ANTONIO RUSSO – OLIVE WOOD CREATIONS

Ebanist by passion, Antonio Russo, one evening long ago, began to carefully inspect an Olive tree. He wondered, what was in the soul of the wood and the artistry within it. He became consumed with what could be inside that one piece of wood. Thus began his career.

 Russo began to try and solve the questions in his mind. He invented invents tools and, ways to mold it.

Envisioning a new perspective Antonio,  transformed  the duckling into a swan

Abandoning the traditional wood “wire cutting” Russo per chance chose his own style of woodcutting creating a unique artistic marquetry. This wood cutting format, created the beautiful strips of wood with which the Antonio Russo designs are made. Frames for mirrors or other works continuously crafting masterpieces … Sonia Maritan

Before all else:  I have to say thank you! Thank you to Antonio Russo and those who appreciate him who spoke and showed his art so that today  we can find Antonio Russo almost everywhere. He loves sharing his passion for this extraordinary material.  SM

 Thus begins our dialogue, and so we put together word after word his story, a great story as it is talking about great  passion for what he does. I can imagine him working and understand for in its approach can deliver something special and certainly unique, and then we know that each piece of wood creates is something unique.

Since that night when  he holds in his  hands a piece of Olive tree, his life changes forever  and in a certain way, also the environment of  those around him.  People from Soleto, a small town in the Province of Lecce, is traditionally famous for its artisans who work with wood, wrought iron and other arts and Antonio Russo  is an influential son of this land.

I ask him first what his profession is and how born this immense love for the Olive Tree.

“I’m an ebanist! I have been so for more than 40 years but one particular night of seven years ago, by chance and fortunately, working on a furniture I was making with Olive tree wood and while I was throwing what was left in the fire of the chimney , I had literally  a kind of electrocution.

As I never liked to work with the Olive Tree wood ,  watching it while burning  I spotted and started staring the  head of that wood!  Well, I saw is  soul, and started thinking of all what could be hidden inside.

 The next morning, even though it was a Sunday, I went down to my lab and I started to experiment. I felt like a kid! I began to take the first steps and for good results  I assumed that I had to work in a way that  in all my life  I had never seen.  I had to invent new  tools because it is a wood that requires a unique way of working: it must be cut crosswise, while normally in woodworking the cut is horizontal. “

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 For this, staring at that wood Antonio Russo saw its heart and  while talking I can feel that emotion.

“My wife, whom I love very much, and my four children told me that I was going to remove the most important head of the wood. But it was not so. I just changed the way of working Olive wood. I know now that I have turned the duckling into a swan. “

As it often  happens for the best inventions, all takes place in a random manner;  certainly since that night his life is changed, but let’s  step back to discover the origins of Antonio Russo.

 “43 years ago I was working in Northern Italy, near Bergamo, Seriate, in a small workshop with six workers, as the owner, Romano Ventura, made handcrafted furniture for discos, furriers, various shops. Then one day he stopped making furniture to make crates! Ten days later I left that job and returned to my hometown here in Salento, Soleto, in the province of Lecce. I rented a small laboratory and begin to work both on fixtures and furniture.  I felt  strong and secure because of those three years in Seriate. I was able to start my own business and family. “

Now back in the middle of Olive trees field I ask Antonio how he works the wood to get different colors and drawings.

 “All the colors of my creations  are natural and finally painted with transparent. No chemical paint. All the beautiful colors, the shapes and drawings that come out in my works are the result of my pleasant patience for the time I it takes to match perfectly pieces together, choosing the best veining to me of that the olive tree created  over centuries. It cannot be mass produced, because each piece is unique and it is certainly a craft, because whatever I do I cannot predict the time I will need to finish! “.

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That is how Antonio Russo leaves the “Wire cutting” and almost randomly chooses the ” Cross cut “to get artistic marquetry, forms that arise from strips of wood that he cuts and then assembles.  I ask him whether he has abandoned other wood species.

“This way of working Olive wood can be adopted to any type of wood, but the beauty that gives the Olive, gives it:  Olive itself guides my hands following  its natural designs. It is the grain of the wood that goes a certain way during processing and you cannot estimate how much material it will take and how much you have to discard:  a frame that maybe I think can be done in two days may take  four days.  Also, combining it with other woods such as wenge and padouk, I can do wonderful things. The processing of the Olive,  although the work is short, is expensive and does not always counter the costs of my laboratory. However I keep going forward because I strongly believe in what I do. “

Then I query how Antonio will supply the Olive wood being that it is a protected tree .

 “There’ s very little  Olive wood on the market, but seven years ago, at the beginning of this story, when he was beginning the crisis and had guessed what could be done with Olive Tree, I bought a lot ‘of logs available at that time, took them to the sawmill so that still today  I have a good supply. “

I ask him what difficulties he has encountered he has encountered working with the Olive Tree are what are his secrets.

 “Working the Olive Tree is usually difficult, but how I work is even more complex.  As I said before, you must have passion and desire to create. I’m learning this new art, day after day: what I do now, a year ago I did not imagine that I could do. It is a constant learning process. My world is my laboratory, I dress every morning and, I anticipate creating something new and different. I’ll die happy in my lab, but in another 40 years. I have so much to do before!  Work is necessary for expenses. But what I do is wonderful. I hope all this won’t get lost”.

 I ask him if any of his four children was influenced by his huge passion.

“Granted I have not forced them, because I have always done what I wanted in my life and so they should! None has followed precisely my footsteps but Simone is a real artist with the passion for wood. He is a sculptor and, is far above me: his wood sculptures are real masterpieces and trust me, I do not say it because he is my son, but because  thousands before me  have said that!  (Www.simonerusso.it) He creates portals of churches! We have attended many exhibitions together, I framed his sculptures “.

Today Antonio Russo continues to work inlaid wood Olive making frames, tables and objects

only as chessboards or magnificent panels where imperfect Olive designs are combined with geometric shapes, and the in the laboratory of this unique ebanist , looks more likely a home-museum! Antonio keeps working and his character and the beautiful person he is very well known today throughout Italy and abroad. Certainly he will  leave an indelible memory  to the world!

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Antonio Russo designs are available worldwide.

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