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Dimitri Vargas in his studio

Exploring the Duality of Design with Dimitri Vargas

There’s a captivating tactility inherent in the work of Dimitri Vargas. When you run your hands over one of his unmistakably sculptural pieces it’s hard not to be curious about its provenance and exactly how something so singularly beautiful was made. It was this curiosity that moved us to visit Dimitri at his factory and showroom to discover more about his creative process, approach to sustainability in his practice and how each new piece has a connection to those that have come before.

Photography Nic Gossage

Hi Dimitri, can you start by telling us about how you first became interested in furniture and design?

As a child I was always fascinated by building things and by art. I followed these interests into a career in interior design which eventually became a gateway to my love of furniture. Being able to understand the way furniture was designed allowed me to better curate the spaces I had in my mind. Often when working on interior projects, custom pieces had to be created which allowed me to tap into the impossible, that is, pushing the limits of what furniture can be and creating something with originality that also feels timeless.

How has your practice evolved over the years?

The early days of Dimitri Vargas are characterized by my recurrent use of timber, this was followed by the expansion of my practice to include works made with marble and glass. More recently, I’ve enjoyed diving deep into the sculptural manipulation of marble. My current practice also aims to showcase the duality of timber and marble, moving from simple production to a more intricate process that intertwines different materials to become one seamless piece

You cite nature and renaissance forms as influential to your work; how do these elements inform your practice and is there anything else you regularly look to for inspiration?

The core ethos of my craft is to create organic, timeless pieces. I often turn to the natural curvatures of tree trunks and boulders to inform my sculptural practice. In saying that, renaissance art focuses on drapery and perspective; such elements also significantly inform my practice when sculpting my pieces. I am often inspired by the anatomic realism of renaissance sculpture, and use that to challenge myself to create pieces which bend the natural hardness and form of materials I use.

“The core ethos of my craft is to create organic, timeless pieces.”

Can you tell us about your creative process when making a piece of furniture or object? Is it generally more structured or free-flowing?

The type of piece I’m working on will generally inform how structured or free-flowing my process is, however, every piece starts with ideas sketched out in a book.

For my carved pieces I tend to follow two different processes:

A free-flowing process means I start carving from a block of timber slowly, allowing the timber to direct me through its layers of grain. These pieces take longer to complete as they evolve each time I work on them and take different directions while carving.

A more structured approach to my process starts from a sketch out of my book, and then into the production of a scaled clay model. From the scaled model, I create templates which allow me to mark out the block for the piece and then start carving to replicate my designed clay model.

Dimitri working on an Alpha dining table

How important is having a workshop to this process and can you describe your space to us?

As having a workshop is relatively new to me, I’ve seen first hand the difference a dedicated workspace makes. It is a place where I can feel inspired, where I can design, prototype and test. My space changes to cater to different projects but has two distinct sides. Firstly, the factory side holds the machinery and storage space as well as a carving and building area. Connected to this is my showroom which is used to display the majority of my pieces and also has a dedicated area for photography.

Are there any pieces that you’ve made that are particularly special or that hold sentimental value to you?

Alpha is one of my first pieces that I carved out at the beginning of my journey in my garage and is a particularly special piece for me. Alpha not only started my free-flowing creative process, but also inspired me to explore the depths of sculptural practice. Alpha is essentially the forefather of my other known pieces such as Vikos, Morpheus and Willow.

Sustainability is something we think a lot about at Armadillo, can you tell us how your practice takes environmental impact into consideration?

The cornerstone of my practice is creating timeless pieces - core pieces that will adhere to longevity. In saying that, I am also mindful about the sourcing of my materials; recycling and reusing offcuts is a practice I try to implement in my work. A few of my sculptural pieces are built up from the off cuts of marble and timber, this allows me to create pieces that are sustainable and aesthetic.

How do you like to spend your time outside of the workshop?

When I can pry myself away from my workshop I always try to plan trips to break up my year. This gives me time to be inspired by being on a hike in the middle of nowhere or canyoning down a waterfall. Road trips with my nearest and dearest always create amazing memories whether it's just a quick weekend away or a whole week.

What are you most looking forward to for 2023?

There are a few things that I am looking forward to doing in 2023: Firstly, I have quite a few exciting projects that I’ll be working on at the start of the year. I’ll also be expanding my factory and machines to cater for larger projects and have a series of new ranges that I’m looking forward to introducing throughout the year. For me, 2023 is definitely the year of expansion.