Àngel Arbonès: ‘restoration is just the beginning and it is always directed towards something new’

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When Àngel Arbonès was a little boy his father gave him a wooden box to store his toys, but he used it as a toy itself instead. This may be the reason why the following sentence can be read in La Capsa de l’Àngel’s website today, many years later: ‘when a child finds a box and starts to play, that box becomes something magical and nobody is able to imagine what can come out of it’. This seems to be the philosophy of the toys, the small furniture and the decorative objects made bay Àngel. Everything he creates is handmade and affectionately made-to-measure.

What did come out of that box your father gave you when you were a little boy?

A lot of things, I guess. I realized many years later. In principle, a box is an empty thing where to save things, but when a child takes it in their hands imagination completely transforms it in a toy, in a house, in a car, in a spaceship… It can be whatever they want. That it is, in the end, we have to be capable of going far beyond without giving up and trying to see challenges instead of limits, even when it seems that nothing can be done.

Why are you so fascinated by the wood, maybe because your father was a carpenter?

I guess that my father being a carpenter had an influence in me: the shavings, the noisy machines always operating or some toys he made in his workshop. Anyway, to me wood is a fascinating material because of its variety of textures, colors, hardness… Every type of wood has to be worked in a different way, which gives its own personality to every object. Also, different craftsmen use different techniques, and the result will always be fine.

What sustainability items do you have in mind at work?

Just to start, taking good use of rejected materials or objects, which are given to me by clients and friends, is a good way to recycle. Also, I try to carry my projects out using woods that meet FSC forest management certifications. I use acrylic enamels and varnishes which are suitable for children as well.

Having worked in primary education in the past, has any influence in your toys?

I personally enjoyed it very much; it was a very enriching experience. During those years I learned to work slowly, without urgency, keeping always in mind the children’s safety. Being constantly surrounded by children forced me to rethink the way of doing things just to make them simpler. Any act, anything you do, no matter how simple it may seem, awakes children’s curiosity, especially in the littlest ones. I realized that usually most of the hand tools I used became dangerous gadgets because they could harm children. It was necessary to take into account some basic safety rules to make any piece of furniture or project for kids: type of wood, finish, shapes, etc.

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What is a good toy to you?

It has to be nice to parents, funny to children and long-lasting… That is why I like wood toys.

How do you get to make reality the furniture or the decorative objects designed or imagined by your customers?

First of all we talk, so that they can explain me their idea. Sometimes some people even show me their own outline. We talk about decoration, about what they like, their favorite colors, the style of the place where the object is supposed to be fitted… Then I do some scale sketches and I work with different options when necessary. Finally, we talk again and they choose what they like. At that point we set the budget that will let me get the project started.

What is the most strange or difficult object you have ever made?

Although I am not usually asked to make extreme objects, I remember I was once contacted to design a child play chair. Besides being a chair it also had to have hockey sticks, balls, beach rackets and ninepins attached to the seat… Also, it had to be completely detachable to make it easy to play, and in addition it had to be very bright colored just to catch little kids’ attention… I have to admit it was a bit complicated to me.

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We read the following sentence in your web site: ‘sometimes only a different color or a drawing is necessary to transform a boring object into a piece that means something to us’. Would you put an example please?

Yes, it is easy. It has to do with customizing projects. Every single piece I make is designed for one person in particularly. Therefore I have to find that person’s favorite colors and I have to know how to decorate it. For example, a simple squared smooth side wheeling box to store toys can become your personal box by painting your name in big red letters on it.

What about restoration? How important is it to you in your everyday work?

Restoring furniture is only a part of my job, as designing, cutting, assembling or varnishing are. It is necessary to make good use of some objects that people bring me to my workshop, because they want me to give a new life to the wood they are made of. In most projects, restoration is just the beginning and it is always directed towards something new.

Have you already given the wooden box to your kids? What happened?

Yes, my six year old son has its own wooden box, but he lives in a different time… I’ve seen him using it to store his tablet.

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