Vitto Oles’ great-grandfather was a cooper and wheelwright. His grandfather made timber skis in Poland and was also a furniture maker who exported to America in the 1930s. But Vitto learnt about working with wood in Argentina from his father ... a carpintero … and studied design at art school. In Argentina, a carpintero made everything for a house … windows, doors, parquetry flooring, timber panels ... as well as all the furniture.
I learnt to work with wood the old-fashioned way … it’s a family tradition.
In 1980, Vitto migrated to Australia. He found that there was a lot of work for cabinet makers, but that cabinet making was a much narrower field than he was used to. A lot was new to me ... I had never used white board, a staple gun or an edge bander ... but the work was mainly laminex kitchens. In the 1980s, a cabinet maker's work in Australia was very different from that of a carpintero in Argentina!
After a year in the kitchen industry, he and his brother started their own business specialising in designer kitchens and shop fitting, but he was passionate about designing and making furniture out of Australian timbers.
I had discovered the unique timbers of Australia, and used them to make one-off pieces of furniture for private commissions ... but I wasn't sure that there was really a market for individually designed and made furniture.
I was excited by the simple designs that evolved out of jarra, huon pine, redgum and blackwood. When I found other Australian designer makers, they encouraged me to continue designing and making what I hope will become Australia's antiques of the future. There is a market for our work among people who appreciate quality and individualised service.