The brass isn’t the only beautiful thing at this West Auckland outfit.
The family behind West Auckland’s Powersurge enjoy an enviable relationship. They riff off each other with such enthusiasm and synergy that it’s immediately apparent why the business that makes magic with metal has forged a path to success. “We all have the same creative spirit,” says Andrea Harradine. “When we’re throwing ideas around, it’s easy — we never need to explain.”
Andrea’s other half, Todd Stevenson, launched the business as a self-taught 19-year-old who undertook a welding course after school and has torched his own path ever since. At first, what he produced was more sculpture than industrial design, but his innate understanding of the material has seen the couple work side by side for more than two decades now, collaborating with leading New Zealand architects and interior designers to create bespoke pieces for commercial fit-outs and high-end residential projects.
The pair has seen the mood move from clients requesting everything in raw steel to having a real passion for brass. In 2018, they drove a sea change for Powersurge to introduce a Home collection of products (lighting, mirrors, handles, shelving…) to make it more accessible to everyone. “It was a way to package what we were already creating, so we had a good feeling about it,” says Andrea. Still, when the online orders started trickling then flooding in, they were somewhat surprised.
Launching a collection has not only been hugely satisfying but also an evolution that underpins the business financially, allowing the couple more freedom to pick and choose bespoke projects. It also contributed to an increase in consumer attention that led the company to expand into a new studio above their workshop: a calmer, cleaner, quieter space that puts their products on display. But it’s the shop floor that remains the beating heart of this enterprise, draped in dust and alive with the spark and grind of industry.
“We have an amazing team of artisan craftsmen,” says Todd. “Without them, we couldn’t have evolved, and as our focus shifts into product, their skill and dedication are integral.”
With Todd leading the fabrication team from the front, elder daughter Ophelia King turns her talents to the marketing. The photographer and Elam School of Fine Arts graduate was ready to head off to Berlin before the pandemic halted her plans, but she’s pleased to be immersed here now. “You could call me creative content manager,” she says. “I touch on all visual aspects of the business and have some big plans in the pipeline for how those will evolve.”
Yet this is no corporate structure with clearly defined roles. Ophelia’s sister Scarlett Harradine-Stevenson, a recent design graduate, also participates, working closely with Andrea to manage the online store. There’s fluidity, crossover, a lot of support. Such is the foundation that carried Powersurge through the GFC. “Along with sheer grit and determination,” says Andrea.
When Covid came, the family braced for impact. “But it had the opposite effect — people started to put even more value on the handmade and appreciate our level of craftsmanship,” she says.
To Ophelia and Scarlett, who are part of the generation that champions conscious consumerism, the appeal of the metal forms Powersurge creates is obvious. “People have more awareness now,” says Ophelia. “They want pieces that they’ll have forever, pieces with timeless silhouettes that are constants, immaculate — and that’s exactly what Dad’s creating.”
For Todd, it comes back to the tools — making is integral to who he is. And he sees the possibilities. “Being able to produce with my own two hands is how I work through a design. I can sketch a hundred ideas, but it’s when I start making that it all comes together.”
In essence, his family members wrap their skills around his to form a combination that has connected them with inspiring clients, among them interior designer Rufus Knight, stylist and interior designer Katie Lockhart, architecture practice Pattersons, and interior design studios Hare and Material Creative. But they don’t see the business catapulting into the mass market. “That’s not philosophically aligned with what Dad or any of us would want,” says Ophelia. Keeping it boutique, keeping it real, keeping it close. The formula is elemental.