Andriy Varenytsia: "Our Ukraine is an untilled field". How to revive the forgotten art of furniture making in our native land

Currently, such not-so-popular professions as carpentry, carving, and cabinetmaking are experiencing a wave of revival in our country. We were convinced of this in a conversation with Andriy Varenytsia, the founder of Varenycia Manufacture, a Lviv-based furniture and carpentry factory. He is convinced that we are in no way inferior to foreign manufacturers, and that the craft of furniture creation has found its place in the modern Ukrainian market.

Lviv has an original furniture factory called Varenycia Manufacture, which was founded in 2010. Andrii Varenytsia, a carpenter and furniture designer by profession. The company specializes in complex individual orders, i.e. the production of furniture for a specific project. The 850-square-meter production facility employs 25 first-class specialists. The company is constantly expanding and building new workshops. In May, they completely rebuilt the showroom, which is always open to architects and designers and their clients. This is a real manufactory in the classical sense, because it uses mostly manual labor in combination with the best modern robotic equipment and advanced technologies. In addition to cabinet furniture, they also produce various joinery products, including doors, panels, decorative panels, beams, and stairs. Less than a year ago, the company launched mass production. The first "swallow" was a series of DUB dining tables and chairs under the separate Varenycia brand. By the way, although the factory works mainly in a modern direction, its craftsmen are involved in the restoration of national architectural heritage.

Andriy Varenytsia, founder of the Lviv-based furniture and joinery manufactory Varenycia Manufacture

We wondered how today in Ukraine it is possible to create not just a competitive full-cycle furniture production with its own design bureau, but also to have a number of completed orders in the best cities in Europe - from Vienna and Graz to Madrid, Krakow and Istanbul. He even managed to open a branch of his company in Poland. Our curiosity was fully satisfied by the owner of the company, Andrii Varenytsia.

PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA: Have you always wanted to create furniture or did you have other dreams? By the way, where did you get your education?

Andrii Varenytsia: It all started in my childhood, when my parents tried to force us into the house to read or draw. I was not very good with books, so the choice was obvious. I would look out the window and draw what I saw: ordinary trees, houses, fences. And interestingly, I always drew cabinets, tables, chairs, and other elements of furniture through the windows in those houses. Apparently, this is what inspired me to go to an art vocational school after graduation, where I got a degree in carpentry, and then to get a degree in furniture design at the National Forestry University of Ukraine in Lviv.

During our studies, we often visited local industry exhibitions, went to domestic factories where we studied various structural elements of furniture, for example, the Yavoriv Furniture Plant, the Stryi Furniture Plant, and the Ivano-Frankivsk Furniture Plant, which at one time manufactured a lot of products for the entire Soviet Union and beyond. By the way, it was at this plant that we did our internship and spent a lot of time learning about the technical aspects of the profession. Later, when we set up our own production facility, Varenycia Manufacture, we started traveling abroad, particularly to Italy: to exhibitions in Milan and large production factories such as Minotti, Arca, and others. Each of these trips was very inspiring, and I kept asking myself: why can't we do the same, or even better, here? The Italians are so patriotic about their product and their country that after an hour of communication with them, this stormy energy is so positively charged that you immediately want to run home and do something similar here, because it is simply impossible otherwise. That is, those emotions make you feel that you have no right to sit idly by.

Fragment of the DUB series dining table by Varenycia, oak, design by Andriy Varenytsia

PM: Tell us how the Varenycia brand was born. How long has it been around?

А. В.: During my studies, I had the opportunity to work in my field of study in my spare time at some companies, gaining the necessary experience. That's when I realized that I liked to create something with my own hands, to make various adjustments to the projects that came to us ready-made: to make them better, more constructive, more perfect. When I decided to start my own business, I worked in a garage at first, and then I got my first employee. It was hard, because this is the period when you don't know whether you need an assistant or whether it's better to do everything yourself. Later, more employees were added, then we changed the premises to a large one, started buying equipment, and improving the product itself. We started with laminated chipboard, and when we moved to a larger area, we started using veneered chipboard, and mastered painting, varnishing, and other technologies.

So, 11 years ago, Varenycia Manufacture, a furniture and joinery factory, was founded, where we fulfill individual complex orders. And last year we decided to launch our own series of interior items under the Varenycia brand. Therefore, we have been in the furniture industry for a long time, and in mass production for less than a year. We create furniture in Lviv and assemble it in Ukraine, Austria, Spain, Poland, Turkey, France, and Germany. We even opened a subsidiary in Warsaw. A large percentage of the production process is manual labor, which we combine with the use of robotic machines and innovative technologies, and our production area is currently 850 square meters.

"Perhaps not everyone will understand, but I will say this: the period of crisis we are currently experiencing is to our advantage."

P.M.: Don't you think that we are significantly inferior to Western manufacturers in this area? The same Italians, who have vast experience.

А. В.: Of course, in Italy, the art of creating furniture has been shaped for centuries and has even become a national industry known all over the world, and the secrets of the craft are passed down from great-grandfathers. But in our country, this business has long existed. The big problem is that during the collapse of the Soviet Union, many people who had talent did not know where to go and how to survive, so they decided to go abroad and work for the "master." For them, it turned out to be much easier than popularizing what they knew and what they had. That's why, of course, the demand for the services of domestic masters fell for some time, but now there are many people, even my friends, who work well in this field. Accordingly, they are constantly improving their skills: if they started with classic models, they are now modernizing their products.

Perhaps not everyone will understand, but I will say the following: the period of crisis we are currently experiencing is to our advantage. For example, the fact that it has become difficult to import something from abroad encourages customers to trust Ukrainian manufacturers more. Those who are not ashamed of what they produce and know how to sell it properly are now, as they say, "on a horse." The biggest disadvantage of many of our producers is that they are to some extent ashamed of what they do because they think that they can do it better abroad, so they don't really believe in their business, in their ability to do it. But I have repeatedly visited large factories in other countries. The things they produce may be much more expensive than ours, but the quality, approach, and processes are the same. They just have faith in their product and much more patriotism.

PM: Do you remember the first piece of furniture that made an impression on you? What exactly was it? What did it look like?

А. V.: Oh, yes! This moment will remain in my memory forever. It was a birthday celebration for a childhood friend, and it turned out that there were not enough chairs at the table. That was the first time I saw a terrace folding chair that my friend had taken out of the pantry and unfolded with a simple one-handed movement. I was extremely impressed!

Andrii Varenytsia in the workshop of Varenycia Manufacture

P.M.: Antonio Citterio, Carlo Molino, Mies van der Rohe, Ray and Charles Eames, Jean-Marie Massaud - which of the outstanding (or not so famous) designers is a certain authority for you? Whose views on creativity and the profession do you share?

А. В.: I really like what Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Michael Tonet, Charles and Ray Eames, Le Corbusier did... Everyone has something to learn from. For example, Mies did not have a profession of an architect at all, he is a self-taught specialist. This is a man who created products that are still relevant today. Such things are very inspiring. Especially the fact that they can still be seen in different interiors, and they are even passed down from one generation of the owner's family to the next. Another example is the German Thonet factory, the heir to the inventor of Viennese furniture, Michael Thonet. If you visit famous exhibitions, say, in Milan or Cologne, you can see that this is the coolest furniture. They really believe in what they do, they respect themselves as specialists. When you see that people keep your product for years and leave it for their descendants, you don't need more inspiration. And why are we worse? Let's take the Ukrainian market: I always tell everyone: our Ukraine is an untilled field. Whatever you touch, whatever you start doing, you can do anything! Because we are a blank slate. We still don't have the history that our neighbors have. I want to say that if our Ukrainian product has a little taste and good proportions, it will be in demand and create a good image for the country.

Large dining table and chairs of the DUB series by Varenycia, all in oak, designed by Andriy Varenytsia

P.M.: Describe the creative process of creating branded items. Where does inspiration and images come from? What exactly do you need for creativity, a creative mood? How exactly do you develop a particular model?

А. В.: We at Varenycia Manufacture have created countless interior items over the past 11 years. I admit that we have also ordered replicas of furniture from famous brands. These projects taught me to "see" in a creative way. And the combination of education as a carpenter and furniture designer, multiplied by an irresistible desire to create a Ukrainian product, left no chance to stay away from the creative movement. Ideas are constantly in the air, and I try to "catch" them with a pencil every day. Then, of course, we analyze the market, look for a shape, calculate the numbers and make prototypes, test it all in our branded showroom and put it into production. I am very lucky to have a team.

PM: The DUB series of your Varenycia brand is made of solid oak. Do you work only with wood? How is the selection of raw materials done? Where does it come from? Who is involved in processing? What other stages does the production of the brand's furniture include? How many other people are involved in the process?

А. В.: The DUB series is made exclusively from natural materials. We have a large network of suppliers of Ukrainian wood from different regions, such as Zakarpattia, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr and other places. We do this in the following way: when we need a certain amount of a certain raw material, we ask our suppliers who has it available at a particular time and order it. We do all the processing ourselves, which allows us to keep the bar high at all stages of production, including veneering, sanding, varnishing, and carpentry. In total, 8 craftsmen work on Varenycia products.

"Ideas are always in the air, and I try to catch them with a pencil every day."

Chair from the DUB series by Varenycia

A large part of the production of furniture and the manufacture of carpentry elements of Varenycia Manufacture is manual labor

P.M.: How did the DUB series come about? What was the impetus for its birth? In your opinion, for whom was it created?

А. В.: DUB is a family of objects with a unique silhouette made of solid oak, which includes a round table, a dining table and a chair. It came about by accident - while working on another of our products, the Prosta serial modular kitchen, which is assembled like a construction set and manufactured in three days. When we created it and tried to present it properly in the showroom, we realized that this kitchen was missing something. It is modern and minimalist, so we were looking for an item, such as a dining table, that would fit perfectly. We started with ready-made models from Ukrainian manufacturers. We looked at a lot of them, but they didn't suit us either in terms of design or quality. We started looking at foreign manufacturers, mainly Austrian and German. We found the right ones, but it was financially unprofitable. Then we sat down and sketched out some designs, and they were good! That's how we came up with the idea to create our own tables, which now perfectly emphasize our kitchen.

We have a team of designers who develop solutions for complex objects. So when I have an idea for an interesting serial product, I write it down, then we gather a small board, sit down together, and someone suggests something, someone starts drawing the details of the components, and someone starts making calculations. Then we create a prototype in the workshop, discuss it, and when we are satisfied with everything, we put it into production. That's how we started working on the DUB series, which later grew into a separate direction, a brand. It will appeal to both rationalists who value function above all else and people who are always guided by intuition.

Round oak table and chair of the DUB series by Varenycia

PM: Do you see the mission of your brand as making modern lifestyle more accessible by rethinking the creation of furniture? In your opinion, how should this be expressed?

А. В.: We are fans of simplicity. We understand not only the functionality and design of interior items, but also all the processes of turning an idea into reality, from sketch to final product. We simply do not have a link between the designer and the manufacturer. This gives us a unique opportunity to feel all the nuances at our fingertips and preserve the simplicity that we put into our series so that it can become a part of our customer's life.

Varenycia Manufacture is a good example of a well-known thesis: "Fewer words - more action". Every day, they literally work with their own hands to produce a product that can adequately represent our country in the European market, at the best industry exhibitions in the world, and one that fulfills the super-task of creating an authentic made-in-Ukraine brand. We can say without unnecessary pathos that the presence of such a production facility in Ukraine was a pleasant discovery and a source of pride for us.


/The material was published on pages #31 of the PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA volume/.