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Why I am not an artist: Armando Magnino


describes his passion And what do you do?

I design & make bespoke furniture.

Ah, you’re a joiner! No. Nor am I a carpenter. ‘Cabinet- maker’ is what I use when filling in official forms.

he above is a regular conversation pattern I go through when meeting people. My passion is working with wood and making pieces that are well crafted, from high quality materials and are aesthetically interesting and pleasing. I always hope to end up with furniture that is beautiful and functional; that is born of a dialogue between the clients, my passions and the materials. I don’t stick to standard designs and I prefer to make free-standing pieces: hopefully my furniture is personal enough that the clients will want to take it with them.

T As much as I enjoy the design

process, the freedom of playing with ideas and slowly refining them, adjusting the proportions, defining the details, researching and solving problems, I also love the making process: getting my hands dirty, smelling the wood when it’s first cut, watching the shavings curl and fall from the plane. Yes, even the noise of a powerful machine ripping through thick oak. Those are the reasons why I am a designer-maker. People often tell me: “You’re so creative, you’re an artist!” In the USA there is a woodworking movement that has decisively gone down the art route: there they talk of ‘studio furniture’. Me? I believe that furniture is made to be touched and to be used. Certainly, when my pieces leave the workshop the lines are crisp, the finish smooth: they are as perfect as I can make them. But I hope they will collect scratches and marks over time,

that they will become part of people’s everyday lives. The Japanese have a phrase: ‘wabi-sabi’, which is the concept of the beauty that an object acquires through its imperfections, the wear and tear of time and use. I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. I still don’t know if form follows function or the other way around; but what is form without function? Pure vacuity: vanitas vanitatum!

If art is something to be kept apart, unspoilt, safe from the knocks and dents of life, then my furniture is not art – and I am not an artist.


Above: Armando Magnino, Slider – coffee table (2009) English Oak (New Forest)100 x 50 x 50 cm (approx.)

Below: Armando Magnino, Swirl – mirror and shelf (2009) wall hung French Oak, Glass, Nickel Silver 110 x 600 x 200 cm


ArtSpace journal number 34 Autumn/Winter 2010

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