Writer: Amy Guttman
John Galvin has come a long way from the small Irish beach town of Youghal, where he grew up in County Cork. The furniture designer known for crafting chairs, lamps and other pieces in a style best described as a fusion of Scandinavian and Shaker, followed his older sister to Glasgow at the age of eighteen. Three years studying at the College of Building and Printing in the city who’s most famous designer was Charles Rennie MacIntosh left an impression on Galvin, leading to arts and crafts inspired designs, all using wood as a medium.
“Timber is an amazing medium to work with; no two pieces are the same. There are so many different species and the colours and textures really are endless. Unlike other materials, wood gets better with age and every piece has a story to tell.”
If Galvin can be identified with anything; it’s the award-winning Manolo Lounger. It is an aesthetic and mechanical triumph, incorporating more than five different jointing techniques, without a single 90-degree angle. Galvin’s inspiration was two-fold, first was his admiration for chair designers Hans J Wegner and Finn Juhl, the second inspiration was from a master in feminine grace and style.
“I stumbled upon a beautiful sketch of a high heel shoe designed by Manolo Blahnik. The elegance of the thin stiletto heel and feminine curve of the shoe inspired me to start sketching chair designs. The back legs of the chair are therefore loosely based on this sketch. The ‘Manolo Lounger’ is without doubt the most challenging but satisfying piece I have ever attempted to produce. “
The most challenging, but also the most high profile of Galvin’s pieces, it’s been given pride of place in the uber-trendy Saatchi Gallery and will be displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in November.
Galvin spent seven years learning from various cabinetmakers, toiling away at a range of projects, fulfilling briefs and working towards other people’s goals before setting up his own shop with popular pieces which are almost works of art, like the Jacaranda Cygnet Lamp.
Launched at the Saatchi gallery in May 2011 as part of the Collect exhibition of world class craft, the lamp was also short listed for the World Architecture News lighting design of the year. Originally made from Purple Heart, but now produced in Ash, Oak and Walnut, every element of the piece is hand made from the turned shade and light pendent, down to the brass dimmer switch and lamp support. The aesthetic is of three dark wood coils spaced to let the light through. The lamp was created as a companion for the Manolo Lounger.
Galvin’s ability to tap into a sense of timeless beauty but also fantasy, could be the secret to his stand-out success.