Giorgio Romani’s art explores the passage of time. Having devoted much of his own lifetime to the various aspects of woodturning, he finds it a personal way to research the balance between shapes and what nature can communicate.
He achieves this by working and developing with skill and age-old craft techniques: working in harmony with the individual branch; leaving one surface raw or untouched by the hand tools; working while the wood is still green and untreated to let it distort naturally; or finishing the inside of vessels as a secret, hidden message. Using mostly green wood, Giorgio is able to connect with the material from the tree felling to the finished product. He typically works in olive, oak and various salvaged woods.
A selection of Giorgio’s pieces is now available to purchase at our Bamford stores in London and the Cotswolds. At a time when relationships with our local environment and community has become more pronounced than ever, we invited Giorgio to tell us more about what inspires his regional approach to craft as well as what he has learnt from the materials he uses about the passage of time.
'It is a sort of path of knowledge, a bit like when we meet a new person and slowly begin to get to know them while talking.'
1. To what extent do you let the nature of the materials you are working with guide the form that the finished piece will take?
When I am standing in front of a material such as wood that is already shaped by time – that has lived and is still alive - it is very difficult to act at first. Expressing oneself through this living matter requires more reflection and responsibility than with other inanimate materials. When I find myself working with live wood, the trunks or burls often contain elements that express their own identities - the form they have acquired over their lived existences, and here is where my journey begins.
Before and during the process, I try to understand which elements of the material must necessarily be saved or highlighted, and this happens precisely while I am discovering (that is knowing) the material itself. Because on removing layers of wood, the life of the tree unveils itself to me; it is a sort of path of knowledge, a bit like when we meet a new person and slowly begin to get to know them while talking - a discursive knowledge born through communication and mutual respect.
2. Do you believe that your pieces can ever truly be ‘completed’ if they are left untreated and in their raw state?
I love my works and I desire them to last a long time. Even if the wood is left untreated, the pieces have been smoked and brushed enough to achieve a surface that is almost time-tested.
I spend a long time before I finish a piece, waiting for it to dry in the final shape – I tend to wait for more time needed, just to be sure. Sometimes I leave my works unfinished for years. I have to say, this is absolutely not profitable for my pockets but this process teaches me many things about the changing of the material in the long term.
3. What inspired you to source wood locally, and how much is your craft inspired by your environment? Has this changed over time?
When I first began to handle wood, it was without any real knowledge of the subject. During my training period, I collected firewood in the local woods as well as purchasing already seasoned timbers to test various making processes - this allowed me to understand the substantial difference between working with these two types of material. I saw that the same product made with the differently sourced materials showed different personalities: everything I made with the wood that had been cut directly by me in the woods had a greater expressive force.
Today it is essential for me to use only the material that surrounds me. I see no sense in purchasing anonymous material ready for use. I feel the need to establish a strictly direct relationship with the material and this is possible only through sourcing it myself. As I have often told my students: hearing the sound of the falling tree generates in us a deep memory from which we cannot escape during its subsequent processing; it is an echo that remains etched in the material. It is, metaphysically speaking, as if it were the tree’s soul that penetrates us, looking for a corner to stay.
Elm Double-Grain Bowl
Set of 3 Natural Edges Oak Bowls
'Everything I made with the wood that had been cut directly by me in the woods had a greater, expressive force.'
4. During the pandemic, the importance of nature has come to the fore. Has this experience impacted your own relationship with nature?
The pandemic has changed many things, but it has also allowed me to escape the chains of routine so that I can fully concentrate on the needs of my spirit. Nature has been of great help. During the two months of lockdown, having the opportunity to go out exclusively to walk my dog, I took advantage of long promenades in the woods. During these walks, nature has inspired me deeply, instilling in me only positive feelings despite the situation that revolved around me. The constant closeness of nature with its extraordinary forms allowed me to reconnect with it, and from it I gathered renewed energy.
It was undoubtedly difficult not to be allowed to work in my studio, but I took it as an advantage to go deeper in my research before I resumed the process of making things.
Discover Giorgio Romani's bowls in store
A selection of Giorgio Romani's woodturning pieces are now available to purchase in our London and Cotswolds stores. The collection includes unique pieces from his Ruins project - made using various species of oak trees found in his area inspired by ancient relics. Visit us in store to discover the pieces.
Pictured: Cradle bowl