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CUSTODIANS OF EXCELLENCE Profoundly moving and surprising objects are born from the magical encounter of tradition, creativity and passion: they represent the immortal legacy of the Métiers d’Art
One of the most fascinating aspects of the “Métiers d’Art” is that they instil such a sense of eternity. They have travelled through centuries and continue to astonish us with their modernity. It is this lastingness and this fragility that inspire us to promote these crafts, to exalt their image and champion their cause at the heart of contemporary creation. Craftsmen, along with artists and designers, are the custodians of excellence. They hold the key to time. Each in their own way, each in their field, they give form to matter, fashion their work with continual gestures, revisit the past, sometimes perpetuating a technique, at other times embracing creation. Some confound expectations and lead us deeper into wonderment. They enchant the everyday.
Continuing this culture of openness, and as part of its 260th anniversary celebrations, Vacheron Constantin has called on a pre-eminent master engraver and invited him to capture time in a work of exceptional beauty. Thus Gérard Desquand has crafted a gold cylinder seal engraved with 24 symbols. A legacy of the most ancient civilisations, our secrets are held within… Turn these pages and you will discover this sumptuous imprint of time.
Spirit, passion, tradition, creativity… this is where Vacheron Constantin has made its home, uninterrupted, for more than two and a half centuries. Our Manufacture - the oldest in the world - takes down barriers between disciplines so they might freely merge into magical encounters, and thus transform time into profoundly moving and surprising objects.
It is my equally great pleasure to share other creations here, with you, such as the resplendent embroideries of Cecilia Piacitelli Roger, the exquisitely crafted violins of Gio Batta Morassi, or the latest Reuge music boxes that will fill you with the sounds that have rung out in Sainte-Croix since 1865... And so I shall leave you to discover these and other splendours made possible by the “Métiers d’Art”. Our recognition of these messengers and makers of beauty, and our enthusiasm for their work is such that we shall never cease to make their talent shine. I wish you a pleasant read.
*CEO Vacheron Constantin
IN SEARCH OF 010 – THE LAST FUTURIST EXHIBITION OF PAINTING 4. 10. 2015 – 10. 1. 2016 BLACK SUN 4. 10. 2015 – 10. 1. 2016 JEAN DUBUFFET 31. 1. – 8. 5. 2016 ALEXANDER CALDER AND FISCHLI / WEISS 29. 5. – 4. 9. 2016 DER BLAUE REITER 3. 9. 2016 – 15. 1. 2017
FONDATION BEYELER www.fondationbeyeler.ch
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Foto: Mark Niedermann
RONI HORN 2. 10. 2016 – 17. 1. 2017
E d i t o r ’s l e t t e r
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BACK TO THE CONTEMPORARY PAST Writing about the métiers d’art is like returning to the origins: a Family Pact in which the true values of life and work are bequeathed Those who know me know that this magazine is very important to me. It takes me back to the past, and precisely to the 18th of September, 1969, when I took on my first job as a typesetter. I placed sort after sort from the Rossi or the French type case on the composing stick to form the line of text, sandwiched between 6-point or 12-point slugs. Then I assembled the pages into forms, inked them with a roller and printed the first draft on a small screw press. In June 2010, when the first number of Arts & Crafts & Design was issued, it was like going back to the roots, grasping the true value of life and work. The art of craftsmanship is one of Italy’s universally recognised points of excellence. Alongside our immense artistic and cultural heritage, these excellences contribute “to the ornament of the State, the benefit of the People and to attracting the curiosity of Foreigners, ” as Anna Maria Luisa, last in the grand ducal line of the De’ Medici family, wrote in her famous Family Pact. However, we often forget about this immeasurable wealth and fail to emphasise its value, to promote it, to take care of it.
project also encompasses the creation of the portal www.italia-sumisura.it, supported by ACRI (the Association of Italian Banking Foundations and Savings Banks). The portal already features 300 workshops and ateliers, scattered throughout Italy, that carry on the great legacy and enormous wealth of our métiers d’art. These workshops preserve the passion for scouting a prized fabric or wood and the accuracy in crafting them, together with the taste for handmade products that, in their possessing the prerogative of uniqueness, demand time and patience. I would like you to note that the website does not give any commercial information about these workshops, nor is it a vehicle for e-commerce. And this speaks volumes on the noble objective of this initiative, which is intended to have an exclusively cultural purpose.
I have always paid attention to details and I like to think of my editorial office as an artisan’s workshop where every image, every headline, every caption is meticulously stitched together with the article, like a tailor-made suit. Being fully aware of the great legacy of manual skill and creativity that we can and must recount in this magazine, I have always defended artisanal knowhow, recalling when I took my first steps in the world of work, getting my hands dirty as a typesetter. So today I am overjoyed that the OMA (Osservatorio dei Mestieri d’Arte) and the Cologni Foundation for the Métiers d’Art with the support of Vacheron Constantin have given birth to Italia su misura, a guide dedicated exclusively to Italy’s craftsmanship of excellence. A wealth that, in my own small way, over the years I have tried to narrate in my magazines. This wide-ranging and meaningful
Vacheron Constantin represents a shining example of a company that has committed its entire existence to the métiers d ’art, transforming engineering into an art. The cover of this issue could thus only be dedicated to the marvellous and unique golden cylinder seal that Gérard Desquand crafted in collaboration with the Geneva watchmaker to celebrate its 260th anniversary. The Parisian heraldic engraver has carved 24 extraordinary symbols on this masterpiece of fine goldsmithing, each one dedicated to an achievement or distinctive feature of the maison. Twenty-four was also the age of Jean-Marc Vacheron when he set out on his memorable adventure. Between 1755 and 1900, he and his heirs brought the culture of time to the world, in the truest sense of the word. Starting out from Geneva, in the days when every departure represented the bold beginning of a pioneering exploration, they travelled 60,000 kilometres, one and a half times the circumference of the earth. While the master dexterously removes infinitesimal quantities of gold with the tip of his burin, his every gesture reveals perfect mastery of the tool, putting a seal upon eternity.
Celebrating design ETHICALLY MINDED by Ugo La Pietra
Outstanding skills for god and the king by Alberto Cavalli
Family workshops EXACT ART by Mariagabriella Rinaldi
Maîtres d’art VIOLINIS CAUSA by Paola Carlomagno
Heritage preserved ON THE WINGS OF INNOVATION by Shannon Guo
Minute decorations IMPRINT OF TIME by Alberto Cavalli
Craftsmanship on stage A SUITING JOB by Susanna Pozzoli
Temples of savoir-faire THE QUALITY CLUB by Simona Cesana
ARTS & CRAFTS & DESIGN
An exquisite cylinder seal celebrates 260 years of Vacheron Constantin: 24 symbols engraved in gold by French master Gérard Desquand
C RA F T I NG E T E R N I T Y S I N C E 1 755 260 years of continuous history is reflected in the Harmony Collection. A new legacy has dawned.
Reuge is the last home of music boxes at Sainte-Croix, Switzerland
HARMONY CH RO N O G R A P H
Geneva official watchmaking certification
A noble skill survives at the Dovecot Tapestry Studio. Right in the heart of Edinburgh
Theatre masks: a cultural expression developed by the Italian Sartori family
On the cover, the golden cylinder seal engraved by Parisian master Gérard Desquand, interpreting 260 years of Vacheron Constantin’s history.
by Juan-Carlos Torres
CUSTODIANS OF EXCELLENCE Artisans Books Awards Initiatives Fairs Shows ALBUM by Stefania Montani
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Cathedrals of culture SPIRIT OF DESIGN by Silvana Annicchiarico Transmitting knowhow THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MEDAL by Alberto Gerosa Discovering talents TRACES OF RENAISSANCE by Giovanna Marchello Crafting with style IN THE THREADS OF TAPESTRY by Akemi Okumura Roy Local traditions THE MELODY OF MEMORY by Alberto Gerosa Enterprises THE VIRTUE OF NECESSITY by Ali Filippini Italy’s finest ateliers A NATIONAL HERITAGE by Alessandra de Nitto Contemporary creators A TREASURE IN HER HANDS by Alessandra de Nitto Unexpected collections THE ROAD OF CERAMICS by Riccardo Zelatore
Opinions 11 18
Editor’s letter by Franz Botré BACK TO THE CONTEMPORARY PAST
Made in art by Ugo La Pietra A SENSE OF THE SACRED THAT HAS BEEN LOST
Historical thought by Maurizio Dallocchio and Matteo Vizzaccaro NEW CHALLENGES FOR THE BUILDERS OF VALUE Re-turn by Franco Cologni LET BEAUTY NOT BE AN ALIBI
To bear witness to forgotten peoples Two surveys and two publications per year
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ARTISANS OF THE WORD SUSANNA POZZOLI
A photographer with an international experience of residences, long stays and prestigious shows, she consecrates herself to the study and recollection of stories and places told with a personal style. Her projects evoke precious hidden realities with grace. Photography is the tool of her in-depth artistic research.
After managing communication for major luxury brands, she left Tokyo and her native Japan to follow her husband, an English photographer, to London, where she is a correspondent for many Japanese media.
As an architect, she is involved in the fields of research, criticism and teaching. Since 2007 she is the Director of Triennale Design Museum. She is member of the Scientific Committee of La Triennale di Milano for Design, Manufacturing and Handicraft. Currently she collaborates with several newspapers and magazines.
He earned a degree in Aesthetics from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He now teaches Russian literature at the University of Vienna. A professional journalist, he was editor-in-chief of the art periodical Goya and now contributes to magazines specialised in writing instruments and timepieces, including Penna.
A journalist, she has published two guides to Milan’s artisan ateliers, and a guide to the artisan ateliers of Turin. She was awarded the Gabriele Lanfredini prize by Milan’s Chamber of Commerce for her contribution to raising awareness of culture and craftsmanship.
She is the founder, co-owner and curator of the twocities gallery in Shanghai, specialised in contemporary crafts. She is also executive director of the Shanghai Industrial Designers Association and vice director of the Shanghai Jewelry Design Association.
ARTS & CRAFTS & DESIGN Half-yearly – Year IV – Volume 7 December 2015 Editor in Chief and Publisher: Franz Botré Editor at Large: Franco Cologni Creative Director: Ugo La Pietra Deputy managing editor: Andrea Bertuzzi Art Director: Francesca Tedoldi
AKEMI OKUMURA ROY
Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte Director: Alberto Cavalli Editorial Director: Alessandra de Nitto General Organisation: Susanna Ardigò Contributors to this issue: Texts: Silvana Annicchiarico, Paola Carlomagno, Simona Cesana, Maurizio Dallocchio, Ali Filippini, Alberto Gerosa, Shannon Guo, Giovanna Marchello, Stefania Montani, Akemi Okumura Roy, Susanna Pozzoli, Mariagabriella Rinaldi, Matteo Vizzaccaro, Riccardo Zelatore
He graduated in design from Venice’s IUAV University with a thesis on the history of exhibiting from the perspective of goods and culture. He cooperates with trade magazines, combining journalism and publishing with his work as lecturer and curator.
With a background in humanities and a passion for contemporary art, she follows the international art market and photography in particular. Daughter of the designer Gastone Rinaldi, she often contributes to art journals, selecting and editing exhibition reviews on new trends, design and applied arts.
Having completed her studies in piano and experimental composition in musicology, she is Scientific Secretary of the Museo del Violino in Cremona. She has taught History of music, History and technology of musical instruments, Treatise and performance practice at various music conservatories.
Grown up in an international environment, spacing from Japan to Finland and Italy, she is a lover of English literature. She lives in Milan, where she has worked in the fashion business for 20 years, specialising in licensing.
Translations: Language Consulting Congressi Revision and text adaptation: Giovanna Marchello Images: Enrico Fiorese, Dario Garofalo, Mauro Magliani, Giuseppe Millaci, Maria Teresa Musca, Lawrence Mynott, Susanna Pozzoli, Sarah Sartori, Colin Roy, Emanuele Zamponi Arts & Crafts & Design is a project by Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte Via Lovanio, 5 – 20121 Milan © Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte. All rights reserved.
Original manuscripts and photos will not be returned, even if unpublished. Texts and images cannot be reproduced, even partially.
Half-yearly magazine by SWAN GROUP srl
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Today, artistic crafts face three challenges visibility, understanding and heritage. Moreover these “savoir-faire” become “rare” or even “orphan” when there is no dedicated educational program and the transmission of know-how is only done between the Master and his / her apprentice. In April 2012, Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watch manufacturer of fine watches, launched Cercle 250, an initiative that strives to support and promotes the expertise of this exceptional know-how in order to protect them from extinction and oblivion. Cercle 250 is an association of corporate patrons with over 250 years of continuous activity to their name. Its mission is to encourage and promote the values of excellence and commitment to manual skill through an Annual Project. The Annual Project will celebrate the excellence of one or more Artistic Masters through the renaissance of a material or immaterial culture heritage. An example of an immaterial heritage can be the skills used by a master craftsman that can be transmitted to an apprentice in a spirit of trust and generosity. It is a mirror image of material heritage and its scope for recreating or restoring a work – a rare object or monument – in its most material form. Cercle 250 will expand its initiatives by inviting people behind the scene to explore the creative process of the Maisons involved, offering them, so to speak, real moments, suspended in time, in the company of fascinating works and skills.
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© Mobilier national
Made in art
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A SENSE OF THE SACRED THAT HAS BEEN LOST Our daily domestic rituals were once performed with utensils crafted according to ancient traditions, just like the ceremonial objects used in religious rites. Unfortunately, this is no longer true
In the many areas of Italy that are characterised by a rural culture, and in the mountain communities in particular, traditional crafts have always been strongly ritualistic, being often associated with farming and closely related to the cycle of the seasons. It is commonly known that the lives of farmers since the early pagan cultures have always been intimately bound up with the rites connected with various religious beliefs and, vice versa, religious rites have always been fashioned on farming activities. In this ancient world, every gesture, every task, every ritual was permeated with sacredness; and everyday objects were often the bearers of a deeper symbolism, emphasised by signs that exalted both their material and spiritual value. We often find these features of rural culture in our traditional crafts, which have always produced objects that were complementary to agricultural activities. In many cases, the farmers themselves became skilled artisans during the winter months, when farming was suspended.
soapstone and leather (like the decorated cowbell belts that are well impressed into our collective memory). Beliefs and superstitions were concealed under these signs: they were genuine expressions of faith, transmitted inside the artistic decorations and the objects themselves. The wooden wine goblet known as “grolla”, for example, symbolises brotherhood, while engraved on objects that range from goat collars to Swiss pine cradles, from household trunks and chests to moulds for butter and bread loaves, we find rosettes, initials and, especially, the monogram of Jesus Christ and the crosses of Saint Maurice and Malta.
One notable example can be found in the local history and traditional crafts of the Aosta Valley, where the farmer-artisans constructed tools, utensils and furniture for the home that are exhibited to this day at the Fiera di Sant’Orso, held in Aosta. The fair was born from the custom, introduced by Saint Ursus himself, of giving wooden clogs to the poor in winter. If we look closely, we can see the signs and symbols that the farmer-artisans engraved and embossed on the surfaces of the implements that they made out of wood, wrought iron,
These objects were made for a specific use and were at the same time characterised by the symbols that represented the spiritual bond between the person and the object. And this was precisely the salient feature of Italy’s traditional crafts: our daily domestic rituals were performed with utensils crafted according to ancient traditions, just like the ceremonial objects used by priests in their liturgies. A sense of the sacred that seems to have disappeared from our modern everyday lives: the garden, which was the sacred realm of the gods, has lost its genius loci, and our household tools no longer represent a daily ritual... Yet, when we observe an artisan crafting an object (whether in clay, carved wood or glass), we can still get a glimpse of those time-honoured values. And if designers will look more closely at the gestures of an artisan as he shapes his materials, they will rediscover the mysterious signs that have always revealed the spiritual value permeating craftsmanship.
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NEW CHALLENGES FOR THE BUILDERS OF VALUE The appreciation of a product’s worth increasingly drives buying behaviour: a survey undertaken by the Bocconi University with the Cologni Foundation and the support of Vacheron Constantin provides new insight into consumer trends
Enterprise size is considered a fundamental lever when competing in a globalised market. Italy’s businesses, 99% of which are small and medium-sized, have lost significant market share and experienced an increasing mortality rate. Italy must now learn how to exploit an emerging phenomenon that is associated with the tastes of a very distinct market: a new category of consumers that has significantly changed its buying behaviour, moving away from consumption for the mere sake of possession; an approach that indicates a stronger cultural inclination towards the appreciation not only of the unique, intrinsic value of a product but also of the people who created it and their knowhow. This phenomenon represents a potential and decisive solution for Italy, whose network of contemporary artisan businesses of excellence constitutes a virtually inimitable economic system, the only one truly capable of meeting this new demand. CDR (Claudio Dematté Research of SDA Bocconi School of Management) and the Cologni Foundation, with the support of Vacheron Constantin, have analysed the features, results and issues related to these enterprises, which are
characterised by an exceptional and competitive business model and provide a significant benchmark both for the next generation of entrepreneurs and for a reworking of economic policy. The pressing need to leverage this excellence will demand hard thinking about both the structure and culture of this manufacturing sector and the institutional and legislative framework supporting it.
Promoting and sustaining the assets that are specific to the sub-segment of Italian artisanal enterprises of excellence - design, creative intelligence and craftsmanship - is essential to rethinking and redeveloping the competitive edge of “Made in Italy” products on international markets. The results of the study, completed in July 2015, will be presented in the volume Costruttori di valore [Builders of Value], edited by Maurizio Dallocchio and slated to be published by Marsilio Editori in early 2016. The research analyses strategic, economic, financial and social information that was gathered from the very craftsmen operating in geographical areas associated with traditional skills: the masters of
*Maurizio Dallocchio is professor of Corporate Finance at Bocconi University in Milan, Director of the Master’s programme in Corporate Finance and former Dean of the SDA Bocconi School of Management. Matteo Vizzaccaro is assistant professor in Accounting, Control, Corporate and Real Estate Finance at SDA Bocconi.
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savoir faire who have witnessed the evolution in tastes and can describe first-hand the features of an artisanal enterprise of excellence. The survey shows that generational turnover and the transmission of skills and knowledge are particularly critical elements: 21.5% of respondents declare that they do not see an interest among the younger generation in undertaking this path of learning. At the same time, 32% believe that the young people who are in fact interested are also capable of running the business, but only 10% have actually succeeded in employing people between the ages of 18 and 30. The younger generations need to be adequately informed about this economic reality, which is not sufficiently endorsed, and of the promising opportunities it offers in terms of professional development. The small dimension of these businesses emerged as a critical issue in consideration of the fact that the need to grow in size, in order to stand up to current competitive pressure, must be balanced with that of continuing to produce unique products marked by excellence. Though 87% of the interviewed businesses have fewer than 10 employees and a small company structure (in 85% of the cases the capital is contributed by one or two people), 58% of respondents affirm that their future survival depends on their capacity to network.
their staff, 55% of the enterprises that kept their investments constant also maintained the same employment levels and, in 15% of cases, increased them. Given the present situation of the domestic market, this result was achieved by the combined effect of successful strategic choices coupled with unique, excellent quality products. Approximately 71% of the interviewed companies sell their products on foreign markets, and for 33% of them, more than 60% of revenues derive from exports. Western Europe and the United States, which are the main export markets, provide the profile of the ideal customer for artisanal products of excellence: together with the necessary purchasing power, these customers have a taste level that is not oriented to luxury per se, but rather to top-of-the-line creations.
Consistent with their commitment to provide extremely high-quality products, 75% of the survey participants believe that investments are crucial to success; in spite of a difficult economic situation, 50.5% of the businesses have maintained or even increased their investments compared to the pre-crisis period, demonstrating their capacity to respond to hard times by freeing up resources to remain competitive. At a time when most businesses in Italy have been forced to reduce
Upsizing and the promotion of the value of artisanal excellence are the primary challenges in todayâ€™s scenario. For the enterprises, balanced and sustainable growth is necessary to face competition, and it involves rethinking both the structure and the cultural basis of our manufacturing system. The promotion of the value of artisanal excellence calls for an overall reorganisation of the infrastructure that supports production, which must, like the companies themselves, adapt to a new competitive scenario by emphasising the strong points of the Italian economic and productive model while compensating for its weaknesses. Protection against counterfeiting, the development and effective communication of training and career opportunities, support from institutions both at home and on the international scene and the creation of an adequate milieu for production are all relevant and decisive factors in achieving the potentially exclusive competitive edge that is needed to advance into the next stage of development.
For 58% of respondents, future survival depends on their capacity to network
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by Stefania Montani
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Artisans Books Awards Initiatives Fairs Shows
ALBUM Atelier Selene Giorgi largo Richini 14, Milan Selene Giorgi developed her talents at the Brera Academy of lend character to even the simplest dress. Her latest invention Fine Arts: her dresses are marvellous and outstanding sculpis the Mutabito: thanks to zippers hidden among the folds, one tures, made all the more original and glamorous by her choice clothing item can be transformed into a variety of garments of fabrics and imaginative styles. Selene Giorgiâ€™s adventure for many different occasions: jacket, skirt, cocktail dress, began by experimenting in different fields, from drawing and evening gown... You may find her in her atelier, just opposite painting to dĂŠcoupage and sculpture. Her predisposition and the University of Milan, as she arranges and pins her fabrics love for textiles led her to embrace tailoring and to develop her on a dressmakerâ€™s dummy, envisioning what shape and moveown highly original clothes and ingenious creative solutions. ment she will give to her new design. Inspiration, technical One of her specialities is moulding felt with her hands, as if it mastery, a deep knowledge of the characteristics of materials and an ongoing aesthetic quest make each of her creations were clay. By the same process, she transforms cashmere, silk unique. And, as Selene likes to say: her dresses do not clothe and organza into stunning sculptural blouses. Also notable are the body, they clothe the soul. atelierselenegiorgi.it her ultra-light fabric necklaces, stitched in soft whorls, which
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ALBUM artisans Puiforcat Avenue Gabriel 48, Paris Émile Puiforcat opened his first silver workshop in 1820 and, four generations later, his descendant Jean made the company reach its peak. Named master silversmith in 1920, Jean Puiforcat was an impassioned sculptor and friend to artists; he developed a business that continues to stand today as one of the points of excellence in French craftsmanship. With its immense legacy, comprising 10,000 holloware pieces and over 100 flatware styles, Puiforcat is a unique example of a company that has managed to keep its tradition alive while constantly experimenting with new forms and materials. Sterling silver, plated silver and stainless steel are guaranteed by the house’s hallmark. Puiforcat maintains the rare skill of planishing: the metal sheet is stretched and hammered by hand, to give the object the desired shape. Pitchers, bowls and serving trays are then etched, chased, engraved, buffed and polished. All items can be custom made and personalised with the most refined and complex decorations. Puiforcat works in silver are featured in the Louvre and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Puiforcat recently became a Hermès Group company. puiforcat.com
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Peter Marigold 11 South End Road, London An enfant prodige of extraordinary manual skill, Marigold was a student of Ron Arad after graduating from the Central St. Martins and earning a post-graduate degree at London’s Royal College of Art. A fan of irregular forms, which he combines into the most original structures, he has a thing for order: most of his creations are designed to hold objects, books, clothing. Every space is used for this purpose, even window niches. Make/Shift, for example, is a modular system of wedge-shaped shelves produced in a variety of strong, lightweight materials that can perfectly fit into any space. Whereas Split Box Shelves (below) is created from a single log split into four pieces whose com-
Gilles Bonvin 3 Route de Challonges Usinens (France) Love for beauty is the driving force behind this excellent French decorator. Whether he is painting a mountain landscape with animals on a wall, an entire ceiling of faux wood or recreating the stones to hide a door in a mortarless wall, what inspires him is always beauty. After completing his studies at the Van der Kelen school in Brussels and specialising in theatre decoration in Geneva, he returned to his native Haute-Savoie, where he opened his own atelier. Bonvin has decorated many houses, both internally and externally, reproducing entire landscapes complete with flora and fauna. His choice of materials depends on the type of surface he is working on and can include many different types of minerals, pigments, acrylic paints as well as beer-based or oil paints. He also collaborates with carpenters, to prolong and enhance the visual effect of wooden boiseries with his decorative and trompe-l’oeil motifs. firstname.lastname@example.org
bined angles total 360 degrees. Among his most original creations is an expandable elliptical table with insertable leaves that are the off-cuts generated from cutting the ellipse. In this way, the table doubles in size and all scrap is reused. His workshop is in Hampstead Heath, just a stone’s throw from the eponymous London park. Marigold’s knack for disassembling and reassembling furniture has enabled him to give birth to highly original creations that are widely exhibited in many countries, including the Salone del Mobile in Milan, where he is a regular guest. petermarigold.com
Shoes: Pleasure & Pain
by Helen Persson (Victoria&Albert Museum) A single pair of shoes is made of dozens of parts in different materials, from metal and wood to fabric and leather. Shoemaking is a fascinating art, of which the author explores the history and culture from antiquity to the modern day. With interviews to preeminent contemporary designers, such as Manolo Blahnik, Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo, Caroline Groves, Marc Hare and Christian Louboutin.
Fashion Culture Istituto Marangoni: icon of fashion and design Giovanna Zanella 5641 Castello, Venice Exclusive men’s and women’s shoes, each pair with its own personality. Leather spirals that curl toward the ankle, interwoven suede in various shades, finely tooled inlay, delicate patterns: Giovanna Zanella’s creations are a true feast for the eyes. All made by hand, one by one, starting from the customer’s feet. This accomplished Venetian artisan learned the tricks of the trade from Rolando Segalin, unrivalled 20th-century cordwainer, who taught her how to “analyse the foot” that would wear the shoe, seeking to understand not only the customer’s personality and lifestyle, but also how and how much that customer walks. Giovanna Zanella absorbed Segalin’s teachings and ten years ago she opened her own business in the contrada San Lio, just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Here, armed with needles, thread, cutters, pliers, scissors, cord, glue and a large variety of wooden lasts, she has crafted shoes that combine originality with comfort without ever having to toe the line. Playing with tradition and modernity, without restrictions or taboos, Zanella daringly uses exotic skins and leather, fabric and plastic, glass beads and nylon frills. And like any truly talented artisan, in addition to her highly original footwear she also flawlessly produces the most classic and traditional models. All made to order. giovannazanella.it
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by Cristina Morozzi, photos Aldo Fallai (Rizzoli USA) The volume celebrates the 80th anniversary of the internationally renowned Milanese fashion school founded by Giulio Marangoni in 1935, which now has branches in Paris, London and Shanghai. The volume features photos of the creations by some of the institute’s most successful alumni, among which Franco Moschino and Domenico Dolce.
Various authors (Editions Assouline) The panther, proud protagonist of Cartier’s iconography for a century, has always been a powerful symbol in art and popular culture. The volume traces its fascinating history, with the many illustrious icons of style and elegance associated with the Paris maison, from Jeanne Toussaint to Daisy Fellowes, from María Félix to the Duchess of Windsor. The excellent photography is every bit as precious as the jewellery.
by Julius Wiedemann (Taschen) Ever wonder just how important a logo can be? Using a series of images associated with popular products, and a case study section focusing on logo application and development, the author extensively explores the incomparable power of graphic designers in creating allure and generating sales across a broad range of fields. An excellent reference point for students and professionals alike.
THE MASTERY OF TIME. A HISTORY OF TIMEKEEPING, FROM THE SUNDIAL TO THE WRISTWATCH: DISCOVERIES, INVENTIONS AND ADVANCES IN MASTER WATCHMAKING
Dominique Fléchon, introduction by Franco Cologni (Flammarion) This richly illustrated volume (over 500 images) narrates how the science and art of horology has continued to develop over the centuries, up to the modern day. Pursuing both precision and beauty, man has mastered time with increasingly complicated instruments. The publication of an expanded and updated Italian edition has provided the occasion for an exhibition in the Sala Federiciana of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, where this marvellous adventure was illustrated with exceptional timepieces, from the first gnomons to contemporary marvels of technology. The book is enriched with educational materials that make it a reference for specialists and a source of discovery for amateurs.
Homi Milan, Fiera di Rho 29 January - 1 February 2016 Embracing the lifestyles of today’s multicultural consumers, the international exhibition offers a variety of stylish proposals for home wellness, garden and outdoor, table and bathroom, textiles and jewellery. With a host of products in ceramic, glass, porcelain, metal, wood, leather, fabric, stone. A thousand visions of the lives of contemporary women and men is presented also in the satellite areas, with special emphasis on Italian excellence. homimilano.com
Maison & Objet Paris, Nord Villepinte 22-26 January 2016 Every six months, the exhibition presents the new ideas for home decor from renowned firms and established or emerging designers. The Craft show in Hall 5A is entirely dedicated to the métiers d’art. The exhibition’s theme sectors focus on the themes of Complements, Fragrances, Cook+Design, Innovation, Kids, Fashion, Gardening and many others: a wealth of eclectic solutions for interior design, home textiles and art de la table. maison-objet.com
Heimtextil Frankfurt, Fair 12-15 January 2016 The major international trade fair for home and contract textiles opens its doors from Tuesday to Friday. In addition to the free “Heimtextil Navigator” app to guide visitors through the exhibition, the fair features a pavilion dedicated to sustainable research and a space focusing on colours. With more than 2,600 registered exhibitors, the event will feature a wealth of textiles from the world’s foremost producers. Each year, Heimtextil also publishes a Trend Book to provide orientation to product developers, interior designers and creative teams. heimtextil.messefrankfurt.com
Fiera di Sant’Orso Aosta 30 and 31 January 2016 From this year’s edition, an app will guide visitors around the many events that take place during the Sant’Orso fair, which fills the entire city centre with music, tastings of local products and wines, and local artisanal objects in wood. The show and market “L’Atelier des métiers” is reserved to craft businesses from the Aosta Valley and will take place in Piazza Chanoux and Piazza Plouves. Piazza Chanoux will also host an exhibition of works by students following courses in sculpture, carving, drap (textiles), wood turning, carpentry and vannerie (wickerwork) who have been selected and supported by the Valle d’Aosta
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Regional government. On the night between the 30th and 31st, the streets will be fully lit into the wee hours for the traditional Veillà. fieradisantorso.it 2
Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Geneva, Palaexpo 18-22 January 2016 A date for enthusiasts and collectors of luxury timepieces, the elaborate outcomes of research and collaboration among creative minds, designers and master watchmakers. The first haute horlogerie event of the year unveils the latest creations of the most important brands: A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Greubel Forsey, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Officine Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Piaget, Richard Mille, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels. sihh.org expocasa Turin, Oval-Lingotto Fiere 27 February-6 March 2016 The 54th international household, furniture and home decor exhibition presents furnishing accessories, textiles and bathroom furniture, light fittings, energy saving solutions, air conditioning and home renovation materials. Expocasa organises encounters with interior designers, home stagers, chefs and architects. During the fair, the sixth edition of the exhibition-competition toBEeco will take place, addressed to designers and companies that achieve outstanding performance in recycling and sustainable projects, combining industrial innovation and social responsibility. expocasa.it
AMERICAN CRAFT BALTIMORE SHOW Baltimore, Convention Centre 19-21 February 2016 The American Craft Council is preparing its flagship event for 2016: a full immersion in the best U.S. contemporary crafts with more than 650 artisans exhibiting at the Baltimore Show. For three days, goldsmiths, jewellers, tailors, furniture makers, interior decorators and many other craftspeople from the 50 states will come together under one roof. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the skilled makers that give life to fabulous products of contemporary creativity as well as the country’s top emerging artists, showcased in the exhibition’s Hip Pop pods. shows.craftcouncil.org/baltimore
ALBUM awards initiatives Istituto Marangoni To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Istituto Marangoni has created “Eighty chances to be the one”: 80 scholarships, for a total value of 1,000,000 euro, which will be awarded to 80 future fashion talents. Candidates can sign up online for Marangoni’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Milan, London, Paris and Shanghai. scholarships.istitutomarangoni.com Academia Cremonensis A new school was founded in Cremona by an expert luthier, a well-known family of bow makers and an entrepreneur conquered by bowed stringed instruments. The academy passes on the secrets of a time-honoured craft in the city that is the empyrean of the luthier’s art. The school is located in Palazzo Mina-Bolzesi, in the heart of the old city. The courses follow the methods developed by Simone Fernando Sacconi, illustrious violin-maker, and Giovanni Lucchi, founder of Italy’s first bow making school. The school provides students with the solid background in theory and practice needed to become a master luthier. academiacremonensis.it
GIARDINA Zurich, Wallisellenstrasse 49 16-20 March 2016 Since 1997, Europe’s biggest indoor gardening exhibition stimulates visitors to discover the pleasures of horticulture with colourful plants, flowering trees and fragrant herbs. The best garden and terrace designers from Switzerland and neighbouring countries recreate the beauty and marvel of nature in outdoor living spaces, perfectly executed down to the smallest details. Visitors will be able to receive inspiration as well as advice from the experts who will be present at the fair. The true-to-life garden worlds presented at Giardina are created as if they were big stage productions: experienced “stage directors” work with the stars and newcomers to the garden scene as well as with leading specialist companies to present large-scale dream gardens alongside cosy urban refuges. giardina.ch
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59th FAENZA PRIZE International Competition of Contemporary Ceramic Art MIC Faenza, until 24 January 2016 Over 1,300 works by 618 artists from 57 nations are on exhibit at the Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, representing the world’s finest ceramic artists, including the winners of the 2015 competition. micfaenza.org Italian Stories Two young architects, Eleonora Odorizzi and Andrea Miserocchi, have created a new platform to promote Italy’s finest artisans. The website offers a map of workshops that are often off the beaten shopping tracks: here visitors will have the opportunity to discover the secrets of Italian “botteghe” and also make a one-day apprenticeship with the artisans. italianstories.it
LILIANE BETTENCOURT PRIZE The Prix Liliane Bettencourt pour l’intelligence de la main is one of the most prestigious international awards for expertise, creativity and innovation in the crafts. Since its inception, it has bestowed recognition on the talents of nearly 90 craftspeople of excellence in different domains. It comprises three awards: Talents d’exception, Dialogues and Parcours. Candidates must demonstrate perfect mastery of techniques and knowledge of the craft, be innovative and contribute to the development of their expertise. Winners receive a price of €50,000 euro plus 100,000 euro to develop their project. Applications are open until March 2016. fondationbs.org DAILY BEAUTY Villa Reale, Monza The Triennale di Milano celebrates the first anniversary of its Monza branch in the Belvedere of the Villa Reale. The journey in the history of contemporary design is illustrated with more than 200 iconic creations by the big masters of design: Gio Ponti, Piero Fornasetti, Vico Magistretti, Giacomo Castiglioni, Franco Albini, Bruno Munari, Andrea Branzi, Fabio Novembre... They are complemented by the collection of Giovanni Sacchi’s models, Alessandro Mendini’s designs, the Clino Castelli Colour Library, the Archivio Nanni Strada, Sirio Galli’s drawings and the virtual collection of all of the seven Triennale Design Museum exhibitions on Pinterest. triennale.org
ALBUM shows LA MODE RETROUVÉE Paris, Palais Galliera Until 20 March 2016 For the first time ever, the fabulous wardrobe of Élisabeth de Caraman-Chimay (1860-1952), know as the Countess Greffulhe, is presented to the public. Marcel Proust immortalised her in his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time. The collection comprises fifty splendid models by great couturiers such as Worth, Fortuny, Babani and Lanvin. palaisgalliera.paris.fr
Islamic Art Budapest, Iparmuveszeti Muzeum Until January 2017 The Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest presents a rich selection of artefacts from Asian and Northern-African Islamic countries, created between the 9th and the 19th centuries. The provenance of these textiles, metalwork and ceramics spans from Morocco to Iran and to the area of the Caucasus. Many of the artefacts are decorated with gold and precious stones. Beyond their great historical and artistic value, this unique collection represents a positive example of relationship between cultures and religions and of cooperation between nations. imm.hu
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain London, Victoria & Albert Museum Until 31 January 2016 London celebrates the flair and skill of footwear creators with a lavish exhibition of over 200 pairs of shoes ranging from across the world and history: from ancient Egyptian sandals decorated in pure gold leaf to French footwear of the 18th century, from cork-wedge heels popular in the 1930s to the elaborate creations by contemporary designers. vam.ac.uk 1
Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection London, Victoria & Albert Museum Until 28 March 2016 Spectacular objects from a single private collection illustrate the themes of tradition and modernity in Indian jewellery. The exhibition showcases beautiful and precious pieces among which the Mughal jades, a rare late 18th-century gem-encrusted gold finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan and pieces that reveal the dramatic changes that took place in the design of Indian jewellery in the 20th century. The exhibition explores the influence of India on avant-garde European jewellery by Cartier and other leading houses and concludes with contemporary works by JAR and Bhagat, inspired by a creative fusion of Mughal motifs and Art Deco designs. vam.ac.uk
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Pierre Cardin: past, present, future Paris, Musée Pierre Cardin Until 13 November 2016 Celebrating the world’s best known Italian-born Frenchman, the museum was inaugurated with an exhibition of over 200 haute couture creations that provide a narrative of his bold experimentation and cutting-edge designs. From the perfectly tailored coats and suits of his first collection for women, in 1953, and the legendary bubble dress of the following year, to the futuristic inspirations of the 1960s, which made him the first couturier to bring synthetic fabrics on a catwalk. Displayed on mannequins on the four floors of the museum, Cardin’s creations testify to 60 years of a great talent. pierrecardin.com
Armani Silos Milan, Via Bergognone 40 Permanent collection Giorgio Armani celebrates his 40th anniversary with a museum where everyone can get a close-up look at the clothing that has made his style famous. A suggestive overview of Armani’s creations, with a selection of 600 clothes and 200 accessories, is laid out on the four levels of a masterfully designed structure that theatrically highlights the features of each outfit. The clothes by the great Italian designer are arranged by theme, to outline his story and his aesthetic vision. armanisilos.com THE NEW VOCABULARY OF ITALIAN FASHION Milan, Triennale Until 6 March 2016 The Milan Triennale Museum dedicates an exhibition to the language and nature of Italian fashion of the new millennium. The “vocabulary” summarises, explains and defines the characteristics of modern Made in Italy products. To enhance the design content of garments and
accessories, as well as to explain the lexicon of fashion, which is always in the process of being written and developed, the exhibition is structured in a path following key concepts: Material, Construction, Adornment, Detail, Workshop… The exhibition focuses also on the stories of individual designers and brands who have created the new language of Made in Italy fashion. triennale.org 3
Jaime Hayon: Funtastico Holon (Israele) Design Museum Holon Until 30 April 2016 Spanish designer Jaime Hayon was recently listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most relevant creators of our times. The exhibition, which premiered at the Groninger Museum in Holland, presents the range of his work over the past ten years: from the early works of his sweeping debut in 2003 through the complex and intricate paintings and drawings that characterise his artistic expression, including special projects he created for leading design companies such as Baccarat, Lladró and Magis. dmh.org.il
bition to one of the major exponents of Murano glass art. Fulvio Bianconi, innovative graphic artist, illustrator and designer, began working with Venini after WWII, designing iconic models characterised by extravagant shapes and a powerful use of colour. Like his famous “handkerchief ” and “Scottish” models, or his vases with polychrome bands and tesserae and his playful animal figures. The exhibition, curated by Marino Barovier, is the fourth in the exhibition cycle dedicated to the history of Venini and organised by “Le Stanze del vetro”, a joint project by Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Pentagram Stiftung devoted to the study and promotion of the art of glassmaking in the 20th and 21st centuries. With over 300 works, the exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of the collaboration between the Venetian artist and the famous Venini glassworks, especially in the 1950s. The first annotated catalogue of Bianconi designs for Venini is published by Skira. www.cini.it
2) The Bauhaus #itsalldesign Weil am Rhein, Vitra Design Museum Until 28 February 2016 3) The V&A reopens the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art London, Victoria & Albert Museum From November 2015 4) The Century of the Child. Nordic Design for Children from 1900 to today Helsinki, Museum of Design Until 13 March 2016 5) Des choses à faire. Chevalier - Masson Grand Hornu (Belgium), Cid Until 10 January 2016 6) Art Nouveau. The great Utopian vision Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Until 7 February 2016 7) Arte transparente. La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés Madrid, Museo del Prado Until 10 January 2016
OTHER APPOINTMENTS 1) Japonese Ko- gei. Future Forward New York, Museum of Arts and Design Until 7 February 2016
Fulvio Bianconi alla Venini Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini Until 10 January 2016 The Fondazione Cini of Venice is dedicating an extraordinary exhi-
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TITOLETTO IN PRIMA PERSONA * Cristina Castelli è professore ordinario di Psicologia del ciclo di vita, direttrice del CROSS (Centro ricerche sull’orientamento scolastico e professionale) e del Master “Relazione d’aiuto in contesti di vulnerabilità e povertà nazionali ed internazionali” presso la Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano. E’ direttrice della Fabbrica del Talento.
MINDED by Ugo La Pietra
Paolo Ulian is a young Tuscan designer who believes that experimentation is essential in the process that, passing from ethics to aesthetics, eventually leads to form. Once a budding talent, he has now become a model for a new generation of designers, to whom Ulian’s projects speak about passion for the quest, the joy of discovery and total freedom of outlook. QUESTION You have always said that in your work you use experimentation to arrive at form. Can you explain this process? ANSWER It’s very simple really. My method is as basic as it is useful and effective, and I believe it is the same method I used as a kid, playing and experimenting with materials, manipulating and sometimes mistreating them, to find out just how far they could be pushed, what their intrinsic properties were and ultimately to envision their potential. If you know how to listen to what each material tells you, you will find ideas for possible new ways to use it. If you let your intuition run free and surrender to the pleasure of play, you will always stumble upon solutions that work right from the start, without need for further verification because they grow out of your own experience. In these solutions, form is not designed arbitrarily but gels naturally, as if spontaneously expressing its essence,
“Introverso” vase designed by Paolo Ulian with Moreno Ratti and produced by Vallmar (Meda, 2014). The White Carrara marble vase has a dual core: a second vase, with a different shape, is embedded in the same material. The owner can decide whether to keep the vase in its original form or modify it by breaking off the thin lamellae with a hammer, revealing the second vase.
“ DESIGNING MEANS VENTURING FORTH, INVESTIGATING UNEXPLORED TERRITORIES, CHALLENGING THE KNOWN UNIVERSE.” PAOLO ULIAN CONSIDERS EXPERIMENTATION TO BE THE ONLY MEANS FOR ACHIEVING FORM
revealing the only possible outcome of the whole design process. For me, the design process should always follow this path, which may then lead to production, if and when a company recognises its value. Q. Do you identify with the type of creative process practiced by an earlier generation of designers - that only rarely explored the relationship between the designed object and its environment, the people it is meant for and other objects? A. It depends on what projects you are talking about. I certainly feel close to an approach that explores the relationship between objects, people and their behaviours: this bond remains indissoluble regardless of the place, setting or person who comes into contact with them. For the same reason, I identify a lot also with the quests of certain designers in the most recent generation, such as Lorenzo Damiani and Francesco Faccin: like them, I have often grappled with this issue, and sometimes it has led me to small typological inventions. This was the case, for example, with the finger biscuits I created for Nutella and the Mat Walk bathroom mat with built-in slippers I designed for Droog. However, I do not identify with projects that have nothing to say, even if they have often been very successful commercially.
Q. Many of your projects are characterised by the use
of semi-finished industrial by-products. This type of design path brings you into contact with certain types of manufacturing processes (production lines, industrial plants…) but perhaps distances you from the origins of your materials. How do you make up for this gap? A. Using my hands to work on materials is a passion I have had since I was a kid, it is absolutely not something I have to make up for. And this is certainly also part of the reason why I really prefer working in close contact with artisans rather than with industries. In the relationship with industrial production, everything is colder, detached, compartmentalised, everyone in his own slot. But with artisans the roles intermix to the point where our work becomes a sort of symbiosis, where I use his lathe and he gives me formal or structural tips to improve my design. In recent years, I have been spending most of my time in artisan workshops, where I think, try things out, build and destroy, laugh and cry. My studio is really there now. Q. After all these years of work, do you still believe that a designer should always invent something new? And how do you reconcile this need with your well-known approach that proceeds from ethics to aesthetics? A. In a certain sense, I still do, and it is one of the reasons
Top, Paolo Ulian working on the design of the marble panel “Pixel” created for Bufalini Marmi (2015). Left and right, the “Finger Biscuit” (Ferrero, 2004/06) allows users to indulge in the natural gesture of licking their fingers when confronted with a jar of Nutella. Opposite page, “Autarchico” occasional tables designed for Le Fablier (2011).
why I became a designer. Designing means venturing forth, investigating unexplored territories, challenging the known universe of laws without being sure you’re ever going to achieve any concrete result. In his own small way, a designer, as I understand the word, should have the same approach as a scientist demonstrating a new revolutionary theory to the world, one that sweeps away previous concepts that were hitherto taken as gospel. Regarding the relationship between invention, ethics and aesthetics, I think that the last two are absolutely vital components that the designer, in a death-defying leap, can sometimes bring into sync with invention in a biunique relation similar to the one that binds atoms in a molecule. An exciting, symbolic and pure design can emerge from the perfection of this combination. Q. What do you think about the recent trend of designers who want to be self-produced artisans but lack knowledge and awareness of both the cultural context and the culture of manual savoir faire? The ones who, in Italy, are not commercially supported by institutions dedicated to the crafts - as is the case in many other countries, where they can count on well-structured and active institutions - and thus have to cope with a reality that for decades has been dominated by industrial design?
A. Today’s young designers face a tough, uphill battle in
trying to gain a foothold and survive on the global market. In Italy they are left out in the cold with no support or help from our institutions – or worse, with a thousand obstacles thrown in their path precisely by these institutions. On the one hand, we have lost the point of reference that used to be represented by the legendary, big design firms, which no longer have the will, the energy or the possibility to invest like they did 20 years ago. On the other, all paradigms are upended by the incredibly fast pace of change driven by digital technology and globalisation. Young makers are now facing infinite opportunities. At the same time, they are confronted with a series of tasks that are virtually impossible to tackle: they have to promote themselves on various websites, blogs and social networks; they have to assemble their works themselves; they have to distribute them to physical and virtual sales outlets. When all is said and done, self-producing designers are left with only an infinitely tiny space where they can finally dedicate themselves to design per se. They communicate, produce and sell all over the world, but they risk losing sight of the most important thing: the quality of the research process, of the experimentation and of the project (paoloulian.it).
Top, Paolo Ulian working on the prototype of a large vase in a marble cutter’s workshop. Left and right, “A second life”, a modular terracotta fruit bowl for Attese edizioni (2006). Opposite page, the design on the large “Pixel” panel for Bufalini Marmi begins to emerge when the marble pixels are manually split off.
COURTESY UFFICIO STAMPA CAMPOMARZIO70
COURTESY OF CIRE TRUDON/LAWRENCE MYNOTT
For God and the King
IN 1643, THE PARISIAN APOTHECARY CLAUDE TRUDON STARTED TO MAKE HIS CELEBRATED CANDLES. HE USED THE FINEST BEESWAX, PRODUCED BY THE INDUSTRIOUS BEES TO WHICH THE HOUSE’S MOTTO REFERS by Alberto Cavalli
Courtesy Campomarzio70 press office
Courtesy of Cire Trudon/Lawrence Mynott
E c cO e lul te snt za en dd ianl g ms okni ldlos
This page, two best-selling wax busts of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louise, daughter of the architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart. Opposite page, a number of ironic illustrations of the protagonists of French art, tradition and history developed by Cire Trudon to mark the genesis of its candles and underscore an identity that is not solely olfactory (ciretrudon.com).
On 14 May 1643, feastday of Saint Matthias the Apostle, Louis XIV ascended to the throne of France. The Sun King, as he came to be known to posterity, was the symbol of royal absolutism and French pomp and power. He left us Versailles, one of the world’s most legendary palaces and the visible trace of his aesthetic and political vision. A historical tidbit has it that the Château’s salons, boudoirs, alcoves and church were lighted by the candles made by a craftsman whose career also began in 1643: Claude Trudon of Paris. Apothecary and master candlemaker, Trudon selected the finest beeswaxes for his candles. The house’s motto, Deo regique laborant, reveals the mission of both bees and candles: to “work” for God and for the King. The company, which took on the name of Cire Trudon in 2007, is one of the most prominent, acclaimed and prestigious manufactures of handmade candles, characterised by distinctive fragrances. Trudon’s roots extend deep into the very heart of France. Since the beginning, they have drawn nourishment from science and imagination, experimentation and evolution, and from the many challenges that the company has faced and successfully surpassed. From the Bourbons to the House of Bonaparte and through the Revolution, Trudon candles have incessantly illuminated the halls of power. Even later, after the advent of the “Electricity Fairy”, they managed to affirm their own seductive identity: in 1889, at the peak of innovation euphoria, Trudon won a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exposition. And so on, to the present day: Trudon continues to innovate in terms of sustainability (Cire Trudon uses exclusively 100% biodegradable superfine wax of vegetable origin) and also from a cultural and aesthetic point of view. The names of
Trudon candles are inspired by some the most compelling, glorious and engaging stories of France: Carmélite, La Marquise, Trianon, Joséphine, Madeleine, Mademoiselle de la Vallière… each candle expresses a rare and highly personal olfactory identity. While Manon releases the scent of fresh laundry, Solis Rex evokes the parquetry in the halls of Versailles. Taking their cue from narrative, historical or artistic inspirations, new additions to the collection are introduced every year: candles, pillar candles, busts of French notables or room sprays. Every step in the manufacturing process at the Cire Trudon facilities in Normandy involves the skilled and impassioned work of specialised artisans. They prepare a prefect mix of molten wax and perfume, which they pour into precious glasses. After the wax is poured, the wicks have to be straightened by hand, because the heat from the wax makes them droop. Once the wax has solidified, the candles are packed one by one. “The artisans play a central role,” says Julien Pruvost, the company’s Managing Director. “None of this could happen without their invaluable work.” QUESTION What is the formula behind a product that is always contemporary, without ever losing its artisanal DNA? ANSWER I strongly believe in quality, authenticity and being open-minded. All of our products are made by hand in our factory in Normandy. We are committed to maximum quality in our choice of ingredients and components. In doing so, we simultaneously honour both the past and the present. Q. What is your starting point in creating a new collection? A. There are no rules and no method. We can be inspired by the past or simply by what surrounds us. It might be a theme, a book, an art exhibition, a historical character. In some cases the inspiration can be completely personal, straight out of our imagination. Q What are the steps in creating a vocabulary that reflects the name and history of Cire Trudon? A. Trudon has been creating candles for over 300 years. What allows us to exist and to endure through time lies in our past and in innovation. If you think about it, our entire history is a tale of progressive adaptation. Our ancestors were brave and creative entrepreneurs, and when we look ahead, we always turn to the past. This gives meaning and an objective to our creativity. Q. How do you interpret the expectations of your customers? A. Actually, we don’t. Our hope is to offer a glimpse into the world of home fragrances that appeals to people all over the world. We have a broad and ever growing collection. I believe our customers like us for our character, not because we target someone in particular. Q. How important are research and craftsmanship? A. All our products are necessarily handmade. Creating candles is a delicate activity, with a range of parameters that have to be constantly adjusted and controlled. It takes a great deal of experience and a tireless commitment to bring quality products to life: there are no shortcuts.
This page, a wax bust is given the final touches. Opposite page, steps in the production of candles, pillar candles and busts. The glasses are made in Italy at Vinci. The molten wax is mixed with the perfume and poured by hand into the glasses. The wax is prepared according to specific formulas to maximise its exceptional olfactory and burning qualities. The house’s emblem is inspired by a bas relief found at the old manufacture that used to belong to the Trudon family. Each candle is carefully checked before it is packed into its box.
A LONG INTELLECTUAL QUEST This page, Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo interprets the Sartori masks. Together with the late Franca Rame, his wife and artistic partner, Fo is patron of the Amleto and Donato Sartori International Museum of the Mask. Opposite: “Ruzante”, a lacquered wood mask by Amleto Sartori for “I Rasonamenti di Ruzante”, 1955.
THE SARTORIS HAVE CRAFTED SOME OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING THEATRE MASKS. REINVENTING A TIME-HONOURED TECHNIQUE, THEY GAVE SHAPE TO A NEW CULTURAL AND ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
by Mariagabriella Rinaldi
A DEMIURGIC RITE This page, “Truffaldino” mask in polished leather made for “Il re cervo” by Carlo Gozzi, directed by S. Pitoeff and J. Lecoq (Théâtre Marigny, Paris, 1956). Opposite page, bottom, a leather Sartori mask for “Arlecchino servitore di due padroni” by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Giorgio Strehler and performed by Ferruccio Soleri (Piccolo Teatro, Milan, 1963); top, Amleto Sartori in his studio-workshop in 1950.
ARCHIVIO CENTRO MASCHERE E STRUTTURE GESTUALI
Donato Sartori was born in Padua in 1939 to Amleto (1915-1962), a great artist and remarkable mask maker, whose 100th birth anniversary fell in 2015. Father and son have dedicated their lives to the crafting of theatre masks in leather: an ancient and long-forgotten art that they reinvented and elevated to the highest artistic expression. In his mature years, the writer, painter and poet Amleto Sartori embarked on a long intellectual, literary, historical, psychological and experimental quest into the Commedia dell’arte, studying and renovating not only the technique of the theatre mask, which was buried under centuries of oblivion, but also its artistic and cultural form. His son Donato, also a sculptor, has been steeped in his father’s passion and culture since he was a boy and in his early twenties was already a fully-fledged, multifaceted artist. Donato inherited his father’s immense cultural and technical legacy, which he has continued to develop along the lines of the traditional bottega d’arte but with a fully contemporary sensibility. Donato has many evocative childhood memories of his father: like their visits at the Bianchi foundry in Venice, where he observed in awestruck wonder the demiurgic rite of casting masks in bronze: “I can still smell the acrid odour of the burnt cire perdue, and my eyes can see the dazzle of the molten bronze as it was poured into the moulds buried in sand. I can still feel the same excited anticipation when they broke open the negative to discover, almost as if it were an ancient relic, a buried form that gradually revealed the
“A performance with masks is not an exact science, but an exact art” (Jacques Lecoq)
expression of a face. In the course of time, masks carved from wood, fashioned out of leather or engraved in stone have added to my long working experience and knowledge.”According to the famous actor and mime Jacques Lecoq, “a performance with masks is not an exact science, but an exact art.” After long and difficult years of study and work, Amleto’s fame spread throughout Europe. His creations were chosen by prominent directors and actors: in 1955, Jean-Louis Barrault used 75 stupendous leather masks crafted by Amleto for his unforgettable staging of Aeschylus’s trilogy Oresteia. It is fascinating to compare them to the “vibraphonic” masks that Donato created in a special resinous material for the same trilogy in 2001, this time staged by Swedish director Peter Oskarson, which were marked by an essential execution and extraordinary expressive power. In their 80-odd years of artistic activity, the Sartori have used a variety of materials to create their masks (leather, wood, metal and many others) for productions that range from the works of Shakespeare, Goldoni, Molière and Pirandello to Ionesco, avant-garde and street theatre. They have worked with the most renowned stage directors and artists, including Bertolt Brecht, Giorgio Strehler, Eduardo De Filippo, Jacques Lecoq, Eugenio Barba, Dario Fo and Moni Ovadia. Among the many great actors who have worn their masks are two of the most celebrated Harlequins of all time: Ferruccio Soleri and Marcello Moretti. When the latter donned a Sartori
mask he almost forgot he was wearing it – indeed, it is said that when he was hot he pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed not his own brow, but that of the mask! In 1979, Donato Sartori created the Centro maschere e strutture gestuali in Abano Terme (close to Padua) with the architect Paola Piizzi, now curator and director of the museum, and the scenographer Paolo Trombetta. The centre studies and promotes the knowledge of masks under every aspect - ethnological, anthropological and theatrical - and organises seminars, exhibitions and performances throughout the world. With pride, passion and tenacity unabated by the passing of time, Donato continues to teach and guide young people who set out to learn the noble art of the mascherero, and contributes to promoting this local cultural heritage. Last year, one hundred years after his father’s birth, Donato led the 30th International Workshop on “Art of the Mask in the Commedia dell’Arte”, attended by students from around the world. The course covers history, morphology and technique of theatre masks in leather, with theory and practical classes that go from the mask’s conception to its realisation according to the methods and techniques that the Sartori have developed and honed since 1947. In 2004, the centre founded the Amleto and Donato Sartori International Museum of the Mask, which boasts a collection of some two thousand masks created by the Sartori, as well as an extraordinary number of original masks and
“The work was made alive and full of that human warmth possessed by real things” (Donato Sartori, Autobiography)
exhibits from different parts of the world acquired during long years of travel and cultural exchange. On top of preserving and highlighting the Sartori legacy, the Mask Museum was also conceived as a living museum, a dynamic centre for research and experimentation. Dario Fo has written an extraordinary and beautiful tribute to the leather masks envisioned, sculpted and crafted by the Sartori, and which he has used in hundreds of performances, extolling their lightness and perfect fit, “almost a witchcraft”. He writes that “few people know that a mask made by a master is above all an extraordinary acoustic tool, a musical instrument that amplifies and catalyses the balance of tones, of high and low-pitched sounds (...) Every mask is a musical instrument with its own particular sound box.” For an actor, wearing a mask demands great discipline and technical skill, and is the cause of both distress and joy. But when it is a Sartori creation, something magical is added to the artist’s interpretation. And the magic continues today, also thanks to Donato and Paola’s daughter, Sarah, who carries on the family tradition in the studio-workshop where she works alongside her mother and father: “Masks are part of my life,” she modestly admits, with a luminous smile. The living proof that talent can be an ineluctable destiny.... As Giorgio Strehler wrote in a telegram to Donato Sartori, paying homage to the nobility of his art: “With your masks, the great theatre of the world shows people how to be real.” (sartorimaskmuseum.it).
THE GREAT THEATRE OF THE WORLD This page, a natural leather “Neutra” Sartori mask (École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris, 1958). Opposite page, bottom, “Pantalone”, leather mask for Goldoni’s “Servant of Two Masters”, directed by Giorgio Strehler and performed by Giorgio Bongiovanni; top, Donato Sartori shaping a mask in his Abano Terme atelier.
Maîtres d ’art
VIOLINIS GIO BATTA MORASSI WAS RECENTLY AWARDED AN HONORARY DEGREE IN MUSICAL DISCIPLINES. BORN IN 1934, THE GREAT VIOLIN MAKER WAS ONLY 16 WHEN HE BOARDED A TRAIN HEADED TO CREMONA...
CAUSA by Paola Carlomagno
photos by Emanuele Zamponi
Before varnishing the body of a violin, the luthier uses files and scrapers to shape and smooth the surface, giving it his personal touch. At Gio Batta Morassi’s workshop (Via Lanaioli 3, Cremona), every instrument must be the flawless representation of the Cremonese school (morassi.com).
“I was 16 years old when I arrived in Cremona from Tarvisio. I got off the train and asked: ‘Where is the International Violin Making School?’ Nobody knew what I was talking about.” Gio Batta Morassi likes to relate this anecdote to describe the beginning of his lifelong adventure in Cremona, during which he discovered and developed a trade that had yet to be created. Morassi was born in Cedarchis di Arta, in the province of Udine, in 1934. When he was 8, his family moved to Camporosso, where his maternal grandfather ran a sawmill. After completing his vocational training in Tarvisio, the Udine Chamber of Commerce awarded Morassi a scholarship, with which he went to Cremona to pursue his studies in the then little-known art of violin making. In 1950, what was soon to become an “international” school was still only a workshop inside the Ala Ponzone technical school, with a music room that was barely more than a closet. Morassi remembers that the school was very poorly outfitted. The materials he needed for the lessons and workshops were not available in town: “There were no suppliers of wood and fittings, and I had to go to Mittenwald, in Germany, to buy what I needed.” He was tutored by Peter Tatar, an almost storybook character who, in 1933, had walked most of the way to Cremona from Hungary. Things changed suddenly towards the end of the 1950s, after the school moved to the Palazzo dell’Arte (now home to the Museo del Violino). A national competition was organised to select a violin-making instructor. Giuseppe Lucci, the top fin-
isher, declined the post, which was taken by Pietro Sgarabotto, and so the position of assistant instructor was assigned to the third runner-up: Gio Batta Morassi, who moved from the student’s desk to the teacher’s seat. Morassi had a direct hand in the rebirth of Cremona’s high craftsmanship, which had made the city famous centuries before through the masterpieces of the Amati, Guarneri, Stradivari and Bergonzi families and pupils. In the 1960s, the School recruited the Bisiach brothers, Giuseppe Ornati and Ferdinando Garimberti, preeminent masters then working in Milan, along with Simone Fernando Sacconi, a consummate expert in traditional violin making who had lived in the United States for 30 years. Gio Batta became “maestro Morassi” and one of the foremost luthiers of his time, transforming violin making into a refined and precious
art. For Morassi, sound is a collection of harmonies as much as a composition of scents: those of the woods, the varnishes and the resins that are integral elements of each instrument. Morassi’s ambition was to make a contemporary violin incorporating the characteristics that had been handed down by the great masters of the past, and to establish a standard, based on those very features, that would make a violin of the Cremona school recognisable at a glance. Even during the difficult years at the beginning of his professional career, what encouraged him to persevere was his passion and desire to explore the mysterious world of violin building, aiming at the perfection that the Amatis, the Guarneris and the Stradivaris had achieved and revealed in their masterpieces. Morassi’s challenge was to follow in their footsteps and appropriate the secrets of a craft that their hands had turned into an art. Today, at the age of 80, his greatest aspiration is to continue to pass on this heritage through his students and his children, being fully aware that the pupil must outdo the master: “You always have to leave something to the future, to the younger generations.” Morassi has built around 1,000 instruments, mainly violins, violas and cellos. But he has also made kit violins, viols, guitars, violas d’amore, barytons and vihuelas. He continues to contribute to trade magazines and he sits on the juries of major international competitions. He takes part in festivals, exhibitions, national and international fairs and seminars in Europe, the United States, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and Mexico.
Maîtres d ’art
Above, a phase in the varnishing process at Gio Batta Morassi’s workshop in Cremona. Opposite page, top: the traditional tools express the luthier’s personality, and all the materials (resins, woods, varnishes) are selected with painstaking care. Bottom, multi-laureled master violin maker Gio Batta Morassi is still committed to transmitting his vision of the luthier’s art.
A NEW GENERATION OF CRAFTSMEN REDISCOVERS GLASS Above, “City Gate”, a glass work by Guan Donghai (2009), from the Xin series. Opposite page, “Gather” by Shelly Xue: the wings are made of glass and are included in the collection “Angel is waiting”. Young Chinese artists and craftsmen are rediscovering the expressive potential of decorative arts.
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ON THE WINGS
of innovation by Shannon Guo
IN THE LAST 15 YEARS, CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTS AND CRAFTS ARE RAPIDLY REDEFINING THE MATERIAL AND CONCEPTUAL DEFINITION OF GLASS, CERAMIC, WOOD, TEXTILES AND METAL
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52 97 For centuries, the Western world has been familiar with traditional Chinese porcelain. But when we consider the contemporary creation of porcelain pieces, as well as other expressions of the applied arts, the situation is very much different. Besides, even the Chinese general public still considers as bizarre the use that contemporary masters make of clay, glass, fabrics, wood and metal: a distance reverberating also abroad, where very often only the most luxurious collectable pieces, or - on the contrary - only the mass-produced common articles, are known. In 2005, to promote contemporary artistic crafts in China and overseas, together with some American friends I established the twocities gallery in Shanghai - the first and only dedicated to contemporary arts and crafts. Ten years later, in Bristol, with curators from three UK museums (the Bristol Museum, the Cheltenham Museum and the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent) I developed the exhibition “Ahead of the Curves - new china from China”: we had selected for this purpose 17 pieces of contemporary Chinese craft artworks, finally showcased in a culturally stimulating environment.
Only five art schools with jewellery and metals studios existed in 2003; today, more than 50 institutes offer specific programmes in these fields
Most of the selected works had been made according to traditional procedures and techniques in the city of Jing De Zhen for centuries the main Chinese centre for ceramic production - but every artist had added a different twist, something personal. Many of them come from Jing De Zhen, or are closely connected to the city: some teach at the local Ceramic Institute, others are professors somewhere else, but to Jing De Zhen they all return every year to regain their strength and creativity. They live between traditional and modern ideas, between Chinese and Western influences, and Jing De Zhen is for them a holy placea paradise for ceramic artists. The Bristol exhibition allowed us to reintroduce and redefine, in a modern key, a material which had been in use for centuries. And it has permitted to identify the ongoing challenge for this generation of masters: to figure out how to reinterpret the conceptual and material definitions of traditional ceramics in their own language. How to revive tradition, at the same time expressing an identity which can make the difference? Jackson Lee, one of the artists featured in “Ahead of the Curves”, said that for him tradition “is like a cup
NOBLE PORCELAIN Above and opposite page, “Birds Twitter and Fragrance of Flowers” (2010): in these porcelain works by Wan Lya, one of the noblest and refined materials of Chinese culture is decorated according to tradition to reinterpret bottles and jars that are used in modern households.
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of green tea, it’s with me wherever I go.” So, tradition followed him from Jing De Zhen, where he was a teacher, to the state of New York, where he received his master in ceramic from the Alfred University. For many younger artists, though, tradition seems to be something very far away, even if they are surrounded by it; and at the same time, the Western artistic concepts - taught in every art school - are far removed from Chinese culture. Though standing in a seemingly dichotomous situation, contemporary Chinese masters want to express their own thoughts with authenticity: a new process must thus be studied, at a crossroads of different inspirations. A process which needs meaningful exchanges: contemporary glass art, for instance, was brought to China by scholars who studied in the UK. Once back from the University of Wolverhampton, Zhuang Xiao Wei, Guan Dong Hai, Xue Lv and others built glass studios in China and began a production of artworks, creating a real movement. They later influenced younger artists like Wang Qin and Han Xi, who found their expressive way in materials such as glass and ceramics.
There has also been amazing growth in the field of jewellery and artistic metal working. In 2003, there were only 5 art schools with jewellery and metals studios; today, more than 50 institutes offer specific programmes in these fields, with related degrees and diplomas. Many universities have built their own ateliers, and more and more students, after graduating, start their careers by setting up their own studios and small companies. Where do we stand, now? As an artist, educator, founder of a gallery specialised in applied arts, and curator, I have been an eyewitness and protagonist of the profound changes which are happening in the world of artistic crafts in China, and I have observed how rapidly this field has developed in the last 15 years. After analysing and participating in what has been happening, I can surely affirm that we are assisting to an authentic revival of the contemporary craft movement. The Chinese government has also recognised the need to promote and encourage it. I feel fortunate to be a part of it, and I expect to see even greater results in the near future. We still have a long way to go, but hopes are high: so we run with joy.
ECHOES OF HISTORY Irony and tradition, contemporary artistic languages and archaic influences converge in “At ease” (2010), a porcelain work by Zhao Lantao. According to art expert and exhibition curator Shannon Guo, China is assisting to an authentic revival of the contemporary craft movement.
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Interpreting 260 years of Vacheron Constantin’s history, the Parisian heraldic engraver Gérard Desquand has created a golden cylinder seal bearing 24 extraordinary symbols, each representing the Maison’s landmarks, innovations and pioneering achievements.
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IMPRINT OF TIME by Alberto Cavalli
A UNIQUE AND EXCEPTIONALLY REFINED OBJECT WAS ENGRAVED BY THE FRENCH MASTER GÉRARD DESQUAND FOR VACHERON CONSTANTIN, TO CELEBRATE 260 YEARS OF UNINTERRUPTED ACTIVITY
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THE ENGRAVED METAL REFLECTS AND RADIATES LIGHT
In the fourteenth volume of the Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts, published in 1751, the term “seal” (sceau) was defined as the impression of a symbol or allegorical figure upon a document to prove its authenticity and command compliance. Four years later, at the age of 24, Jean-Marc Vacheron began his activity as watchmaker in Geneva with a somewhat different imprimatur: not a wax seal stamp on a patent nor a royal charter (all illustrious recognition would be awarded only later), but an apprenticeship contract. In 1755, the Swiss master was, in fact, hiring Esaïe Jean François Hetier to assist him in crafting his timepieces. The signature on that contract marked the first milestone of what is now the world’s oldest and most prestigious watchmaker. It embodied a vision for the future and a keen awareness of the need to transmit knowledge through time. Two elements that have always been an integral part of Vacheron Constantin’s philosophy and still find effective expression today in the unflagging artistic, cultural and technical quest that has resulted in increasingly amazing and precious timepieces. They also inform a truly unique attention to training, education and the passing of the baton from master to pupil, which the Manufacture supports and encourages not only in haute horlogerie, but more generally in the precious and fragile world of the métiers d’art. To celebrate 260 years of uninterrupted activity, Vacheron
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Constantin has thus chosen to return to the origins of its identity by commissioning the engraving of a golden cylinder seal with the significant name of “Imprint of Time”. While Jean-Marc Vacheron never had one of his own, the seal has always ideally accompanied the history of the Manufacture, which is summarised by the motto “do better if possible, and that is always possible.” This unique and exceptionally refined object was created by Gérard Desquand, a French master engraver specialised in heraldic art. Custodian of a noble and time-honoured tradition, Desquand teaches at the École Estienne and is President of the Institut National des Métiers d’Art of Paris. He engraved 24 extraordinarily powerful symbols onto the golden cylinder seal: twenty-four, like the years of Jean-Marc Vacheron when he began his adventure. The iconography chosen by Vacheron Constantin and Gérard Desquand depicts the Maison’s landmarks, innovations and pioneering achievements. In retracing Vacheron Constantin’s accomplishments in watchmaking, the seal also highlights the Maison’s artistic vocation, which emerges, first and foremost, in its commitment to the métiers d’art. Both aspects are perfectly represented in the person of Gérard Desquand and in his work. This masterpiece of fine goldsmithing was obtained from the dexterous use of the burin, with which Desquand engraves and carves the metal. The amount of gold carved from the surface depends on the inclination of the burin’s
Every symbol engraved on the golden seal is the result of the masterâ€™s skilful use of light, which is reflected and radiated in the engraved metal. GĂŠrard Desquand has earned the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 1979.
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PERFECT GESTURES PERFORMED BY THE MASTER’S EXPERT HANDS
tip: every gesture thus reveals the expertise that guides the hand along a meticulous and detailed design. The brilliance of the 24 symbols demonstrates the master’s skilful use of light, which is reflected and radiated in the engraved metal. This achievement is the result of perfect gestures performed by Gérard Desquand’s expert hands: a skill that demands not only concentrated effort but also time and patience. And passion too, because only a heart that loves its work is able to intuit, in the sparkle of metal, the quivering form yearning to emerge into the light. The precious work created by Desquand is not an ordinary seal. Nor, for that matter, has Vacheron Constantin ever been content with marking its creations with a simple logo: indeed, the Maison applies a host of seals (cultural, material, spiritual and metaphorical) to its creations. Among the material emblems is the Hallmark of Geneva, created in 1886 to identify and protect the work of the Geneva masters. This highly coveted mark of recognition is still one of the most prestigious seals (both literally and culturally): a guarantee of provenance, resilience, accuracy and workmanship. The first of Vacheron Constantin’s movements to bear the Hallmark of Geneva dates back to 1901: the Manufacture was thus one of the earliest to recognise the importance of an unsparing and impartial certification of uncompromising quality, to single out exceptional products and uphold the value of authenticity. Vacheron Constantin also marks everything it does with
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seals that are perhaps not material but certainly every bit as concrete: each of its creations reveals an unflagging regard for human beings, technical and scientific research and the promotion of an immaterial legacy composed of gestures, traditions, standards and knowhow. And lastly, the Manufacture also manifests its identity in its famous Maltese cross, a fundamental component of each piece of haute horlogerie, a discreet and evocative sign of evenly distributed forces, harmony and vitality. Unveiled in Geneva on 17 September 2015, the golden seal marks the Manufacture’s 260th anniversary: a symbol of continuity with the past and a commitment to the future. Continuity because the symbolic power of sealing has always accompanied the history of human relations. Even in the Bible, the lover in the Song of Songs says: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.” A seal is proof of loyalty and eternity, of value and courage. Whether metaphorically applied to one’s heart, as in a lover’s vow, or to documents and dispatches, as by the monarchs of old, a seal is the visible sign of that which is authentic, precious and enduring: like a watch crafted by Vacheron Constantin. The Geneva watchmaker builds its future on the commitment and promise to protect and further not just techniques and research, but also the métiers d’art that ensure that every eye that beholds one of its watches – past, present or future – will be rewarded with a precious and unforgettable experience (vacheron-constantin.com).
The seal also bears Vacheron Constantin’s motto: “Do better if possible, and that is always possible”: a commitment to excellence in every creation, as well as to bequeath the métiers d’art to future generations.
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Te x t a n d p h o t o s b y S u s a n n a Poz z o l i
A DISCERNING CREATOR OF PERIOD-INSPIRED GARMENTS EMBELLISHED WITH EXQUISITE EMBROIDERY, OLLIVIER HENRY LIVES AND WORKS IN A PEACEFUL OASIS JUST OUTSIDE OF PARIS
Crafsmanship on stage
This page, Ollivier Henry in his home-workshop near Paris. This is where his creations are born, inspired by a careful study of historical models, with a predilection for womenâ€™s fashion from the 16th to the 19th century. Finely and painstakingly crafted and fully hand embroidered, the dresses are created for cinema and theatre productions and coveted by the worldâ€™s preeminent museums.
62 Where can one find the kind of passion that does not dwindle with time, but flourishes and ripens with ever greater enthusiasm? Ollivier Henry, masterful embroiderer and refined creator of period-inspired garments, is the right person to ask. He lives and works a few kilometres outside of Paris in an elegant late 19th-century house with garden. Immersed in this microcosm of peace and beauty, surrounded by his collection of ceramics, books and biographies of historic personages – with no internet or television – he is able to dedicate himself to his creations with constancy and method. Fascinated since childhood by fabrics, dressmaking and tailoring details, Monsieur Henry began learning to sew when he was seven years old. No one else in the family inhabited this universe, and it was only thanks to the precious encouragement of his two grandmothers that he began creating clothing for dolls, later moving on to larger and more complex garments. While he was teaching himself to cut and sew, he also found the way to acquire knowledge of the history of fashion and costumes. Independently and without the help of tutors or guides, he honed his dressmaking skills driven by an unquenchable curiosity and thirst for learning. As an adult, he took a three-year advanced training course in fashion at the École Duperré, where he realised that stage costumes were his true passion and decided to make this his trade. While completing his degree, he took a stimulating short course on embroidery and, meaning to apply it to his costumes, he then embarked on a two-year programme in this craft. Only a few months after receiving his diploma, Henry was already making his first works for the opera (his second passion) and teaching the history of costumes at the École Duperré. For a number of years thereafter, he divided his time between teaching and creating stage clothes for operas such as Manon by Jules Massenet at the Paris Opéra Comique and Die Walküre by Richard Wagner at the Marseilles Opéra. He also made costumes for cinema, including those worn by Gérard Depardieu in Roland Joffé’s Vatel. Two equally important elements converge into Henry’s production: technical and manual mastery, achieved through long hours of work and testing and the study of original antique clothes, and a solid knowledge of history, costumes and aesthetics. His ultimate goal is to create unique pieces that are true to the fashions and techniques of their day but liberally reconceived, fashioned and embroidered. Monsieur Henry follows a strict creative process. The original idea may arise from a piece of writing or something someone said. Or from a museum, from observing an antique garment, a piece of embroidery or an accessory. Sometimes he has a specific person, place and date in mind, such as when he decides to create an outfit for a grande dame to wear to a reception. Other times it may be the serendipitous discovery of a marvellous fabric at an antique deal-
Crafsmanship on stage
Winner of the 2014 “Talent du Luxe et de la Création” award in the “rarity” category, Ollivier Henry has been working with needle and thread since he was a boy. He not only creates the dresses and accessories but also embroiders them, executing original stitchwork with rare mastery. This page, a tailleur inspired by 19th-century fashion in taupe silk taffeta and feather-stitch embroidery.
64 er’s that inspires him to conceive a dress for a particular occasion. Every period costume is designed for a specific, formal occasion, in conformity with the dress etiquette of the time: tailleur by day, black gown in the evening, hunting jacket outdoors... When the context is clear, Henry immerses himself in reading, indepth research of silhouettes and embroidery in particular, to create a costume that is as true as possible to the original techniques. These dresses are always “freely inspired by...” but brought to fruition in the refined and cultured universe of their creator. The outfits are perfectly finished in all their visible and invisible parts: corsets, necks, petticoats, lace... Henry works on one garment at a time: when he has finished embroidering it to perfection, he moves on to the following creation. On average, the process lasts nine months, although each garment is unique and may require more time if the sewing and embroidery is particularly complex. The various elements of a dress are made separately and according to the feminine proportions of a particular historical period. When they are ready, they are assembled on a custom-made wooden dressmaker’s dummy. It is now that the costume finally reveals itself in all its beauty and incredible complexity, the precision of its finishings and the richness of its colours and details. And unveils the painstaking intricacy and perfection of the embroidery that blends harmoniously into the overall design, enhancing the forms of the dress. The lace, bows, beads, myriad and varied stitchwork, colour nuances, trimmings, buttons and ribbons take us back to the sumptuous outfits of the past. Henry’s designs are inspired by women’s fashion that spans from the 16th century to the end of the 19th. Each era has its own specificities and differing ways of conceiving the body, and the artist loves to venture between one century and the next, one milieu and another. He has never lost the passion he discovered as a child, always expressing a joyful desire to create and to learn by creating. The pleasure and emotion he feels when he finally sees his vision come to life after months of careful work immediately spurs him to begin another. Monsieur Henry’s creations have been exhibited in a number of museums, including the Palais Galliera and the Cité internationale de la dentelle et de la mode at Calais, and in international tradeshows. Henry always seeks a harmony between his creations and the place where they are exhibited: for this reason, historic settings are clearly the best suited to generate such a dialogue. His costumes have found great scenic impact in Medieval castles and 19th-century mansions. He would like to establish a “touring costume museum” travelling to prestigious locations, both public and private, with a cycle of exhibitions tailored to each venue, to create a dialogue between his creations and the architecture and atmosphere of the settings. In 2014, Ollivier Henry received the important “Talent de la rareté” (talent of rarity) prize, awarded by the Centre du Luxe et de la Création of Paris in recognition of the originality of his work.
Crafsmanship on stage
Ollivier Henry studies and reproduces the specificities of the historical periods, social occasions and historical contexts corresponding to each of his works. He seeks iconographic accuracy but also a spectacular impact. This page, a Louis XV-inspired short fitted morning jacket, typical of mid-18th-century fashion, in pink ottoman silk with an embroidered floral motif.
AT RIVA 1920, ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN FURNITURE MAKERS IN CANTÙ, A RED SLEDGEHAMMER HANGS AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE PRODUCTION DEPARTMENTS: TO DESTROY INADEQUATE PRODUCTS AND SPUR EMPLOYEES TO FOCUS ON EXCELLENCE
Te m p l e s o f s a v o i r - f a i re
CLUB by Simona Cesana
“Tra le briccole di Venezia” (Among the posts in Venice) involves 34 big names in design, art and fashion. The mooring posts that marked the navigation channels in the Venice lagoon (briccole) take on an ecological meaning: oak poles corroded by seawater are transformed into household furnishings. This page, “Venice” by Claudio Bellini. In this table the briccole are reflected against a polished steel top to represent the magic enchantment of the Venetian lagoon. Left, the “Bricolages” seats, stools and small tables by Mario Botta are an homage to Brâncus‚i.
Te m p l e s o f s a v o i r - f a i re
The day’s work is left on the bench, where it is covered with a red cloth to protect it
Cantù is a small city in Brianza with a deep, generations-old bond with furniture making. The local furniture industry experienced an extraordinary openness to design throughout the years of the Selettiva del Mobile exhibitions: 20 years (from 1955 to 1975), during which the best Italian and international architects (Carlo De Carli, Ico Parisi, Gio Ponti, the Finns Alvar Aalto and Tapio Wirkkala, just to name a few) worked side by side with the artisans in the workshops of Cantù. Together they fully and clear-sightedly accomplished the most significant achievements in design, production and marketing in the furniture sector. Thanks to the capable and open-minded artisans and entrepreneurs who embraced collaboration with preeminent figures in the field of design and architecture, Brianza furniture was elevated to the highest incarnation of the principles and triumphs of Italian design. This sets the stage for the story of Riva 1920, one of the best-known furniture manufacturers in Cantù, distinguished by a strong personality in its approach to production and in what I like to define “the aesthetics of ethics”. We will get a better understanding of both aspects from the words of Maurizio Riva, head of the family business (co-owned with his brother Davide and his sister Anna). We met Maurizio at the company’s facilities in Cantù: a factory, a showroom and a wood museum featuring over two thousand historical woodworking machines and tools that the Riva family collected with patience and passion. QUESTION How did you affirm your identity as a company and express the great significance of wood? How important for you are projects that go beyond the mere production of furniture? ANSWER Our philosophy is based on a vision that I continue to carry forward emphatically: to produce timeless furniture for future generations. It is a concept based on principles that I have taken as my own. The first is
the use of reforestation and reclaimed wood, like the old kauri wood which we use to make tables. It is extracted from the ground, where, after some great natural disaster of the past, it has remained buried under water and mud for thousands of years. We show our respect for the material by using it to produce tables, so as to preserve and highlight its identity and vigour. Another example is the way in which we reuse the mooring posts (briccole in Italian) that marked the navigation channels in the Venice lagoon; our projects represent a third life for this wood, the first being the original tree, the second as an element in Venice’s infrastructure and the third being the one we have created for it in the shape of furniture and furnishing accessories based on projects by famous designers. The third example is the important project we have developed with the community of San Patrignano (a residential treatment centre – Ed.), where we set up a carpentry workshop in which furniture is created with the recycled staves from old wine casks. This is an example of how new life can be given not only to wood but also to young people who are in need of support. Q. Riva 1920 is a synonym for prime quality raw materials and fine workmanship. How do you reconcile industrial and handmade production processes? A. Modern technology allows us to execute precision works down to a tenth of a millimetre, something a carpenter could never achieve by hand. Production processes have changed dramatically: certain projects (such as the Piano Design bookcase, which required one full year to design and develop) would not be possible without the use of technologically advanced tools. The equation here is: technology plus workmanship equals quality. As for the wood, we never use particle board. Our furniture has a body in plywood or laminated board that is then edged and veneered, like my grandfather used to do, with solid wood, which we apply with a
Opposite page, the Riva 1920 workshops: hand-applied oil and wax finishes and attention to detail are fundamental elements that combine with the most sophisticated technology to create the Riva quality. “Modern technology allows us to execute precision works down to a tenth of a millimetre, something a carpenter could never achieve by hand,” explains Maurizio Riva, leader of the family business. “Technology plus workmanship equals quality.” (riva1920.it).
Te m p l e s o f s a v o i r - f a i re
We use reclaimed wood like the old kauri wood, buried in peat for thousands of years
precision that can only be achieved with technologically advanced equipment. The quality of our production can be seen, for example, in our drawers: they are entirely crafted from solid wood and assembled with dovetail joints. Or our shelves, which always have supporting elements and 90% of our hinges are designed and produced specifically for us. Q. It is fascinating to enter your showroom and perceive the quality of your work, something which is conveyed also by the scent of the natural wood. A. Our walk-in closets are made of solid or multiplex cedar wood. The wax or natural oil finish is applied exclusively by hand. Tidiness is essential to me, and it is a rule in all our factories: brooms are red and they must be hung up, and dustpans stowed away. Cleaning up is the final duty at the end of every working day. When the bell rings, at 6:20 pm, everyone, in each of the three factories, starts tidying up and the day’s work is left on the bench where it is covered with a red cloth. Why the red cloth? Because it covers and protects the product as if it were ... well, almost a child, because what we are making is for our clients. For me, this care has an inestimable value, and we invest a lot in it. Q. Is it the aesthetic manifestation of a rigorous method and work ethic? A. Yes, it’s a symbol. Our other symbol is a red sledgehammer that hangs at the entrance to the production departments. We use it to destroy low quality products. We explain the meaning of this hammer to our employees, for whom it represents the value of quality work. This is my rule and I won’t stoop to compromises. In Italy, the wood industry doesn’t know anything about wood anymore and the furniture industry uses everything but wood. I watch things carefully, how they are made, and I dedicate particular attention to wood: how can you make a large table in solid wood and then cover it with varnish?
Up until 10 or 15 years ago, wood had to be perfect, without knots. But does it make sense to make a solid wood table without a single knot? The knot is what gives it life! Q. Ethics and the value of work also emerge in other initiatives promoted by and featuring Riva 1920. I am thinking of the cultural events in your museum (attracting as many as 600 visitors at a time), the competitions for young designers that you periodically organise and the activities you promote in conjunction with other furniture manufacturers... A. My work is now 50% communication; my soul is half company, half social. Keeping relationships with artisans and designers within the framework of the Brianza Design project, promoting activities in schools and universities.... these are the areas in which I am involved and which I try to link together. I have often met with resistance because my approach is to seek a route independently, which many others can then follow, and this upsets the Establishment. I am anxious to help others and I dedicate a lot of attention to young people: many contact me to share ideas and ask advice and I always try to call them back or respond personally. I hold lectures at fifteen different universities, and I am very angry with the professors because they don’t talk to each other, and this attitude does not help the students. It is clear that they have neither knowledge of the materials nor of the technology. I try to make up for these shortcomings by inviting many students into my factories and urging them to visit other factories and the tradeshows specialising in materials. It is vital that professors step out of their classrooms and take their students to visit companies so that they will understand how they work. We have to make an effort to mentor the young: those who have the opportunity and who have an idea must endeavour to give something to the new generations. This, I believe, is the duty of an entrepreneur.
Opposite page, “Kairo” chair by Karim Rashid. The particular double-arc form carved into the wood was inspired by a trip Rashid took to Egypt. The chair starts as a solid cedar wood block that is put into a machine that carves it to obtain the final shape. The operation may take more than eight hours. The final smoothing, rigorously done by hand, requires another four hours of work.
by Silvana Annicchiarico*
DESIGN After 92 years, the Triennale di Milano returns to its original seat in the Villa Reale of Monza with a Permanent collection
s *Director of the Triennale Design Museum
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Sometimes it is almost inevitable that things go back to their roots, to the place where they began. This is true for people and for institutions. On 14 December 2014, the Triennale di Milano returned, at least in part, to its original seat in the prestigious setting of the Villa Reale in Monza, where, in 1923, it was originally founded as the Biennial of Decorative Arts. There is nothing nostalgic about the Triennale Design Museumâ€™s choice to transfer the Permanent collection of Italian design, one of its most prized resources, to Monza. In fact, it has grown out of the conviction that this will be a new start, providing fertile soil for thought and discussion, and a means to strengthen â€“ even symbolically â€“ the bond between the region of Brianza and the interrelated system of cultures, practices and knowledge that have made Italian design what it is today.
The exhibition area, located in the Belvedere of the Villa Reale, was designed with great elegance and admirable formal clarity by architect Michele De Lucchi. The objects on display are arranged in chronological order and divided by decade, to represent all the major phases of contemporary Italian history: the postwar reconstruction period; the economic boom; the years of social upheaval; the era of hedonistic consumerism; the final decade of the 20th century, characterised by the tormented search for a new identity; the dizzying changes ushered in with the digital revolution and the advent of new media in the new millennium. Paying tribute to the innovation, experiments and variety of Italian design are more than 200 iconic pieces selected from the Permanent collection of the Triennale Design Museum, with works by great designers (from Gio Ponti, Franco
Cathedrals of culture
Albini and Ettore Sottsass to Piero Fornasetti, Bruno Munari and Alessandro Mendini) that stand alongside those of young talents (from Lorenzo Damiani and Martino Gamper to Fabio Novembre and Formafantasma). The Triennale Design Museum will tirelessly continue to explore the fascinating story of Italian design - expressing its shape-shifting vocation in exhibitions that constantly change structure and layout inside the Palazzo dell’Arte of Milan, designed in the 1930s by Giovanni Muzio next to the Parco Sempione. While Monza will become the place of permanence, a space where world-acclaimed Italian design can celebrate its most iconic excellence. To this end, the Permanent collection embraces a very broad range of objects (from furnishings to lights, from seats to office furniture), to represent the
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spirit of their times and interpret the needs and dreams of the eras in which they were designed and made. Furthermore, each of the exhibits is indispensable to define the Italian design system, with its amalgam of manufacturers and designers, far-sighted industrialists and brilliant creative minds, innovative forms and functions. Both the selection and the display are aimed at presenting one of modern Italy’s greatest stories in a manner that is accessible to a broad audience and in the most straightforward way. And this is all the more significant in view of a major upcoming event in 2016: the Triennale di Milano’s 21st International Exhibition entitled “21st century. Design After Design”, which will take place simultaneously at the Villa Reale in Monza and at the Palazzo dell’Arte, as well as at other prestigious venues all over Milan.
Michele De Lucchi designed the evocative spaces where the Permanent collection of the Triennale Design Museum is exhibited, inside the Belvedere of Monza’s Villa Reale. The collection presents over 200 works ranging from the post-war period to the present day (triennale.org).
by Alberto Gerosa
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
THE SCHOOL OF THE ISTITUTO POLIGRAFICO E ZECCA DELLO STATO IS A SEEDBED FOR MODELLERS AND ENGRAVERS FROM EVERY CONTINENT. AN INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED ITALIAN INSTITUTION
Before taking the leap into the third dimension, the new medals are first sketched out on paper. The medal celebrating the third year of Pope Francis’s papacy features the main figures in the famous sculpture by Bernini: a cherub piercing the heart of Saint Teresa of Ávila with a fiery dart, symbol of God’s love.
The secret of the success of this Italian story lies in the far-sightedness of the original concept, which instituted a museum and a school-cum-workshop alongside the “coin factory” The Scuola dell’Arte della Medaglia dell’Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato is the internationally renowned medal-making school of the Italian State Printing Office and Mint. On top of executing custom projects for prestigious customers, it provides state-of-the-art training for aspiring modellers and engravers, both Italian and international. Italy has a venerable tradition in medallic art, which developed on our peninsula during the Renaissance, when it parted ways with the models of the Roman era. The art of medal design and engraving is inseparably linked to the names of Benvenuto Cellini, Leone Leoni and, above all, Pisanello, who created what is considered to be the first modern portrait medal: the bronze medallion that commemorates the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus and his participation in the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438). The evocative power of this art form continues unabated today: for over half a millennium it has condensed the events and the great personalities of history into figurative forms and symbols. Much of the merit goes to institutions such as the School of the Art of Medal-Making, which was set up by the Italian Royal Mint in 1907 and taken over by the State Printing Office
in 1978. The secret of the success of this Italian story lies in the far-sightedness of the original concept, which instituted, alongside the “coin factory”, not only a museum but also a school-cum-workshop. The Scuola dell’Arte della Medaglia (SAM) is the only example of its kind in the world, a seedbed for modellers and engravers who go on to work in mints on every continent. Every three-year course provides an ad hoc curriculum for students and scholarship holders from all over the world (so far with the only exception of India), who benefit from the farsightedness of the exhaustive educational programme developed by Laura Cretara and Rosa Maria Villani, who have enriched the main course of study with equally indispensable disciplines, such as grand feu enamelling and gem engraving – the latter being an art in which the great Renaissance medallists excelled – as well as embossing and chiselling. The overriding imperative is complete mastery of the representation of reality, of human anatomy and the forms of nature, with or without the aid of computer graphics. The value of digital technology in this field is fully recognised (particularly in crucial phases such as the design and production of punches) and taught
This page, (centre) the obverse of the 2015 Vatican commemorative coin. Top, the plaster low-relief model is eight times larger than the final medal. The prototype is first carved in wax or other modelling material, which is then duplicated in two successive moulds (“negative” and “positive”) to create the final prototype. Opposite page, the cherub’s robe is carved on the reverse of the same medal.
The overriding imperative for the artisan is complete mastery of the representation of reality, of human anatomy and the forms of nature, with or without the aid of computers as part of the curriculum. Achieving an optimum balance between theory (concentrated mainly in the first year) and practical classes has also proven to be a factor of fundamental importance: students are trained for their future professions by participating in projects developed either by the school itself or by the State Printing Office or by other no less prestigious external institutions. Like the annual Pontifical Medal, which the Mint has issued without a break since the 16th century, symbolising not only the continuity of St. Peter’s throne but also that of the medal-maker’s art in Italy, where only a threadbare, anachronistic post-Cavourian spirit could fail to acknowledge the enduring bond between the mint of unified Italy and the pre-existing papal mint. The 2015 Vatican commemorative coin, whose design was closely followed, as always, by the Holy Father, was issued on 29 June in the three classic metals (gold, silver and bronze). Featured on the reverse was not the customary effigy of the incumbent pope, but an image of Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Ávila, interpreted with sensitivity by the young modeller Alessia Di Giuseppe, SAM graduate and scholarship student. A choice that not only reflects Jorge Mario
Bergoglio’s desire to pay tribute to a great mystic of Iberian origin, but that is also an exhortation to the Church to return to the genuine frugality of the mendicant orders – which many consider the key feature of Francis’s papacy. Passing from the sacred to the profane, Di Giuseppe also created the new issue of the Calendar Medal, a popular series inaugurated by the State Printing Office in 1981. In keeping with the subject chosen for the coins of recent years, “Humanity’s Symbols and Themes”, the 2016 issue develops the concept of love drawing on the splendid figures in the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck. The young artist dedicated several months to designing and modelling this medal. She consulted an expert on the tarot in order to find the combination of cards that was best suited to auguring a 2016 most worthy of the lofty sentiments celebrated by the medal. And just as Herman Melville devoted an entire chapter of Moby Dick to deciphering the gold Ecuadorian sixteen dollar doubloon nailed to the mast of the Pequod, we do not doubt that it will take the possessors of the new Calendar Medal a whole year – and perhaps more – to fully fathom and comprehend the arcane symbols reproduced on its sides!
This page, (centre) the sketch of the 2016 calendar medal, obverse. Top, from left: final touches on the plaster relief of the tarots that have inspired the 2016 calendar medal; one of the workshops at the SAM (Via Principe Umberto 4, Rome; sam.ipzs.it). Opposite page, the ecstasy of the Spanish Carmelite on the 2015 gold papal medal.
Green Empoli glass (right) is one of the materials revitalised by Leo Prusicki, Domenico Rocca and Alberto Nespoli of Segno italiano. This page, an exhibition designed for the Cologni Foundation at the Bagatti Valsecchi museum in Milan.
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OF RENAISSANCE by Giovanna Marchello
THREE YOUNG DESIGNER-ENTREPRENEURS LAUNCHED SEGNO ITALIANO TO BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO THE PRODUCTS OF ITALIAN HIGH-END CRAFTSMANSHIP. FROM GREEN EMPOLI GLASS TO THE CHIAVARI CHAIR
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The purity of the ceramic tableware produced at Este (Padua) and the warmth of the copper cookware crafted by the artisans of Trentino enrich the thematic scenario of Italian home life developed by Segno Italiano (segnoitaliano.it).
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At the beginning of the 20th century, the American historian Henry Adams wrote that “chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.” Every day we witness how the chaos surrounding us is generating unconventional entrepreneurial initiatives that are marked by interdisciplinarity and are aimed at confederating and promoting Italy’s precious productive and creative resources, which the crisis is eroding and dissipating. A new scenario where a wealth of ancient and modern knowhow mingles in a fluid relationship, a configuration that is best suited to brave an unpredictable global economic outlook. In this eclectic framework, two young and enterprising Milanese interior designers launched their innovative project in 2010. Under the trademark of Segno Italiano, Alberto Nespoli and Domenica Rocca (recently joined by a third partner, Leo Prusicki) are opening new markets to high-quality Italian artisanal products that are made in the preeminent historical manufacturing districts of Italy. At the same time, Segno Italiano is engaged in interior design projects, thus introducing these products also in a concrete context: private homes in Italy and abroad, retail stores (Segno Italiano designed and implemented a network of shops in the Czech Republic) and the food service industry (like the Refettorio Simplicitas in Salzurg). “Domenico Rocca and I graduated in Interior Design at the Polytechnic University of Milan and we share the common passion for Italian fashion and tailoring,” explains Alberto Nespoli. “When we first met, in
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They don’t design new objects. Instead, they update, in a contemporary key, the objects that belong to Italy’s heritage
2009, we started thinking about the fact that these tailoring skills were not reflected in Italian design, and that something had to be done to promote them. This intuition sparked the birth of Segno Italiano, an agency that selects, re-edits, endorses and markets Italy’s high-end craftsmanship in the field of furniture and home decor.” From the start, Segno Italiano’s manifesto was inspired by fashion and by the slow food movement, which in those years was finding a successful physical dimension in the Eataly retail chain. “We were inspired by this model, which selects and presents delicacies in one single showcase, and we thought we could apply it also to artisanal products,” continues Nespoli. From fashion they borrowed the concept of seasonal collections and rapid production cycles. “We don’t normally design new objects. Instead, we update, in a contemporary key, the objects that belong to our heritage, remaining true to the Italian archetypes that have deep historical roots in our manufacturing districts. At the same time, we develop interior design concepts, exhibitions and scenography, not only to sustain this economic effort but also to merge as many synergies as possible.” The collections all share the common theme of “Italian home life”: Convivial dining, Living in the open air, Wellness. The materials are all traditionally Italian, tied to artisan and manual roots. “Our first project was the Chiavari chair, a very iconic product that was developed at the beginning of the 19th century and that is nothing other than the mother of Gio Ponti’s
Superlight chair. Until five years ago, it had virtually disappeared but thanks to our work it is now available again to the market,” says Nespoli. In the same way, Segno Italiano has breathed new life in the green glass from Empoli, a production technique that had been dead for over 20 years. “We researched the archives and dug out some amazing designs, the production of which is entrusted to a team of artisans that were no longer active and that we managed to put back together.” Instead, the ceramic production carried out at Este, in the area of Padua, is still alive and well: “Without interfering with their market, we revived some productions that had long been abandoned but that we believe are very contemporary,” concludes Nespoli. The entire production bears the SI hallmark, “a mark of quality, like the Designation of Origin.” In just a handful of years, Segno Italiano has developed ten collections for a total of some 600 articles, ranging from wicker baskets made in Sardinia and Tuscany to copper pots and pans from Trentino, the “Tripolina” folding chair and the hammock of Monte Isola. Segno Italiano also carries out co-branding projects with designer Antonio Marras, who follows a similar path in fashion. “Once the collections are defined, we produce the catalogue and photos, we define the price policy, we take care of the presentation and of public relations,” says Nespoli. Most importantly, Segno Italiano handles the distribution, which is carried out online (through its own site or with fa-
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Since 2010, Segno Italiano selects, re-edits, endorses and markets Italy’s high-end craftsmanship
mous partners such as wallpaper.com) and also in bricks and mortar shops that, for their positioning and location, represent an ideal window, like the Rinascente in Milan, L’Éclaireur in Paris and The Conran Shop in London. The three young partners are also planning to open Segno Italiano flagship stores, where the public will be able to find the entire product range. And since first-hand experience is at the core of Segno Italiano’s concept, the making of each collection is illustrated in a video “to explain the added value of research, tradition and the people behind them.” Among the new projects that are being developed under the mark of Segno Italiano is a new collection dedicated to pewter that will be presented at the next Maison & Objet fair, a flat in Venice on the theme of Murano glass and Venetian plaster, a villa on the lake of Lugano on the theme of paste-coloured terracotta from the Marche, a new project with Antonio Marras that will be presented at the 2016 Milan Furniture fair, on top of wickerwork projects commissioned by Paris art galleries and new restaurants. In combining a love for tradition, a vocation to design and a practical approach to the market, Segno Italiano has given a contemporary appeal, though philologically accurate, to products and workmanship that are unique, conquering some of the most prestigious windows in Europe and reaching strategic outposts in the US and Japan. While the Milanese headquarters, located at via Palermo 8, have been listed in Louis Vuitton’s 2015 Milan city guide.
The epitome of the Chiavari chair (opposite) was created in 1807 by Gaetano Descalzi, known as â€œil Campaninoâ€?: a tradition revived by Segno Italiano, which also relaunched the Tripolina chair (this page).
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This page, Alison Watt’s “Butterfly” tapestry (2014), commissioned by the Scottish Opera, was woven in the Dovecot Tapestry Studio by Naomi Robertson, David Cochrane, Freya Sewell, Rudi Richardson and Jonathan Cleaver.
Dovecot Studios Ltd.
THE WEAVER TRACES THE DESIGN ONTO ACETATE, MAPPING OUT THE PATTERN. THE DOVECOT TAPESTRY STUDIO IS ONE OF THE FEW WORKSHOPS IN THE WORLD WHERE THIS NOBLE CRAFT IS STILL PERFORMED
Crafting with style
IN THE THREADS
OF TAPESTRY by Akemi Okumura Roy photos by Colin Roy
Dovecot Tapestry Studio is one of the few workshops in the world where the noble art of traditional tapestry is still performed, both for the production of commissioned works and as a discipline, to be passed on to young apprentices. The Studio was established by the 4th Marquess of Bute in the village of Corstorphine, now part of the city of Edinburgh, in 1912: two master weavers, Gordon Berry and John Glassbrook, were called from the legendary workshops of William Morris in Wimbledon. Threatened by the menace of closure in 2000, Dovecot could be reestablished the following year thanks to the philanthropic support from Alastair and Elizabeth Salvesen. In 2008, the Studio was relocated to a late 19th-century Victorian building on Infirmary Street, in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, which originally housed the first public baths of the Scottish capital. Renovated with an investment of 12 million pounds, the new premises accommodate the tapestry and rug tufting workshops, a gallery dedicated to contemporary arts and crafts, a café, a venue for events and a shop. The activities of the Studio are supported by the Dovecot Foundation, which also sustains a program of cross-discipline exhibitions and events. The Dovecot Apprenticeship program, in particular, encompasses cultural and educational partnerships with a special focus on the
new generations. A mission emphasised by David Weir, director of the Dovecot Studio: “Dovecot’s approach is not about preserving, because if you preserve something, you turn it almost in a museum piece,” he says. “It is about developing the craft and fostering apprenticeship. We respect the heritage, the tradition and the skills, but we are not holding on nostalgically to the past. For us, our relevance in the 21st century lies in a new public, who comes here to see another standard and scale, and in the new works that are commissioned to us. We look to the future through our apprenticeship programme, because in parallel to the commissions comes the need to continue to develop these skills.” The Studio’s fame has attracted artists and craftsmen to create some of the most extraordinary tapestries in the world. The Studio has eight skilled weavers and two tufters. Their role is not only to manually create the tapestries, but also to interpret the designs of the artists to whom the projects are commissioned, usually by private and public collectors from around the world. Over 800 exquisite works have been made so far in collaboration with leading contemporary artists like Alan Davie, Henry Moore, David Hockney, Sir Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi, Magne Furuholmen, Garry Fabian Miller and Bernat Klein, to name but a few. Corporate collectors include the Bank of Scotland, PepsiCo New York, Rolls Royce, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the British Library in London, Edinburgh Castle. Naomi Robertson, Studio Manager and Master Weaver, explains that the cooperation between craftsmen and artists starts before the actual project begins, as they have to understand each other and get in tune, and continues throughout the whole process. “When we start we can have no doubts,” she confirms. “In the beginning, the weaver traces the design onto acetate: this is almost like a map of what we need to know. If the artist traces it, it will probably look completely different. They come with
Above, Naomi Robertson, Dovecot Studio manager and master weaver. Opposite page, from top: David Cochrane, master weaver; the Weaving Floor. Both the Gallery and the Tapestry Studio are open to visitors (for opening hours dovecotstudios.com).
Crafting with style
tiny little sketches, painting, photographs, and collages, which we have to interpret with them. We have very traditional crafts and we work with very contemporary artists, but they do seem to get along well!” “We value the conversation between artists and weavers,” underlines Weir. “It brings something new into our world. Musicians, painters, designers, they all bring different perspectives and something unexpected into the conversation. This continues to update the Studio: the heritage is maintained, but the work is new.” In 2008, for instance, Dovecot worked with the Henry Moore Foundation to showcase the artist’s textile designs. “Henry Moore worked with Dovecot in 1950 to create a tapestry: he went on to work with the silk screen printing process and created an extraordinary collection of scarves. The exhibition allowed to examine his working in a different way: scales began to fall from the public’s eyes, recognising that he was not only a sculptor but a creative person, exploring different materials and different media.” Selecting the colours is of capital importance. “We actually mix and blend the colours on our wooden bobbins, to have variations,” explains Robertson. “We rarely weave with a flat colour. This helps to give subtleties, and gives more depth to the tones, making them come alive. A great deal
of blending is necessary.” Weavers have their own favourite bobbins (“they get better with age and usage,” confirms Naomi Robertson) and work individually. “But we are always checking on each other’s mixtures, nuances or colours. It is a constant team effort,” she explains. Weavers never cut the tapestry from the loom – they see this as bad luck. They use traditional techniques, developed over the 100 years of Dovecot’s history. “We use wools, cottons and linens and occasionally silks and metallic yarns, to achieve the desired effect.” In 2013, Naomi Robertson worked in collaboration with painter Alison Watt on a commission for the Scottish Opera: the tapestry was named “Butterfly,” which took three weavers 10 months to accomplish. The opening of the completed “Butterfly” was very moving for all the weavers involved: “it is always a big moment.” As David Weir explains, “it is all about hands, heart and head working together. There is no digital work here: the weaving hands create a magic in the mind. This is what is, and has always been, very meaningful.” All the Dovecot creations are marked with a symbol representing the 16th-century stone pigeon house, located in the grounds of the Studio’s first home in Corstorphine. The weaver’s initials are present on the front or on the back of the tapestry. The Dovecot Gallery is open to the public from Monday to Saturday and the Tapestry Studio viewing balcony is also accessible on specific days. When the Studio was opened, in 2008, it was visited by approximately 5,000 people a year, steadily growing to 45,000 in 2014. The cultural activities that Dovecot regularly organises are a source of both creative and financial oxygen for the Foundation. Dovecot is now working on the biggest tapestry ever: 50 linear metres designed for a new building that will be completed in 2016. David Weir’s great ambition for contemporary tapestry is to keep it alive in a meaningful way, so that “nobody will look at these tapestries without stopping to consider what has gone into them. At the moment, we are beginning to enjoy a really busy time: we have a two-year waiting list of bookings for new commission.”
Above, David Weir, Dovecot director. Opposite page, from top: Rudi Richardson, weaver; Alison Watt and Naomi Robertson with “Butterfly” tapestry. Measuring 5.6 by 4.2 metres, the tapestry took three weavers 10 months to accomplish.
Crafting with style
IMITATING NATURE More than 250 parts are needed to make this mechanical bird. Reuge uses real feathers whenever possible; in case of protected species, they may draw from the remaining stock bought from Bontems in 1960.
The melody OF MEMORY by Alberto Gerosa
THE HOME OF MUSIC BOXES IS AT SAINTE-CROIX, IN SWITZERLAND. WE VISITED REUGE, THE LAST REMAINING HIGH-END MANUFACTURER OF SNUFFBOXES AND CAGES WITH MECHANICAL SINGING BIRDS
A MUSICAL EAR Top, the components of the musical movement before they are mounted in a music box. Opposite page, top: each comb tooth is tuned manually, in order to obtain the desired timbre; bottom, the mechanical heart is housed in its wooden case. An excellent musical ear is a vital tool in each phase.
There is a little village in the heart of Europe, nestled in the Jura mountains in the Swiss Canton of Vaud, that has always nourished itself on music. Here, where the mountain terrain and cold winters make the soil relatively infertile, the most immaterial of arts has brought work and prosperity to Sainte-Croix, at least before the advent of MP3s and digital technology. The names Reuge, Thorens and Paillard say little or nothing to today’s consumers of “liquid music”, and yet up until the 1950s, people all over the world dreamed, danced, fell in love and shared feelings to the melodies issuing from the music boxes and gramophones made in this valley. Those who are lucky enough to visit these idyllic places will find it hard to imagine that once, in the golden age of mechanical music, the bustling Manufactures of Sainte-Croix provided a livelihood to ten thousand people. But far from being mere educational exhibits confined to local museums, the produce of the happy encounter between artistic craft and industry continues to live on in the Reuge workshops. We visited the company just as it was preparing to move into new facilities, a circumstance that allowed us to soak up some of the original
atmosphere. One particularly suggestive space was the workshop containing the old oven that was used to temper the combs. Sunlight barely filtered through the thick opaque patina that had built up on the windows, levers, cranks and cooling basins in decades of dripping oil and flames burning at 800°C. The combs are stamped from a steel strip in which the teeth are cut: each tooth corresponds to a different musical note depending on its length and the lower notes are weighted to impart optimum sonority. To prevent incidental vibrations, a special damper made of Kevlar is attached to each tooth. In the past, dampers were made from chicken feather barbs and were fitted by an “enplumeuse” (literally a featherer). Needless to say, even though they now have computerised tools to help them, the artisans who craft these objects must have an excellent musical ear. Didier Cote, solderer and polisher at Reuge for thirty years, was also a musician (he used to play the synthesizer). But the quality of the music is not judged by ear alone: Cote explains that when he polishes the comb, he does not wear his gloves, because he needs to feel when the metal reaches the right temperature for the best timbre. The heart of every music
STELLAR NOTES The limited edition series MusicMachine (mod. 1 and 3, above and lower right), produced by Reuge with MB&F, features two cylinders, each playing three theme songs from famous films or visionary bands such as Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. The mechanism of this futuristic design embodies traditional principles, as evidenced by the cylinder, comb and governor.
box is the comb coupled with a brass cylinder: the former provides the notes, the latter represents the score. The cylinder is studded with hundreds - often thousands - of tiny pins mounted in holes that correspond to the arrangement of a classical or popular melody. Each cylinder may contain up to four scores: a mechanism moves the cylinder sideways after the first tune has finished playing, allowing the comb’s teeth to play the next tune on a second set of pins. Another critical step in the construction of a music box is lining the interior of the cylinder with a special hot resin in order to fix the pins and enhance resonance; the composition of the resin is a jealously guarded secret. Other special tools used at Reuge trace their roots to the industrial past of Sainte-Croix. One is a special inertial screwdriver (something that can’t be found in a shop) that Reuge craftsmen have passed down from generation to generation. The boxes containing the musical mechanisms are very often real masterpieces of marquetry, skilfully inlaid with the most precious woods. But Reuge is not afraid of making daring incursions into the 21st century, as the new MusicMachine 3 proves: made to resemble
a Star Wars imperial fighter, this music box is the fruit of a collaboration with the visionary watchmaker MB&F. Horology has, in fact, a long and documented relationship with the art of music boxes: Antoine Favre of Geneva, who invented the cylinder and comb mechanism in 1796, was a watchmaker by trade, and so were the Jaquet-Droz family, who made incredible automatons in the late 18th century, including the first mechanical singing birds, once used by the aristocratic elite to teach caged birds how to sing. Heir to this tradition, Reuge is now the last remaining high-end manufacturer of snuff boxes and cages containing mechanical singing birds. Their extraordinarily realistic song is produced by small whistles blown by a tiny cam-driven goatskin bellows. The plumage is often made of real feathers, although imitation feathers are used in the case of a rare or protected species. Forgotten melodies, automatons, singing birds… they seem to belong to a fairy-tale realm, yet this is a quite tangible reality, and it exists in Sainte-Croix. Something you may want to remember, the next time a dogmatic fan of digital music tries to claim its superiority... (reuge.com).
This page, detail of the jewellery compartment in the “Groom” valet stand, crafted in Canaletto walnut TITOLETTO IN PRIMA PERSONA and leather. Right, the * “Carré Cristinad’assise”, Castelli a è padded professore ordinario di Psicologia del ciclo di vita, direttrice del CROSS (Centro ricerche sull’orientamento scolastico e professionale) e del Master “Relazione d’aiuto in contesti di vulnerabilità e povertà nazionali ed internazionali” presso la Facoltà di Scienze occasional seat/table della dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano. E’ direttrice della Fabbrica del Talento. in leather or fabric, isFormazione inspired by the dimensions of the classic silk carré scarf.
THE VIRTUE OF
NECESSITY Designed by Philippe Nigro and crafted by expert French artisans, Les Nécessaires d’Hermès are a clever reinterpretation of the functional furniture that was common in households until the 19th century
by Ali Filippini
The value of these elements lies in the fact that they will age well, as they are not susceptible to passing fashions
Les Nécessaires d’Hermès is a collection of furnishings and accessories for the home that was introduced by the French Maison in 2013 and updated this year with new elements. The design of the dozen multipurpose furniture items and seats that make up the collection was entrusted to the talents of Philippe Nigro, French by birth but Italian by choice. As the name suggests, Les Nécessaires takes its cues from the functional, “necessar y” furnishings where, up until the 19th century, people kept everything they needed in their daily lives. They were built by outstanding artisans, a characteristic conserved in the valet stand, occasional tables, transformable seats and accessories that compose the Nécessaires. A collection that was complemented last year by Les Curiosités d’Hermès, three large, super accessorised trunk-cabinets. As he explains in this interview, Philippe Nigro (who was elected designer of the year 2014 by Now! Maison & Objet) has approached high craftsmanship by drawing inspiration from the world of design and his experience in large-scale productions with big design firms such as De Padova, Ligne Roset, Glas Italia, Venini, Caimi Brevetti. QUESTION How was the collection born, and what relationship was established with the artisans? ANSWER It was conceived in 2011, right after my first meeting with Her-
mès: we began to think about a collection of functional items that, unlike sofas and other major furniture elements, would not necessarily be the “protagonists” of a home. We focused initially on specific items, and went on to expand the design brief while we developed new ideas. In the two years that went between my designing the pieces and their actual realisation, I worked in close contact both with the Hermès technical office and with the artisans. The wood and metal elements and the padding for these furnishings were developed by external resources, while the upholstery and other finishing touches were done internally, drawing on the maison’s historical expertise and knowhow in working with leather. Q. How was it to work in these exclusive workshops? In what way do they differ from those that are involved in more industrial productions? A. As a designer, I spent a lot of time discussing the details with the artisans who were making the pieces. Even if they are independent, these workshops are strongly engaged in the whole process because the workers are trained by Hermès artisans. On top of that, a special section of the workshop is often dedicated exclusively to Hermès. All the suppliers of this collection are in France, because the idea was to have a 100% French production. Regarding the approach, I would say that it is the same:
there is no difference between the manufacturing of luxury goods and that of other high-end, non-luxury products. In either case, the success of a project lies in reciprocity: everything depends on the richness of the relationship that develops as you modify, cut, correct and figure out solutions together... Sure, with a client like Hermès there is more flexibility, especially in the choice of materials and the complexity of the project. Both variables bring extra quality and value to the finished product. Whereas in other sectors, as we all know, one often has to compromise in order to remain within a specific price range. Q. Tell me about your inspiration for the project: did the heritage of Hermès (also in relation to Jean-Michel Franck’s legacy) influence your choices in any way? A. I began by immersing myself physically in the company, to understand
their creative process. Hermès has a huge archive with thousands of pieces, from handbags to furniture, including prototypes. I found it very useful to start my quest there. The founders of the maison were themselves very keen on functional objects that expressed their use in a clever way. This is what I tried to interpret and convey in designing these furniture elements. If you look into the history of Hermès, you will always find great attention to functionality coupled with an underlying irony, an amused and playful approach to each project. So in terms of inspiration, what I wanted to express in this collection was the double flavour of purpose and surprise, which I think emerges in the hidden functions of each element, which only those who use them – and this is the whole point – will discover and know. Some of them, for example, have hidden drawers and
Below, folding “Vestiaire” coat rack with leathertrimmed valet trays and bag rests. Opposite page, “Cabriolet” armchair with Canaletto walnut wood base and brushed inoxplated finishings.
The success of a project depends on the richness of the relationship that develops with the artisans while you modify, cut, correct and figure out solutions together
compartments or other surprise elements that make them intriguing and at the same time perfectly practical. Jean-Michel Franck was certainly a fairly radical designer for his time, and he developed extraordinary projects. But I was not so much daunted by his name as by the international acclaim of a legendary brand like Hermès. And then I was also under a certain pressure because I was coming right after Enzo Mari, who preceded me in the furnishing collections project. As a designer, I am satisfied with my work because the collection has been favourably received, also in terms of sales. Q. Do you have a target customer in mind? What rapport does the buyer of these fine pieces of furniture have with contemporary design in general? What do you think about the interest of fashion houses in furnishings?
A. We are certainly talking about luxury. But if you think about it, even before the last century, the market has always offered exceptional furniture to those who could afford it, both in terms of quality and functionality. Aesthetically, the elements in this collection can easily dialogue with other objects of contemporary design in any environment or setting because they are rather essential in design and timeless in style. Furthermore, this collection can be supplemented with new elements, depending on the customer’s needs, and so grow with time. After the Nécessaires, for example, I worked on three multipurpose trunk-cabinets that can be custom-made in terms of dimensions and functionality (Hermès offers a tailoring service geared to the customer’s needs – Ed.). As regards the attention that fashion houses dedicate to furnishings and lifestyle, I know that some companies produce high quality collections, while other more fashion-oriented brands tend to produce objects that are more ephemeral in terms of their design. In the case of Hermès, the value of these furniture elements lies in their intrinsic quality and in the fact that they will age well, as they are not susceptible to passing fashions.
This page, “Groom” valet stand with revolving, leather-covered mirror. Opposite page, the “Cheval-d’arçons” bench with drawers. All designs by Philippe Nigro (hermes.com).
by Alessandra de Nitto
“ITALIA SU MISURA” PRESENTS THE BEST of italian Everyone thinks of Italy as the home of art and beauty, an open-air museum endowed with unique natural landscapes. But much of Italy’s allure and enchantment, attracting attention from all around the world, is connected with the dense network of workshops and ateliers where the skilled and talented hands of great Italian master craftsmen continue to conserve and cultivate a time-honoured legacy of expertise and knowhow. The entire Italian peninsula is permeated with a unique wealth of specialties that are linked to Italy’s history, land and resources. This heritage has yet to receive due recognition, although in recent years there has been a flourishing of initiatives geared mainly to the more responsible and educated travellers. Responding to this need, Italia su misura (Italy made-to-measure) was developed jointly by the Cologni Foundation for the Métiers d’Art with the OMAOsservatorio dei Mestieri d’Arte of Florence and promoted by Gruppo Editoriale.
The new guide to Italy’s artisanal excellence follows the success of two earlier projects dedicated to Florence and Milan. The scope here is broadened to embrace the entire country, from north to south, in a magnificent journey to 100 selected destinations that showcase the heights of Italian mastery: from ceramics and jewellery to textiles, from silver to fine tailoring and accessories, from musical instruments to Christmas crèches, from glasswork and mosaics to wrought iron... The guide features unique, personalised and strictly hand made creations representing the excellence, tradition and knowhow that make Italy a world reference point for fine craftsmanship. The publishing of this richly illustrated, Italian-English pocket guide was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of Vacheron Constantin. Historically, the world’s oldest watchmaker has always been a keen and sensitive champion of Europe’s métiers d’art. The promotion of knowhow is a mission, an ethical, so-
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I t a l y’s f i n e s t a t e l i e r s
CRAFTS IN AN innovative GUIDE AND web portal cial and moral commitment for the Geneva maison, which has been engaged in haute horlogerie for over 260 years. As partner in the international network of the European Artistic Crafts Days, Vacheron Constantin supports the Cologni Foundation in its initiatives dedicated to the métiers d’art in Italy. It was a daunting challenge for the organisers of this project to put together a small shopping guide encompassing the very best of Italy’s artistic crafts. The selection was based on criteria that are at the basis of high-end craftsmanship, the first being that every phase of the production process must be carried out in the workshop. Tradition and innovation merge harmoniously in the workshops of Italian artisans. With contemporary sensibility, every day they add something to a unique heritage of knowledge that must be safeguarded and transmitted to the next generations. Photographer Dario Garofalo has expertly captured the faces and gestures that represent
this world, revealing an intimate and poetic dimension where competence and passion mark out the rhythm of work. Conscious of the fact that the wealth and variety of Italian artistic crafts could not possibly be represented in one single publication, Gruppo Editoriale, OMA and Cologni Foundation have created italia-sumisura.it: a web portal that brings together an extended compilation of the finest workshops and ateliers in Italy. The bilingual portal features artisans by theme, geographical region and product category, making navigation simple and immediately fruitful. Inaugurated with an initial selection of 300 addresses, the portal will continue to be updated and expanded. This wideranging and meaningful project, which aims at becoming the prime showcase for Italian excellence in the métiers d’art, has received the invaluable support of twenty banking foundations that are members of ACRI, the Association of Italian Banking Foundations and Savings Banks.
Below, the front cover of the volume “Italia su misura” (italia-sumisura.it). Bottom, from left: the historical atelier Bianco Bianchi at Pontassieve (Florence) is specialised in the traditional scagliola method; the ancient art of the mosaic is kept alive in the workshop of Luciano Petris at Codroipo (Udine); in Trentino-Alto Adige, Fritz Drechslerei produces exceptional woodworks in his atelier located at Sarentino (Bolzano).
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IN HER HANDS by Alessandra de Nitto
“NEEDLES ARE MY BRUSHES, THREADS MY PIGMENTS, PRECIOUS FABRICS MY CANVASES” CECILIA PIACITELLI ROGER, MASTER EMBROIDERER
This page, beaded embroidery handbag. Opposite page, some of Cecilia Piacitelli Roger’s tools. From top: bamboo tweezers; copper coloured gold leaf; boar’s hair brush for painting on silk; eyeglasses; handmade needles; Japanese scissors; wooden komas with silver and gold thread; three brushes of mixed goat/boar hair; red sealing wax; Paulownia-wood étui for needles, tekobari and scissors; two steel tekobaris used for work on delicate points in the embroidery.
Her work ranges from home decor to fashion accessories: decorative panels, pillows, folding screens Cecilia Piacitelli Roger has lived many lives... well, at least three. In the first she studied palaeography and diplomatic, earning a diploma in archival science from the Italian State Archives in Milan. In her second life she worked with her family to produce high quality wines. In her third and current life, she has become a master in the art of embroidery, her true calling. She has put in long hours and much passion, tenacity and extraordinary sensitivity to reach a lofty peak of artistic expression and technical skill. But she has not forgotten her past lives and continues to draw on their endowment. Her academic training has given her an extremely methodical and meticulous approach to study and research. Her career as a maker of fine wines has fuelled her innate drive for concrete results and, especially, her love of the natural world, her first source of inspiration. Cecilia is a citizen of the world, a tireless and inquisitive voyager. She was born in Milan, the capital of fashion and design, and from there she set out on her incessant travels. She married a Frenchman and moved to the mountains in Pays-d’Enhaut, in the Swiss Canton of Vaud. She now works immersed in peace and tranquillity in an enchanting atelier with a breath-taking view of the mountains: the ideal refuge for the custodian of a creativity that demands inner tranquillity, concentration and precision. She works six to eight hours a day, and her most complex decorative works may require months to complete. This cheerful, bright-eyed, dark-haired lady is as amiable and enthusiastic as she is determined. She adores her work and seeks perfection with uncompromising perseverance. She has always harboured a passion for embroidery, which has now become a bona fide profession of excellence. Her work ranges from home decor to fashion accessories: decorative panels, pillows, folding screens and also precious, glamorous handbags (always produced in lim-
ited editions), with richly beaded floral patterns or highly refined petit point geometrical embroidery. Cecilia is fond of saying that her hands are her treasure and nature her muse: “Needles are my brushes, threads my pigments, precious fabrics my canvases.” The flowers, trees, leaves, herbs, berries, birds, butterflies, clouds, rocks and rivers that populate her canvases are all poetically rendered with remarkable attention to the tiniest detail. Needles, frames, awls, Japanese scissors, tambour hooks, komas, and tekobaris are among the fine implements in her tool chest. A tireless researcher and experimenter, in long years of study she has gained mastery of all the principal techniques in the Italian tradition. She has collected documents, studied the literature, visited museums and met with many other embroiderers to learn the secrets of their art. With great sensitivity and a strongly personal touch she has assimilated a vast storehouse of knowledge while also pioneering new forms and materials. Cecilia tells us that among the milestones in her learning process were her meetings with certain aged master embroiderers, repositories of a dying knowledge, her long frequentation of François Lesage’s Parisian atelier and her exposure to the sublime tradition of Japanese embroidery. She dedicated long hours to specialised courses at the renowned École Lesage in Paris, temple of haute couture embroidery, now part of Maison Chanel. There she developed her expertise in fashion embroidery, tambour beading and crochet, which she further refined at some of the most prestigious international schools, including the historic Royal School of Needlepoint and Hand & Lock in London, the Conservatoire des Broderies in Lunéville (France), the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan and most recently at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London. But the most significant
Above, from left: the atelier, a former cabinetry workshop, restored by Cecilia Piacitelli Roger to contain her delicate and precious materials; Japanese-inspired embroidery made with the couching technique: a handmade silk cordon wound off a koma is tacked down by a fine silk thread using a handmade needle; Cecilia Piacitelli Roger at work among woollen yarns, frames and finished and mounted works. A number of silk-on-silk Japanese embroidery works are in the background.
Eccellenze dal mondo
influence on both her technical and expressive development is represented by the exquisite traditional Japanese embroidery. Through years of study and exercise, Cecilia has completed the highest level (phase 10) at the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta (USA), custodian of the millenary art of Nuido, the way of embroidery, a spiritual and intellectual path every bit as much as a technical and artistic pursuit. Having achieved the coveted qualification of Nuido teacher, Cecilia travels regularly to Japan to expand and enrich her iconographical sources and technical skills, including the Japanese art of marouflage - which she masters and uses to mount her creations on washi paper - and the exacting technique of applying gold leaf on fabric, by which she achieves marvellous effects of light. She
and also precious and glamorous handbags complements her consummate competence in the most complex techniques with a comprehensive knowledge of yarn and fabric dyeing, using vegetable pigments according to time-honoured method, and recreating certain historical techniques with philological rigour. Though thoroughly versed in traditional embroidery, a crucial aspect of the work of this master craftswoman is her research into contemporary forms and styles. Because Cecilia is persuaded that the only way to keep this métier alive and vital, instead of ignored and relegated to the realm of lowly domestic craft, is to make it more contemporary and support its promotion towards broader audiences. Thus, alongside her production, a significant part of her work involves teaching and promotion through exhibitions, workshops, conferences and seminars. Having resolutely accomplished most of her goals, Cecilia still has one great dream: the creation of a teaching post in the history of embroidery at design or fashion institutes. She hopes “embroidery will find a more visible and contemporary position, on a par with other artistic crafts such as ceramics, glass-work, mosaics, marquetry... Over the course of its history, embroidery has travelled far and wide, much more than is generally acknowledged, enriching and influencing decorative styles in very distant lands.” She likes to repeat that an embroidered design is almost always beauty without a name or face. It is the work of invisible hands that are technically virtuous and capable of producing highly refined creations, but that have remained unnamed and unknown. Immersed in the peace and quiet of her mountains, Cecilia Piacitelli Roger dreams her dream as she embroiders... and embroiders and embroiders. And the prodigious beauty that emerges from her wise and loving hands is the expression of her soul: it has her face and it bears her name.
A traditional Japanese embroidery on shioze silk with silk and metallic threads. The camellias are crafted with a technique fittingly called “realistic effects”. The embroidery is mounted on washi paper using the marouflage technique and displayed as a kakejiku. Cecilia Piacitelli Rogers’s atelier is situated in the Swiss mountains of Vaud (10, Chemin de Rouge Pierre, Les Moulins; ceciliaroger.com): “The patina of time on the floor, the wood and the old pipes remind me that other artisans have worked here before me.”
This page, the Museum of Ceramics in Savona: medical jars dating to 1666 from the historic apothecary shop of the ancient Ospedale San Paolo of Savona are a fine example of excellence in oriental wallpaper designs.
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SAVONA AND MONDOVÌ: FROM LIGURIA TO PIEDMONT, A HIGH ROAD JOINS TWO CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS THAT EMBODY A LOCAL HERITAGE OF EXCELLENCE by Riccardo Zelatore
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Lately, to write about museums almost inevitably implies focusing on the role they can and must play in contemporary society. I am not here to delve into the crisis of global culture: intellectuals of the calibre of Jean Clair have thoroughly discussed this issue, with a good dose of critical indignation. All I wish to do here is to focus on the salient features of two important cultural initiatives that represent a successful example of synergy between private enterprises, public institutions and banking foundations. What they share is not just a common legacy of excellence, but a unique historical and geographical affinity. The new Museum of Ceramics in Savona (Liguria) and its counterpart in Mondovì (Piedmont) are completely independent in terms of genesis, charter, management, endowment, collections and scope. Nevertheless, for centuries their roots have drawn artistic, cultural, social and productive sustenance from a common territory, only apparently separated by the Apennines. The two museums also share certain principles of cultural governance and are now interconnected (with Albissola Marina and Albisola Superiore) by a project titled “La terra di mezzo. La via della ceramica tra Liguria e Piemonte” (Common ground: the ceramics road between Liguria and Piedmont). Savona: in the heart of the historical centre, just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral and the Cappella Sistina, the exhibition’s itinerary starts in Palazzo Gavotti, with the collection of the Pinacoteca Civica and the contemporary works belonging to the Fondazione Milena Milani. The tour continues inside the extraordinary Palazzo del Monte di Pietà that hosts the Museum of Ceramics: a fascinating journey through periods and
styles, displayed with an innovative exhibition design, unwinds over four floors packed with history. From the Renaissance to the 20th century, from Futurism to contemporary design, more than a thousand exhibits narrate the deep bond between a tradition and its territory. The artworks belonging to the Pinacoteca Civica, such as the elegant pottery set from the ancient Ospedale San Paolo and the bequest from Prince Boncompagni Ludovisi, are showcased together with the precious collections acquired over the years by the Fondazione Antonio De Mari: such as the medical jars from the historic Cavanna apothecary shop in Genoa, the treasures of the Bixio collection and Arturo Martini’s modern sculptures Nena and Maternità. In the section dedicated to contemporary arts we find prototypes created by major international artists and designers for Edizioni Attese, which were presented during the Biennials dedicated to ceramics in contemporary art. Original multimedia resources complete the tour, most notably the “quadrasphere”, a technological kaleidoscope of synchronized videos presenting the history and developments of Ligurian ceramic art (museodellaceramica.savona.it). Mondovì: the splendid museum is laid out in 20 rooms of the prestigious and suggestive Palazzo Fauzone di Germagnano. This impressive 18th-century setting is richly decorated with excellently restored frescoes, stucco works, tapestries and mirrors. The palace’s main facade gives onto the Medieval Piazza Maggiore. Contributions and support have come in various forms and from various sources: the Ministry of cultural heritage, the Region of Piedmont, the Province of Cuneo, the Department for historical, artistic and ethno-anthropo-
113 Opposite page, from left: the Museum of Ceramics in MondovĂŹ; one of the exhibition rooms in Palazzo Fauzone di Germagnano; a hall in the Museum of Ceramics in Savona dedicated to classic styles and works by artist Giacomo Boselli; vase in glazed terracotta decorated in Art Deco style (Torido Mazzotti, c. 1926).
logical heritage of Piedmont, the Savings Banks Foundations of Cuneo and Turin, and the Compagnia di San Paolo of Turin. The Museum of Ceramics was the vision of Marco Levi (1910-2001), the last owner of the historic Vedova Besio e Figlio ceramic works, which in turn was also the last surviving ceramic factory in the district of MondovĂŹ before it closed down in the early 1980s. Inaugurated by Guido Neppi Modona, then president of the Fondazione del Museo, and Christiana Fissore, the director, the museum hosts nearly two centuries of typical everyday tableware that was produced in the local manufactories. The visitor experience is enhanced in multimedia display rooms that strengthen the educational vocation of the institution, which is not intended only as a history museum but also as a concrete demonstration of the generative power of culture. The manufactory and museum merge in the fully functional ceramics workshop, where all phases of the production cycle are performed: a centre for experimentation and exchange between contemporary artists and designers, to support and promote the renovation and relaunch of local production (museoceramicamondovi.it). These cultural institutions are two fully-fledged cultural hubs, distinguished for their venues of historical prestige, their relevance to the local heritage and the modernity of their displays. The concept, planning and organisation of coordinated initiatives, integrating museums, schools and the traditional local ceramic craft into an organic system, constitute a high road around the vagaries of globalisation, an intelligent path to certain fundamentally wise principles of civilisation.
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ur country, Italy, is a land of wonders. But they should not be used as a smokescreen, behind which indolence, ignorance and neglect are free to run wild
LET BEAUTY NOT BE AN ALIBI
nc a r F
y ed b
ogn l o C
“Ma signore, cosa mi domanda? Son veramente innamorato di questa bellissima lingua, la più bella del mondo. Ho bisogno soltanto di aprire bocca e involontariamente diventa il fonte di tutta l’armonia di quest’idioma celeste. Sì, caro signore, per me non c’è dubbio che gli angeli nel cielo parlano italiano.” In Thomas Mann’s Confessions of Felix Krull, confidence man, Italian is a celestial language and Italy the homeland of beauty. It is quite easy to fall in love with our country, our culture, our traditions. Yet, as in every Garden of Eden, insidious serpents lurk in our paradise: they are the malignant tempters that engender neglect, disorganisation, corruption and the “industry of ugliness” (ranging from ignorance to delinquency) that offend our eyes every day. Beauty can generate life, but it can also stifle it: this is the risk that we run when we emphasise only the sugar-coated surface of our culture. We must not forget that creativity and the culture of design can emerge and prosper only in a political, economic and social context that is stimulating and essentially nonconforming. A context that is nurtured by science, research, challenges, inspiration, and historically based on the highly evolved dialogue between clients, creative minds and artisans. This dialogue is not always relaxed, at times even confronta-
tional, but it remains quite unique to this country, as the recently established foundation “Italia Patria della Bellezza” rightly affirms. At a moment in history when messages are easily trivialised, it takes a strong critical outlook and a compelling narrative to present Italy’s “well crafted beauty” as the outcome of a process that is cultivated by curiosity and competence. It means summoning an effective rhetorical power to relate the true heart of beauty, rather than its facile surrogate. This is what we seek to do in this magazine. Italian beauty must be comprehended, embraced and narrated with a competence that is not only evocative but also linguistic: to highlight genius as well as the work behind it, maturity as well as experimentation, growth as well as tradition. Falling in love with beauty is easy. But true love is always fertile, generative: it gives birth to something new, something that is bound to take us far. Unlike Narcissus, who is punished by the gods for falling in love with his own reflection, Pygmalion is rewarded by Aphrodite for being infatuated by the beauty of his work: because the love he feels for his statue is pure, expressing the sensitivity of the maker. While the Medusa kills by turning her beholders to stone, the enamoured gaze of the artisan/maker imbues his creation with the breath of life, which is generated by the authenticity of his inspiration and the skill and mastery of his execution. The gaze and the word: these are the true sources of love. But in order to preserve the power to arouse and merit love, to generate richness and awe, beauty must not be used as an alibi for indolence, ignorance and neglect. In order to be competitive, we need to be precise, punctual, and reliable; we must know how to relate the truth that surrounds us in a beautiful way. To advance from the evocative power of language to the triumph of action is the challenge we are now facing.