Alexandre Aréthuse is part of the very first SINGULART design sale, Where Art meets Design. Since moving to Denmark 10 years ago, he has developed his own line of entirely handmade wooden furniture using a unique wood staining process.
We sat down with Alexandre to discover the inspiration behind his colourful creations and experimental techniques.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your career as a designer and furniture maker?
I am a designer and cabinetmaker born in 1980 in Amboise, France and based in Copenhagen, Denmark for the past ten years. I started my career in product development. This first experience, far from where I am now, since it was mainly low cost industrial production, allowed me to learn a lot about manufacturing methods and the interior design industry. The desire to take a more qualitative look at each piece of furnitureled me to develop my first series of high-end outdoor furniture made to last, where every detail has been respectfully thought out and considered.
I then moved to Copenhagen and this amplified my attraction to wooden furniture. My r traditional craftsmanship by legendary Danish artisans and designers reinforced my idea of becoming a cabinetmaker. Starting as an apprentice at a major manufacturer, I quickly became manager of their furniture department.
My desire to push at limitations, to experiment and create exceptional pieces started this new stage of unique contemporary creation using modern techniques whilst respecting the past by also revisiting traditional techniques. A touch of nerdiness and many years of experience in different sectors create a bottomless pit of possibilities and opportunities.
What was your very first creation?
What I consider to have been my first creation was an armchair made in its entirety during my training as a cabinetmaker. It is a chair that follows me everywhere and that is now in my workshop. It has a lot of flaws both in design and realization, but I will never part with it and I’m sure it will pass a few generations.
You are also a cabinetmaker, how does that differentiate you from other designers?
I guess it allows me to have a deeper insight into the technical factor of my creations. From the beginning of the concept of a piece, I make choices about the techniques I want to emphasize, assembly techniques or finishes that have an impact on the visual as well as on the construction. I also want my creations to be made to last, so the visual aspect must always be in line with its solidity. Aussi, j’estime que the design of a piece remains an opinion but the quality of its realization is a fact. And one last factor that comes to my mind is time. Indeed the duration between the beginning of a conceptualization and its concretization is much faster when one is dependent on oneself.
Wood is your favourite material, what its characteristics that fascinate you the most?
What excites me most about wood is that it is a natural, noble, living, renewable and extremely diverse material. Each variety of wood has its own specificities, be it in terms of density, strength, durability, colors, grain and much more. Each project begins with an appropriate selection in my local sawmill. It is this intensive selection that make my unique pieces stand out from the industrial ones. Moreover, it is a material that uses several senses, not only sight, but also smell and touch. Finally, there is something magical about transforming a material that anyone can access, but one that only through careful and precise work will stand out in the end.
You have a unique colorization process, could you tell us about it ?
It’s been about ten years now that I started to be interested in the colour of wood, to differentiate with paint. The wood stain allows the wood to be coloured within itself and not to cover its surface. This allows to emphasize its veining, its grain and not obscure it. I have tried almost every product on the market, but it was only through historical research into the staining of wood by 18th century French cabinetmakers that I was able to develop my current technique. This allows me to “theoretically” develop any color and apply a wide range of finishes from matte to gloss.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I can say that I love the stage where all the creative and technical ideas come together and “work” and then come to fruition in the 3D realization of the piece. This stage is really a culmination for me since it requires a high level of concentration on the project. In my humble opinion and in relation to my own case, my creative process is a succession of decisions. I have great respect for these artists who manage to create and realize concretely at the same time, it is not possible in my approach.
How would you describe your style and how long did it take you to develop a unique style?
It’s very difficult to describe your style by yourself and even quite arrogant to think that you have your own style. But if I had to describe it, I would say that the style of my creations is inspired by theTraditional Danish woodwork from the 1960s based on a clean construction and design but with my own touch. “French touch” in the and details and with a non-minimalist elegance. Experimentation is also very important to me and is part of my creative process and style.
A significant detail that I add on all my creations is a contactless NFC technology chip hidden under my signature. It allows its owner to have a digital access to the complete history of the furniture such as the origin of the wood used, an explanation of the techniques used, an explanation of the design and the decisions taken when it, the recommendations of maintenance, etc… Moreover, it allows to guarantee the authentication of this one since each chip has a unique serial number which I am the only one to know, a detail proving crucial in the case of a later resale.
Where do you draw your inspiration most often? What are your influences?
My inspirations come mainly from instantaneous moments that are difficult to define, such as a walk in the forest, a visit to a museum, a trip or a discussion with someone. I make sure I don’t have any influences so that I can develop my own ideas more and more. I also do historical research whether it be in woodworking, design, architecture or art in general through books, museums or the web.
Has a particular work of art, sculpture or architecture inspired you recently?
To be quite honest, I recently rediscovered some photos I took during a trip to Japan and I can’t stop thinking about a kind of ancient wall I discovered there, made of stones that are all different but that fit together very precisely in a very particular way. And it has given me many ideas that may be used in my future creations.
What is your dream as a designer?
My dream is quite simple, I simply want to continue to do what I love with a minimum of constraints, to take the time to travel for pleasure, to reconcile this professional life with a qualitative private life and to take time to learn and experiment again and again.