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Tradition, Passion, Innovation: John Galvin’s Unique Bespoke Art

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Tradition, Passion, Innovation:
John Galvin’s Unique Bespoke Art

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Combine the early influence of parents, a passion for fine furniture and antiques, and a childhood obsession with Lego, and if you are very lucky you shape an individual who can express dimension and form in the most beautiful and assured way. In short, you have designer John Galvin.

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by Lee Sowerbutts

Interior with furniture designed by John Galvin

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John Galvin’s designs are innovative creations that combine contemporary design with quality, traditional craftsmanship. This marriage is of the utmost importance and is clearly evident in his production of evocative pieces that will stand the test of time.

His furniture is fast becoming the stuff that design legends are made of. With references to the past and an eye for unique and intricate detail, John has already established himself as a name to look out for in bespoke creations made from wood. A recent winner at the Trada Wood Awards for Outstanding Craftsmanship with his Manolo Lounger, John has set himself, and indeed his contemporaries, the almost insurmountable challenge of equalling the standard he himself set with his crossover creation of furniture and functional art.

The award is just one of a growing list that increases the kudos for John’s magnificent pieces. Private individuals and magazine editors alike all seem to want more of the Irish-born carpenter who skillfully creates mind-blowing pieces.

You really can feel the passion John has for his craft when he talks you through his pieces. Like the man himself, they are poetic, finely tuned, humorous and sensitive. You know within minutes of meeting him that he is driven by a hunger to push his craft to the very limits and a desire to bring joy to those lucky enough to own one of his creations.

This passion translates into a belief that supporting and encouraging new designers ensures the future of crafts like furniture making. He offers the following advice to like-minded aspiring young artists who are just starting out.

“ Be 100% committed to your craft, work hard and absorb praise and critique with the same enthusiasm,” he says. “Believe in your products, but always accept that perfection should always elude you, so that you strive to hone your skills. Leave open the doors of possibility and challenge… and remember your hands are your most important tools.”

John’s love for aesthetics serves as an endless source of new ideas such as the Manolo chair which, as the name suggests, gained inspiration from another international uber-designer Manolo Blahnik. The form of a beautiful stiletto was the starting point for the piece inspired by a sketch of a Blahnik shoe. John’s take on design classics by the likes of furniture makers Hans J. Wenger and Finn Juhl merged with the stiletto concept to beget this rare work.

The Manolo Lounger is without doubt one of the most challenging pieces John has ever attempted to produce. He has incorporated over five different jointing techniques in the construction of the chair. There is not a single 90-degree angle in the entire piece. The seat is bevelled in two directions and tapers from 12mm at the front to 28 mm in the centre. John hand-carved the top edge of the chair to follow the curve of the splayed back legs. The front legs are mirror images with hand-carved twisted details which are also slightly splayed. The brass pin detail, which passes through the arms into the back of the seat, gives the chair increased rigidity.

The Manolo chair was launched in May 2011 at the Saatchi gallery “Collect” exhibition. This, coupled with his Wallpaper magazine commission to take part in their “Handmade” exhibition at the Brioni house in Milano as part of the Salone del Mobile, ensured John’s place at the Designers Block exhibit, which is an important part of London’s annual design week.

The word is getting out that the traditional skills of furniture making are alive and well in the twenty-first century with designers like John Galvin at the helm. As he continues to take part in national exhibitions including, most recently, a solo exhibition at the Cube Centre for the Urban Built Environment in Manchester, we are certain that the future of fine furniture is in good hands.

John values the feedback he gets and the questions people ask at these events and sees it as an important guide to his development.
When clients commission him to create a piece of work, the results are not based purely on a prescriptive design brief but on a more organic, personal interaction where the union between maker, object and owner form an integral part of the story of each creation – something that John believes is the true ethos behind bespoke products.

As well as producing his own designs, John also works closely with architects and interior design companies, and was part of the design team that collaborated on the award winning Shingle house for the philosopher Alain De Boton. The house design by Nord Architects went on to win a Royal Institute of British Architects award.

John works from a workshop in Glasgow and is proud to be a part of Scotland’s vast pool of new talent that continues to emerge onto the international design stage.

He enjoys the buzz and vibrancy of Glasgow and is a keen supporter of organisations such as Scottish Furniture Makers (scottishfurnituremakers.org.uk) and Craft Scotland (craftscotland.org)

More information about John Galvin may be found at johngalvindesign.co.uk[/three_fourth]
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