Costantini: Argentinian Verve
Although he was born in New York City, William Stuart, founder of furniture design and manufacturing company Costantini, is a citizen of the world if there is such thing. While majoring in fine arts at Colgate University in upstate New York, the travel bug struck, and he took a year off to move to Paris. While he wasn’t in a formal design program in France, Stuart got his first taste of design education simply by walking the streets of Paris.
“When I came back to school I spent more time in the sculpture studio and from there I learned about casting metal, plaster, and the intersection of physical objects with video and photography,” says Stuart. “I wrote my senior thesis on Matthew Barney, who thrives at the intersection of film and sculpture.”
Following college, Stuart returned to Paris where he was able to travel throughout Europe and make a movie—a process that drove him to begin making things one can touch and interact with, rather than just ethereal work. A couple years later and his sister was studying in Buenos Aires and following a visit in 2001, Stuart was in love with the culture and craftsmanship of the country.
“They joke that Argentines speak like they’re Spanish, act like they’re French, but really they’re Italian,” says Stuart. “My mother’s side is Italian, and that’s where Costantini comes from, and some would say I fit right into that culture. Of course, I had to learn Spanish. The Argentines have their own dialect and if I’m in any other Spanish speaking country, the accent might fool them into thinking I’m a native speaker. For a minute or two at least.”
Stuart launched Costantini in 2002 with the objective of creating the finest furnishings and lighting hand-crafted in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Today they produce stunning collections of high-end furniture crafted from the highest quality materials, including cast bronze, Argentine Rosewood, burnished metal, mahogany, Jacaranda, and more.
“I’m obsessed with cast bronze and the solid woods that we source from northern Argentina.” he says. “The richness of grain paired with the scorched metal is such a beautiful contrast. Plus, you get a sense that ‘this will be (some)where forever’.”
Each piece is one-of-a-kind, as cast bronze is nearly impossible to replicate by hand and the black streaks in Argentine Rosewood form unique grain patterns that is referred to as ‘spider-webbing’ or ‘landscape’. Recently, Stuart has started working with parchment, or goat skin—another material that is virtually impossible to replicate.
“When working with any material, I love to understand its inherent properties and limitations, and find the sweet spot between the two,” says Stuart. “I’m a big fan of things looking like that they are, as opposed to faux finishes.”
This year at ICFF, Costantini planned to debut some custom work (they do lots), designed for longtime clients that gave them the privilege to create some particularly special pieces. When the global pandemic struck, Costantini turned their focus on prioritizing the health and safety of all artisans and designers they work with, while delivering the open orders they had at the time.
“As much as we are all adjusting to the new reality, I truly believe there is no substitute for seeing works in person, which is why I love ICFF and Salone del Mobile in Milan,” notes Stuart.
When New York went into lockdown, Stuart was on a ski trip out West, so he rented a house for three months nearby in Taos, New Mexico and quarantined there. And luckily, he found a way to find positives in his situation despite the circumstances.
“I was really taken with the color of the earth there which is so different from anywhere else, and the rock formations are awe inspiring,” he says. “I couldn’t help but think how little time each of us are here on this earth and to be grateful for each day. That ethos is a big part of a new series of works in plaster I am making that I look forward to sharing in person when that is possible again.”
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