Alirio Pinilla with his furniture

Meet Furniture Maker Alirio Pinilla, 2022 Student of the Year

Before enrolling on our Professional Furniture Making Course, Alirio Pinilla enjoyed a 14-year career in manufacturing. Deciding to take a break from the corporate world to pursue life as a furniture maker, he signed up to attend the Chippendale School of Furniture.

9-months on, Alirio received the coveted Student of the Year Award for his outstanding woodworking ability, dedication, and craftsmanship on the course.

We spoke to Alirio about his experience on the Professional Course, his approach to woodworking and what the future holds for his bespoke furniture business Pinali Furniture.

What inspired you to take up a career in furniture making?

In 2020 I felt the need to take a step back from my corporate career. I had worked on a few woodworking projects in 2006 and recalled the satisfaction I felt at transforming the wooden planks into pieces of furniture with my hands. I decided to enrol on the Professional Course at The Chippendale School of Furniture to see if I still felt this way, and fortunately, I did!

What was your best moment on the course?

The day I finished my first original piece of furniture. That bench made of beech and cherry, which I decided to name “Hope”, gave me a positive feeling about my future career in woodworking. I love that bench, it served as inspiration for my logo, and the best part is that a lovely family is taking it to their home in France.

Alirio’s bench ‘Hope’, is front right

Where do you find inspiration for your furniture designs?

I enjoy seeing and learning from the work of other makers and artists. It’s not just woodworkers, I also find inspiration in the amazing techniques used in metalwork, basketry, ceramics, sculpture and textiles, among others.

Since hearing the quote from Charles Eames “The details are not the details. They make the design”, it has become one of the principles of my design process.

What was the favourite piece you built at the Chippendale School?

This is a difficult question because each of them has a different meaning for me. However, I would choose the sideboard made of solid oak and rosewood veneer because it was the last piece I made and allowed me to put into practice all the experience I had gained from the previous projects.

The final product was almost identical to the original design, and during the exhibition I felt it was one of the most admired pieces in my collection, especially when I explained that the radial pattern of the rosewood was composed of 40 pieces of veneer cut and assembled by hand. I love it.

Alirio’s sideboard made of solid oak and rosewood veneer

How did it feel receiving the Student of The Year Award?

Hearing my name at the graduation ceremony and feeling the support of the people around me was a moment of absolute happiness, with the mix of smiles, hugs, and tears. There was also a sense of satisfaction because my goal when I started the course was to learn and enjoy as much as possible, and I did my best in both. 

Above all, there was a feeling of gratitude, because I couldn’t have made these pieces of furniture if I hadn’t been surrounded by these amazing people who made me feel at home in this beautiful country.

How would you describe Pinali Furniture?

I would like my business to reflect one of the most important beliefs I have: we do not need huge amounts of resources to enjoy a high quality of life, a peaceful lifestyle is what’s important.

That is why I offer products made with high technical standards, using raw materials sourced as locally as possible, and with a unique and timeless design. I express that in my business slogan: “Design and making of high-quality bespoke furniture to enjoy for a lifetime”.

What are your plans now that you have graduated?

My good fortune continues as I have found another cabinet maker living in the south of Chile, which I consider my second home, who is going to share his workshop with me – I feel it will be a great collaboration experience. There I plan to officially start my own business as a designer and maker of bespoke furniture.

Huge thanks to Alirio for contributing to this piece.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in woodworking? Take a look at our 30-week Professional Course to see how you too could become a fine furniture maker.

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