His laboured breathing while walking up the slope mingles with the sound of his cadenced footsteps leaving their prints on the path. Now and then a gust of wind ruffles the trees or birdsong pierces the air. These are all sounds that help him to think. One of his bootlaces has come slightly undone. Rolando stops, props his leg on the rock face next to him and tightens his lace. His foot needs to be protected and supported when taking each step, and his constant search for balance is not just mechanical, but also expresses his approach to the world. Walking in the mountains means a lot to Rolando, especially if the mountain in question has something to reveal. On this summer morning, the mountains that provide a solid base for Rolando’s body and spirit are the Dolomites, layers of rock like pages from a book that safeguard thousands of years of history, shifting earth and human evolution fused into pink on blue. Rolando has always loved mountains, as they remind him of Transylvania, his home country. Besides, if you have always been faced with vertical elements that eclipse the horizon, the urge to climb to the top to see what is beyond will certainly affect your decisions, as happened to Rolando. The fact that he chose an artistic career only confirms his tendency to be curious, constantly seeking what is beyond and driving forward. This approach has also characterized his attitude to life. There are no barriers for Rolando, but only challenges to be met providing alternative solutions, and his creativity is also a part of this, whether it is dealing with a rock wall, metal, or piece of briar wood. It is a way to put his skills to the test in order to find new ways to reach the top. While his hands are busy tying up his lace, Roland is dwelling precisely on this fact, and on the countless encounters with nature, despite the fact that he is now an established designer and teacher at the Parsons New School for Design in New York.
Before he sets off again, he decides to take his Titanium Conducta out of his pocket and continue to meditate. The vast landscape acts as the perfect backdrop for his ideas. In fact, he partly owes his manual skills to this constant affinity with the external and interior world, and the tobacco only serves to enhance this.
Things speak to him. They show how to get the most out of them. They reveal a hint of the trapped dream that acquires form and substance, thanks to him. His hands have shaped knives, perfume bottles, jewellery, objects and accessories. Then one day the wood asked him to make pipes as well. How can one refuse if it is nature itself that asks you? Since then pipes have become one with him, his family and have never been considered work. The fact that he gives names to them has brought them to life, as he quite rightly considers that these objects that have always played an important role in human rituals. “One should never forget that pipes contain the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. I try to see my pipes as receptacles where this alchemy is achieved.”
However, when he feels that the affinity between him and the wood is lacking in some way and the pipe no longer “talks” to him, there is only one way to get into touch with it – by reversing the situation. This means that Rolando tries to put himself into the hands of the mountain, by making himself small, submissive and having to adapt, so as to regain the right balance. This constant change of perspective helps him to identify the artistic potential of a small piece of wood, applying the utmost skill to achieve the best and thereby glimpse infinity.
According to Rolando, making pipes is rather like climbing, in that the same skills and strategies are applied. He interprets the briar wood grain and features to shape a pipe, decides what is best according to what nature expresses through the wood’s qualities and flaws, while pursuing a goal and his own aesthetic sense. Likewise, when climbing he seeks the most secure foothold, attaches the piton in the right place, overcoming the adversities on the rock face with one goal in mind: to reach the mountain top and gaze beyond. Sometimes other materials are used for his pipes, such as silver or silk, resulting in the Katana pipe, for example. It is precisely in this combination of different materials that aesthetics and function are best expressed and skillfully interpreted by Rolando.
Even though Rolando now lives in New York and the horizon is obscured by towering skyscrapers and not mountains, his affinity with the world is constant and he still needs change in perspective, so he continues to go walking in the Dolomites. Thus, each aspect of his talent finds a new place in matter and an exchange is set in motion. Rolando always tells his students that the only way to extract art out of matter is to listen to it.
Special thanks to Mr. Rolando Negoita for his precious contribution
Milan, February 2014