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Humphrey Ikin’s Biography

Last Updated:
16/03/2021, 9:23 am
Furniture Maker
Arts Foundation Laureate 2003
Humphrey Ikin is a leading contemporary New Zealand furniture designer. His works explore Polynesian design and have helped promote wide New Zealand design ideas.

Humphrey Ikin was born in Lower Hutt in 1957. He has a degree in Business Studies from Massey University, and an honours degree in Architecture from the University of Auckland.

Finding that he was focusing more on the furniture for buildings than the structure itself he became a self-taught furniture designer and maker. Based in Auckland, he has now been working as a freelance furniture designer for over 30 years.

Humphrey has been at the forefront of New Zealand's design renaissance since the early 1980s. Dubbed a pioneer of the new Pacific design, he creates pieces that represent a successful blending of South Pacific symbolism and splendour with the functionalism of European modernism. In 1998 New York's I.D. Magazine listed him as one of the top forty designers in the world and featured his piece Red Stave Chair alongside work by Philippe Starck, Jasper Morrison and Antonio Citterio. In 2001 he won the prestigious John Britten Design Award, presented annually by the Designers' Institute of New Zealand.

What has set Humphrey's work apart is his on-going interest in the broader context of furniture, its history, its rituals and its future possibilities - expressed eloquently in the series of solo exhibitions he has held over two decades, most notably Room at the Dowse Art Museum (1994) and Facing North at the Wellington City Gallery (1997) and the Auckland Museum (1998). Facing North has been described as a seminal piece of work which gives proof to the assertion that the domestic object deserves critical attention to no lesser degree than the fine arts.

Humphrey's work is held in both public and private collections in New Zealand and throughout the world. He taught part-time at UNITEC in Auckland in the 1990's, where, in 2002 he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Furniture Design at the School of Design.

In 2003 Humphrey received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award. The Award is an investment in excellence across a range of art forms for an artist with prominence and outstanding potential for future growth.

Humphrey currently divides his time between furniture, sculpture and architecture projects, alongside running his farm, at his base on the Kaipara Harbour, North Auckland.