The Designer Behind the Designs
Image 1: Mauricio Aguirre
Writer: Esme Garner-Purkis
It was in the 1990’s after he noticed a aesthetic niche was missing in the Colombian design scene that really inspired Mauricio Aguirre to start his own furniture company. Since then, despite the natural transformation that occurs after years of experience and the kind of stylistic influence that living in New York has on a designer, it seems Mauricio’s fundamental approach remains candid. He pays a respect to the raw beauty of the materials and process’ he employs with a meticulous intent to create items that are an asset to their environment and through their simple beauty maintain a stylistic relevance. These articles explore Mauricio Aguirre’s perspective.
What brought you to the US 40 years ago?
I always wanted to explore another country and culture. It was in the 70’s when the hippie era was thriving in San Francisco that was what really inspired me to find a way to get to California. I discovered a major that was non existent in Colombia and that bared some relation to the farm that my father owned. This was the excuse that enabled me to study at San Luis Osibo before family commitments brought me back to Colombia after 3 ½ years. This experience motivated me to eventually return.
How did you end up selecting design as your career focus?
After returning to Colombia as the oldest of five I had to take care of the farm. I didn’t really like that but at the time I began getting into landscaping and built myself a greenhouse. I also enjoyed building furniture (Image 2 first chair Mauricio designed). It was in the process of opening a gas station that I found design was becoming focus. People said ‘your going to have to hire an architect to draw up plans of how everything will run’ but I built it myself and permits were approved. It was instinctual and enjoyable for me to work out everything, from the furniture in the working spaces to where the canopy and pumps would go. After this I started designing furniture and opened a store, that turned into three!
After you moved to New York and began designing here what was the stylistic difference Colombia?
The style is like night and day. Materials are different, the way you make pieces is different, the style is different, everything is different. It’s like two different worlds. It was interesting when I first came to see how different things were. It would have been more similar if I had moved to the South West. But here it is totally different. New York is not a good place to sell southwestern furniture. What I was making in Colombia had more of an earthy aesthetic. Here it is more European I would say. The main core style is more minimalist more clean.
What is it that is appealing about furniture design?
You can work to your own rules. You can think about whatever crazy idea you want. Some surprise you and others don’t work at all. It’s a functional art form. It’s like living like an artist. It’s not about the money, it’s about the rewarding process.
The creative fuel
What inspires you?
I just know that everyone has their own inspirations based on experiences and what you see when you look around. Sources of inspiration are difficult thing to pinpoint. I think that you have different moods. Throughout a week or month sometimes you feel a great desire to design a table or a credenza. It’s like waves, that goes away and something different comes. Why is this?- I don’t know. Maybe it was the meal that you had that day. There is not a certain formula.
How do you get out of a creative rut?
I think sometimes I get to the point where it’s far better to completely stop thinking about what I am trying to create. To do something different. And come back. That happens a lot. New York has a lot to offer as a distraction. I may go for a walk, exercise, go out to dinner - It doesn’t matter what it is, it just has to be unrelated.
What do you like about NY?
I love the city. The energy. I like the challenge. I don’t find it difficult but i find it challenging. You can find whatever you want here. I like to live an independent life and this is the perfect place to do that.
If you had a different career what would you be doing?
Travelling... *Chuckles. But that probably wouldn’t be an easy way to live. It would have to be related to design in someway. Perhaps Landscaping- I really liked having a greenhouse. I suppose in a way it’s very similar. Designing a garden. Or something like architecture. I like architecture a lot actually. I really don’t think I could do anything other than a creative or design based job.
What is your favourite material at the moment?
My main focus recently has been overtaken by the multifaceted nature of the cast bronze process. It is incredible the versatility of forms that can be manipulated, I have a great level of control over the texture, finish or shape and as a result this inspires a whole range of design opportunities.
Who is your favourite artist?
This is difficult. There is an unlimited number i feel inspired by and that list grows daily. If I had to select one I would say Richard Serra. His ability to create pieces that at first appear raw and minimalist yet when analyzed incorporate a great level of complexity. In case I’ve lost you… I love the way he plays with scale and how the magnitude of his pieces establish a subsequent dialogue within the space that they exist and with the people that interact with that.I admire his resourceful and innovative use of excess steel shavings which he uses to create bold paintings. He also sees the natural change of weather as an asset rather than destruction of his pieces.
What is a typical day of designing like?
I wake up generally very early, at around 5am. Sometimes I read the news, watch some videos or listen to music. I like to take the time to contemplate. It’s very relaxing. I love peaceful moments very much. Quietness gives me inspiration. I find that an idea can come unexpectedly like whilst you are staring at a plant.
So this is time before the rest of the city is awake and you have work to do?
For me at any point in the day it’s not like, oh, it’s time to go and work, so I have to go and get a pencil and start designing. What I do doesn’t feel like a job it’s more like a hobby. Work is a word that can mean many things. You feel like you have to do it you. Not because it feels pleasant doing it. Maybe that’s one of the reason i don’t like to being an employee. Running a business is liberating- you own 100% of your time.
What is it like working with you children?It has been a rewarding experience as they came into the company by their own will. It is very pleasing to have taught them all the knowledge I've acquired in the past years. It’s extremely different from working independently. I love to hear there feedback. Sometimes I agree sometimes I don’t agree. That happens with everyone. I think i'm a very independent person. I like working with them. They are completely honest with feedback. Sometimes I don’t agree but I let it go many times because I think the young blood is sometimes better than the old.
Do you have a set approach to each piece you create?
No. For example, sometimes I like to reverse my process and start by picking materials. I will select different points that pair nicely together and then begin to think of what will look good and function well with those pieces. I kind of like it that way. I have designed a few pieces like that- rather than going A B C I start with C B and then A.