes it, Alice Springs is “an island surrounded by oceans of wilderness.”
The couple first met in 1998 while embarking on their design degrees at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. In 2004, after an eleven-month camel trek through the Australian outback via the Snowy Mountains to Broken Hill, the pair relocated from Sydney to the tiny town of Alice Springs. In 2013, the couple established Elbowrkshp within the creative 8 Hele precinct. Elbowrkshp comprises three parts—a shared studio, a workshop, and a retail space. Although the pair collaborated on various projects well before the establishment of Elbowrkshp, the studio’s launch marked their first professional partnership.
In 2015, the duo unveiled Core Collection, their first major work as Elbowrkshp. The collection consists of three concentric vessels made from quarried and cut ancient bedrock from Central Australia produced by a second-generation stonemason. The goal was to produce work specific and accurate to their surroundings, wherein the end forms reflect the natural landscape and create a larger narrative about Central Australia.
In addition to Core Collection, Elbowrkshp has produced a limited-edition collection of six Child’s House Shoes made from kangaroo leather and rubber bands for the For School exhibition during Tokyo Design Week 2015. From time to time, the studio also organizes occasional pop-up events, taking over vacant shops in Alice Springs in collaboration with local makers, designers, artisans, and food vendors.
Rich obtained a Bachelor’s degree in design with honors at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in 2006. She launched her own, eponymous design studio in 2007, which operates out of the Elbowrkshp studio space. Working across a broad-spectrum of design, Rich’s practice spans cross-cultural resources, exhibition design, public art, furniture, product development, one-off exhibition, and limited run objects. Her clients include indigenous organizations, government departments, and private businesses. Notable designs include the Decennia Chair (2012); the seven-piece Urban Billy Tea Set (2013); the brass patchwork quilt Stitchfield (2016, with Claire Scorpo) for Design Tasmania, Women in Design 2016; and Anerle-aneme Chair (2016) in collaboration with the Centre for Appropriate Technology's (CAT) Enterprise Workshop.
Young attended the College of Fine Arts for just one year before going on to study at the University of Wollongong, graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in ecology. He continued his studies at TAFE Adelaide, obtaining a Certificate IV in custom-made footwear in 2013. Descending from a long line of shoemakers, Young has followed in their footsteps by creating bespoke shoes and boots, belts, camel saddles, camel dubbin, as well as handmade handbags for men and women.