Although we focus on shoes every day, we’ve decided to spend a little time getting to know something about the surfaces we walk on, through an Italian designer whose specialty is wooden floors. For our 60 Minutes with column, we met with Carlo Apollo at his studio. “Art is for other people” ― he says ― but this looks very much like art to us.
Hi Carlo, tell us a little about yourself
I am not an artist, artists are others, I am someone who dares, I am brave. Working in the world of design means being able to give beauty back to the places we work in.
I always carry in my memory and in my heart the first time I went to the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. It might have been my age at the time or the mood of the period, but everything started from that moment: the floors in the Basilica influenced everything I do.
And where does your inspiration come from nowadays?
My inspiration comes from the organic and simple evolution of my life on a personal and professional level. I’ve come to do what I do by chance. I found myself working amidst beauty, with some masters who enthusiastically got me involved in this field; I kept on doing what I saw other people doing, what I was interested in doing, always with joy and curiosity.
It comes from the attraction to complicated things, things that are considered hard to make from other people’s point of view. I have a very low perception of complexity, which allowed me to create some things that others can’t. My philosophy is that of giving back dreams to those who have stopped dreaming; so I navigate in this parallel universe which is the world of possibilities.
I like to think at all times that I’m working on something timeless, I try to give value to investments ― from simple things to those much more complicated ― my pieces have an evergreen value to them.
Is it important to you to create things that are beautiful?
Even the simplest of things hide infinite beauty. It’s a peculiar circularity: I’ve been working in this field for 40 years and in the constant craving for innovation, for improvement, I’ve always found myself going back to the beginning eventually. Beauty lies in simplicity, and especially in things that are handmade. In these things, imperfection is a character, not a flaw.
Which piece in the collection speaks to you the most?
My favorites are those that I worked on while with my closest friends and collaborators strongly in mind. There is a piece that replicates a ceramic floor, typical of Campania, which I dedicated to my master: Mario Di Donato, who was from Cava dei Tirreni.
There have been some elements of floors I’ve made which brought a lot of satisfaction long after their actual creation. Often times, having people understand the beauty within certain pieces brings back the pleasure of having created them, but they’re all my children in a way and I can’t choose between them.
What’s the most bizarre floor you’ve been asked to create?
I was once commissioned to make a Mexican inspired wooden floor. We took images and motifs from Mexican folklore and typical ceramics and replicated them in wood. Every client is unique and thus they must always be the center of my attention.
What it’s like being a wood designer today?
Nowadays, we tend to consider design when we see things we don’t understand, meaning that when you see something and you don’t know what the hell it is then it’s necessarily a piece of design.
I make the perceivable design, understandable, where functionality meets beauty. Being in contact with something wonderful is surely better than being in contact with something merely functional or just colorful.
In your field, and in Milan, it’s of the utmost importance to take part in the Fuorisalone. How did it go this year?
I’ve made two main installations in Milan, one in the new district of Nolo, which I believe will flourish in the next few years. Normally people are fascinated by my floors and they often ask for a chance to walk on them. And I always say yes, that’s what they’re made for.
What does the future hold for you?
I can’t say. Our future is strictly related to the market and the chance this has to grow, meaning that if requests for beautiful and unique things increase, the better the chances that career like mine can flourish.
Some wonderful things can’t be improved, and thinking you can improve them is just arrogant. But it’s completely necessary to look the past for inspiration, thus making contemporary things based on certain influences, it’s pure avant-garde.