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 realized 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 11, I had set up my own “falegnameria” 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).
My education however took an academic direction, away from any hands-on training. Later, a career in youth work, outdoor education and personal development training took me from Italy to the United Stated and then to Britain. It was here that I started a formal furniture making training. I achieved Distinction in City and Guilds qualifications at Warwickshire College, in Leamington Spa.
I then went to work as a cabinet maker for Robin Furlong, making bespoke fine furniture. Among the pieces I made for Robin, is the Gullwing Cabinet that was awarded the prestigious Guild Mark by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers.
From 2001 to 2008 I was responsible for the Furniture Crafts courses at Warwickshire College.
In 2009 I achieved my BA (Hons) in Furniture Design at the Rycotewood Furniture Centre in Oxford, and started my own business.
In 2009 I was accepted as a Licentiate (Distinction) in the Society of Designer Craftsmen, an association of craftspeople that has its origins in the Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th Century. I was promoted to Member in 2010 and to Fellow in 2018.
I am also a member of the Furniture Designer Makers Association, a national and international network of fine furniture designer makers and I am an occasional contributor to Furniture and Cabinet Making magazine.
I have been based at Studio Sixteen, in Warwick since 2010.
As well as designing and making bespoke furniture, I have remained involved in education: I kept teaching on the evening classes at Warwickshire College until June 2019 and since September 2018 I have been lecturing on the Foundation Degree at Rycotewood Furniture Centre.
In 2017 I met Mel Price, a talented stained glass artist. From our first encounter, we started exploring the possibiity of developing designs together and thus "MELANDO - Wood and Glass" was born: a collection of unique pieces designed and made collaboratively.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful"
I have often struggled with this quote from William Morris.
The place where I stumble every time is that “OR’’...
Why introduce such a contrast between aesthetics and functionality? Why judge them on separate scales?
Shouldn’t we expect beauty from useful, everyday objects?
While I sympathize with much of the Arts and Crafts agenda (their horror of bland mass produced goods, their quest for working approaches that lifted the workers from their alienating and disempowering working conditions, their social agenda aiming at making beautiful objects and pleasant living conditions available to all), I find that their escape to an idealized medieval past and to romanticized working methods had often counter-productive effects. I do believe that it is possible to produce objects that are beautiful, functional and not prohibitively expensive.
I often look for inspiration in the work of designers and architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus School. I see them searching for a form of applied aesthetics that has more to do with shape, proportions and choice of materials than decoration and detailing. At the same time I see that a purely modernist approach can lead to designs that are sometimes quite stark and dry. I balance this tendency with the more organic lines of Art Nouveau designers, Gaudi, and Far Eastern approaches, such as a careful use of asymmetry and empty space.
Being a small business, focusing on one-off pieces gives me flexibility. I can approach each client and job with an open mind. Not only I can design a piece to suit the client needs, preferences and budget, but I can also then choose the techniques and methods best suited for the task.
Gordon Russell talked about “teaching the machines manners” emphasizing that machines are tools like any others: with the necessary application of skill and understanding they can produce wonderful results. While I love wood as a material and I believe there is nothing quite like the feel, sound and smell of smooth silky shavings coming off a finely tuned hand plane, I also know that there are times when a machine will do the job better and quicker. New technologies and new materials are constantly being introduced: I believe it’s important to be able to select the best approach for each job, without idolizing innovation nor hanging on to inappropriate methods in the name of tradition.
2018 - Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen
2014 - Society of Designer Craftsmen -
Gane Trust Award
2012 - WIlliam Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
Selected to design and make a piece for the Everyday Encounters exhibition
2010 - Society of Designer Craftsmen -
SDC Trustees TSB Award for most promising new Licentiate
2009 - Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers -
Certificate of Merit for Credenza
2009 - New Forest Show - Fine Crafted Wood Competition
Second Prize for Slider
2009 - Rycotewood Furniture Centre -
Michaelis Cup for Excellence in Modern Craftsmanship
2001 - Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers -
Guild Mark for Gullwing Cabinet
(made for Robin Furlong Furniture - design Robin Furlong)
2000 - City and Guilds -
Medal of Excellence
1999 - Warwickshire Woodworking Exhibition -
Highly Commended for Wall Cabinet