Story: An art to be learned

From nature’s whims to luxury articles

Near Lugano, in the workshop of the master turner, wood comes to life.

Waste wood from nearby gardens and forests are the basis for beautiful decorative items. Matthias Bachofen, Ticino’s only qualified woodturner, creates vases, pens and other artworks on his lathe and shares his enthusiasm for the craft in various courses.

THE CHARACTER

Matthias Bachofen, woodturner

Matthias Bachofen, woodturner
I don’t add colour to change them, but to emphasise what’s already in the wood.

It’s worth visiting just to see him at work: as Matthias, born in 1964, clamps the unassuming piece of wood into his lathe, spectators have a real visual treat in store. Shavings fly, the machine hums and the wood seems to come alive like an optical illusion: swaying, rippling, expanding and contracting at the same time – until after just a few minutes Bachofen reveals a perfectly formed object as he withdraws the tools of his artistry. A small spinning top with soft edges, a long, fine point and such precise symmetry it looks like it would never stop spinning.

THE COMPLETE STORY


Lamone, Lugano

Matthias’ workshop is all set up for groups with its 6-8 lathes. He’s also set up a small multimedia studio with four cameras in one corner for the regular online presentations he does. “They started during the pandemic, but I’ll carry on after it’s over”, says the craftsman. He’s well connected and has established himself internationally as an expert in his field. 

Bachofen originally comes from Winterthur and has lived in Ticino since 1990, where’s he’s always been the only qualified woodturner. At the beginning, he mainly produced knobs and legs for carpenters who came to him with designs. Although the work was lucrative, Matthias didn’t find it rewarding. However, the times changed and the demand for classic products fell as furniture began to be mass-produced. 

Lamone, Lugano
Lamone, Lugano

Bachofen began to concentrate on the artistry of his craft, something he’s sure was the right decision: “Now I make luxury articles, and that makes me really happy.” 

Lamone, Lugano
Pro tip
Aticrea:
with over 60 registered artisans, is a platform to enter the world of craftsmanship and see it through the eyes of the artist, thanks to a visit to the atelier.
At the Scuola di Scultura in Peccia, Maggia Valley, courses range from stone and wood sculpture to drawing and artistic modelling with plaster. All accompanied by the promise of an unforgettable holiday in a fairytale landscape.
Did you know that 3,500
years ago,
and perhaps more,
the trade of the
woodturner was born?
The earliest examples date
to the Etruscans.
Lamone, Lugano

His showroom adjoins the workshop in Lamone. A fruity, delicate scent mixes with the aroma of wood thanks to Bachofen’s wife Daniela who runs a tea and spice shop in the next room. The exhibition room is full of gorgeous, shiny and often colourful objects such as bowls, vases, boxes and candlesticks. He says he can bring out the natural tones in the wood. Adding gold rims is another of his specialities, but the varying patterns of natural origin are what really make each object truly unique.

Lamone, Lugano

The wood expert says he uses nature’s whims such as fungus, knots in the wood, or perhaps a yew branch split by water, when creating his masterpieces. Local gardeners are well aware of Bachofen’s preferences: “They bring the wood to me if there’s something unique about it.” The raw materials come from gardens, parks and forests nearby. Ash, sycamore, chestnut and beech, but also strawberry trees, olives or calycanthus, whatever comes along.

I only use very special wood for pens. Otherwise it’s just like any other pen.

Every wood has its own character and smell. Arolla pine, for example, has a very pleasant aroma, and is said to promote sleep. That’s why Bachofen has bags of the shavings ready for use in filling cushions. Bachofen then carefully takes down a few containers from the top shelf in his showroom. He tells us they’re full of local history: “They come from an old sycamore that used to stand in front of the town hall in Cadempino. 

Lamone, Lugano
Lamone, Lugano

When I heard the tree was going to be felled as part of some renovations, I made sure I’d get the wood.” Sustainability is very important to him.

Lamone, Lugano
Lamone, Lugano

Wood is considered a raw material with a special appeal. It is freely available, often even in your own garden, which is what Bachofen thinks might explain the increasing interest in his courses and online demonstrations. People from other disciplines also discover a new love for working with wood, while interest in woodturning is on the rise. His courses are popular among amateur artists looking for something special to do in their spare time. Everyone is welcome on his courses in Lamone, whether a beginner or expert, local or tourist. Matthias Bachofen has also organised impromptu courses upon request, something he loves doing. And if his enthusiasm is infectious, you might even invest a little in a lathe to carry on your new hobby at home. 

“The first day ends with making a spinning top.”

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