Beauty and practicality come together elegantly in Armando Magnino’s designs. This accomplished designer was awarded a Guild Mark for the Gullwing Cabinet he made for Robin Furlong. He studied at Rycotewood Furniture Centre before setting up his own business based in Warwick, as well as teaching on furniture design courses. At Artisan Alchemy Gallery we are proud to display his work, which is often complimented and admired by visitors. In this interview Armando explains how some of his most unique, marvellous designs came about. Read on for delightful insights into the mind of Armando Magnino…
Armando in his studio
When were you first interested in furniture design?
'As far back as I can recall, I have always enjoyed playing with wood. One of my earliest memories is of playing with some oddly shaped wooden building blocks in my grandparents’ house. Only later I realised that they were in fact offcuts from the furniture workshop across the road.Later on, I remember spending long afternoons taking apart packing crates, straightening the rusty nails, and nailing the boards back together to build play houses.By the age of eleven, I had set up my own Falegnameria (carpenter’s workshop) in a broom closet, hanging my trusty tools on the wall (a much loved fret saw, a hand saw, a hammer, a pair of pliers and an Archimedes drill which I never mastered).
Who are your design influences?
‘The inspiration for the individual pieces can come from almost anywhere: a particularly interesting line on a leaf, a geometrical challenge, an architectural detail…In terms of general influences, I tend to look to Art Deco for its strong lines, to the Bauhaus and Modernist movements (but also Japanese design and architecture) for their quest for clear and simple, but interesting solutions.I don’t believe in lots of fussy detail and decoration: my aim is to create pieces of work with arresting and interesting lines and shapes that show off the beauty of the wood. To this end I often introduce elements of asymmetry and contrasting materials in my work.'
This asymmetry really comes across in your Extra Time Clock. Can you tell us more about this piece?
‘Most of us lead busy lives. Rushing from one commitment to another, whether it’s work or family or friends...Wouldn’t it be nice to have some extra time in the day?Teaching technical drawing I always enjoyed the lessons when we worked on traditional methods of bisecting angles and drawing polygons, using a compass. 3, 6, 12, 24 divisions are easy. So are 4, 8, 16, 32... Dividing the circle (and the day) in this way goes back thousands of years: to the ancient Babylonians and perhaps further back... Why not try for a 25-hour day? for 25 divisions?And so my Extra Time Clock design was born. 25 divisions give it a sense of asymmetry, of being out of balance. An encouragement to focus on kairological time rather than chronological.“Time flies when you’re having fun” - that’s kairological time, it’s about what I’m doing and how it feels rather than counting minutes and seconds....As the inscription under the clock at my school had it: Afflictis lentae, celeres gaudentibus horae (the hours go slowly for those in pain, fast for those who are happy).’
Your designs often centre around a clever, distinctive concept. Tell us how Bookstack came about?
‘Over the years I have often wondered at how ‘structure’ is seen differently by architects and by furniture makers. In furniture usually the elements that give a piece its rigidity are the joints. In architecture, it seems to me that often what holds a building together is simply the mass of the components – the weight of the building gives it its strength. (For any architects out there – yes, I know this is a gross oversimplification…)The simplest example I can think of is dry stone walling: yes, the rocks need to ‘fit’ together, but it’s a matter of balance rather than adhesion – in the end, gravity is what holds it up (pun intended).Richard Rogers was one of the group of architects that designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris in the ‘70s. Architecturally their design was innovative in that the functional structural elements are on display on the outside of the building, instead of hidden inside.This set me thinking about trying something similar with a piece of furniture: turning the structure inside out.The other thing I discovered looking at the models was the way the structure was supported – a system of cantilevers: the weight of the structure supported by pillars (in compression) and struts (in tension) on the outside of the building. Again – could I do something similar with a piece of furniture?After much thinking, sketching and evaluating options, I arrived at the design of Bookstack. The shelves converge towards a supporting central ‘column’, and are angled so that the weight of the books tends towards the centre. The struts between the shelves act as pivots of cantilevers.But then the idea developed further – how about hiding the vertical pieces altogether, so that the shelves filled with books seem to somehow float unsupported? And then it finally struck me: use wooden components but disguise them as books!’
How do you see your work developing?
‘Over the last few years I have started a regular collaboration with Mel Price, a talented stained glass artist. Over the years I often experimented with different materials and approaches, looking to add colour and texture to my designs and carefully selected timbers.Similarly, Mel Price was looking to direct her technical and creative skills in stained glass away from the usual door and window panels, towards more challenging and unusual designs.Working together as “Melando” we have developed a range of pieces rooted in our passion for good design and fine craftsmanship that combine vibrant colours and elegant shapes.’
Armando is held in high regard within the British furniture making world and became a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen in 2018. He displays his work regularly in exhibitions across the UK. We hope you will visit Artisan Alchemy Gallery soon to see Armando’s quirky, wonderful furniture!