CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper

issue #26: inspiration-hunters

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper, Italian designer, artist and craftsman. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here.

Diary of: @martinogamper

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
1. While analyzing your profile, I have noticed how everyone tries to define you (carpenter-designer/artist-designer), to eventually declare themselves defeated. Why do you think there is a need to fit you into a category? As I will not try to do so, will you help me by defining yourself?

Both wanting to define and being defined is a choice. At an early stage of my life, I tried to find my own definition, but neither design nor art wanted to accept my profile. I was an ‘odd’ character and did not fit either here or there. Then I realised that I was better off concentrating on my work, rather than focusing on being excluded or included. I call myself a craftsman (arts) and as such I play down the middle, between design and art.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
100 Chairs in 100 Days
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
100 Chairs in 100 Days
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Nilufar Depot
2. The figure of the designer is often compared to that of the inventor. With you, on the other hand, we understand it can be more the role of a re-editor, a re-interpreter (I am thinking of the ‘innesto’ project, for example). What is your relationship with the new?

The world we live in moves so fast that now, for us human beings, the need to invent something new seems like a natural condition. We used to think in terms of decades, think of the trends of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, but today a new fashion is born every year. This dynamic generates an ‘urge to innovate’ at all costs, which is a trap. As humans, we are in fact not so fast. There are pieces I designed in the nineties that I still haven’t digested. I believe that, in this vortex, we must instead take the time to go back, revise, and re-read what has already been done. The window and the view are always the same, but what changes is the way we look at that same landscape. A new look changes everything, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel from scratch to come up with something new. What I ask myself is: how much of it must I change to make it into something new? Sometimes very little is just enough. Of course, it takes a special sensitivity to see and create something new, it takes the right attitude; something that is too often overlooked.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Middle Chair Pollok House Glasgow
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
ALPI Gamperana Triplex
3. When I think about you working in your studio, I associate you to an artist engaged in introspective and manual work. However, when analysing your work, we find a strong serial component, typical of design. How would you describe ‘your’ dualism between art and design?

Both disciplines allow me to satisfy my personal needs: design is the need for interaction and functionality; art is the irrational need to express my personality and identity. Craft is the glue, it is ‘my way of making’, it is the interaction between making and thinking.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper
4. There is a rumor about you cutting up old Gio Ponti furniture to make your own. Is this true? What is your relationship with design icons?

That’s true… some projects (such as ‘If Gio Only Knew’) were definitely based on this. The great ‘icons’ are undoubtedly source of immense inspiration, but what has always bothered me is the fact that their creations cannot be ‘touched’. Almost as if the only way of relating to history had to be museum conservation. On the contrary, I have always been intrigued by the idea of handling it, re-reading it, finding these objects a new place in the world, even pitting them against the contemporary. To me, modifying ‘untouchable icons’ does not equal to destroying the work of a great master, but repurposing it to create something new. I want to demonstrate how old and new can coexist, thanks to an innovative look and attitude. I like to break and then create.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Round & Square Collection Ph. Angus Mill
5. From the experience as apprentice cabinetmaker to your studies in Vienna with Michelangelo Pistoletto (sculpture), Matteo Thun, Ron Arad and Enzo Mari (design). How do you associate these two worlds?

Wood has been a constant element throughout my life. As a child, during the Summer I used to go to the mountains and there was I was surrounded by wood. With it I could play, create, and invent. I like the idea that trees are all different, and that objects can be created from those trees. Till this day I have a recurring thought: I keep looking at trees and thinking about what I could create with them. Going back to my younger days, when I finished my apprenticeship at the age of 19, I realised that I didn’t want to be a carpenter just for the sake of it. I felt that this would not be just a trade for me. I started travelling around the world, where I met people who were very different from me, both artistically and in terms of lifestyle, and this inspired me. I came to the realisation that I wanted to use my manual skills to create something more artistic, sculptural. It took me three or four years of ‘detoxification’ from furniture making to get back to making furniture, but at that point I was shaping my own ideas, instead of those of others.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper table
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Pepper Spitz
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Prada
6. Would you define yourself as a methodical person?

I consider myself quite methodical, although I love to question what I do. Method is not immutable, on the contrary, I believe that it leads to originating a new method that allows you to connect things that were never together in the first place. I love to turn methodology, structure and technique upside down. I would call it an ‘artistic methodology’ that allows me to approach the rationality of design with greater interest. Suffice it to say that I have never been able to design a rectangular table… I always have to cut a piece out of it!

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper
7. How does your creative process develop? What weight and place does the conceptual part hold?

I would call it a gradual process. Step by step. I used to write a lot in a diary which contains almost more text than drawings. It was initially just words scribbled on a piece of paper, with which then I play and went back and forth, until they became a conceptual framework. This is how the titles of the works -which are, to me, an essential part – are born. Titles like ‘Design as a state of mind’ or ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days and its 100 Ways’ are an integral part of the work which add meaning and strength.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
100 Chairs in 100 Days
8. Thinking of Martino Gamper exploring the world, if you were commissioned to curate an exhibition created to tell the story of contemporary design, what macro-trends would you explore through design?

Rather than thinking about trends, I would focus on the analysis method. My projects are outlined by reasoning based on four pillars: spaces (the geographical and cultural spaces, and their respective interconnections), places (the location the creation is destined to), people (for whom we design and what functions of these objects have within the society) and behaviour (the attitude, the functioning, what these creations induce).

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
100-chairs-in-100-days
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Prada Galleria Womens store
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Prada Galleria Womens store
9. The design of your London home has been curated down to the smallest detail. When thinking about that space, what is the object, or creation, that you believe best describes your personality?

Besides design and art, I am very fond of music, and this alwys finds a place in my home. Just like craftsmanship, music is a connector: if you are a musician, you are halfway between sounds and words, you are a craftsman of sound. And just like a craftsman who makes objects, a musician finds himself putting together sounds that nobody has connected before.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Hookaloti
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Middle Chair Pollok House Glasgow
Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Wikatoria Stools in @nilufargallery
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Would you send us a picture taken by you?

A white and emerald green table I have made with doors designed by Gio Ponti. It’s a nice summary of my essence and it gives me great energy.

Caleido interviews Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper

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