Fernando Setien sings the praises of Mid Century Design.
As a child, Fernando, very unusually, made some of his own toys. He liked to work with wood & would create small furniture just for fun. As an adult, he then stumbled across miniatures scene & realised there was a whole world out there of people with his passion for tiny things. This was when he started to improve his work to see if he was able to reach the level of some craftspeople he admired.
Fernando was trained as a cabinetmaker in Bilbao, where he mainly worked on repairing & restoring furniture & even worked on the infamous unfinished Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona. These skills, along with his natural ability to analyze details & his incredible patience enabled him to make the transition to miniaturist, where he now concentrates on the style of furniture that he loves.
Inspired by some great 20th century industrial design, Fernando loves mid-century modern furniture because of the converging it was functional, ergonomic and had less ornamentation than previous eras, but was still made with high quality materials & great design.
He especially admires the work of the furniture designer Hans Wegner, but also loves discovering the designs of other less well-known designers such as Silvio Cavatorta, Robin Day, Luisa Parisi.
I strongly believe that good design is eternal and that some of the pieces I make could be placed in many different scenarios. As Yves Saint Laurent said “Fashions fade, style is eternal”.
Fernando is also inspired by architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Gerrit Rietveld, Alvar Aalto, Antoni de Moragas, Norman Foster, etc. He will sometimes go and visit buildings in Barcelona, even if they are not open to he public. He will sneak in to visit the lobbies & learn from their design.
Fernando believes that realism is the key to good miniatures. He spends time choosing exactly the right piece of wood to make sure the grain is a match to the real size piece. Modern furniture is also generally quite thin, therefore, when trying to miniaturize them, he sometimes has to work with almost impossible thicknesses. There is one piece that alludes him – The Superleggera chair by Gio Ponti. When converting it to 1:12 scale the legs seemed to disappear, as they should be less than 1mm thick. Even if he managed to make this chair, it would be too fragile but maybe one day he will, just for him.
Working out of an old leather factory that houses other artists and craftspeople is a great place to work. Fernando finds himself influenced by this artistic and creative atmosphere.
The work of a miniaturist is usually quite lonely, as you spend so much time in your workshop on your own. In my case, working at this factory, I can always find someone interesting to chat with or to share a coffee or a beer.
Fernando may be an incredible craftsman, but he is not a businessman, so without the assistance of Susana, the other half of the team, it would have been impossible for him to do what he loves. There are so many things to manage: invoices and taxes, creating their online shop, taking part in international shows (with everything that they involve), social media, photo shooting. They are a good team & it has worked out well. It is a full time job for him now & when he decided to step forward and make miniatures his business, the quality of his work increased.
The longer I was at my bench, the better my craftsmanship became and I expect to keep on improving, as there is still a long way to reach the level of some of my favourite miniaturists.
One of the things that makes Fernando’s work unique is the technique he has invented to steam-bend wood in miniature. It took him many attempts and was a trial and error process. To design and produce the right moulds for the pieces to bend is very complicated. It requires a very specific way of thinking and usually needs several moulds before obtaining the perfect piece, matching all the curves to the right degree.
Seeing Fernando’s work you cannot deny the quality & craftsmanship it takes to produce these beautiful pieces of design in miniature. Most dolls houses are stuck in the 18th & 19th Century, but I say it is time to look forward (well to the 20th Century anyway) & embrace mid century design in our dolls houses.