In its fourth edition, the Piemonte Handmade created by Operæ with the support of Regione Piemonte keeps growing along the production paradigm that it narrates. Acting as a magnifying glass, Piemonte Handmade allows us to discover the alchemy born from the collaboration between designer, gallerist and artisan, a virtuous bind of complmentary competence and ability that ultimately originates unique and precious objects.
Ten galleries took part in the Piemonte Handmade project and each one chose a designer to work with. At the same time, ten artisans were selected through a regional competition to take part in the project and be matched up with the designers. Back in July, gallerists and designers visited the artisans in their ateliers and started discovering new crafts, materials, techniques. Each designer developed a project that, while pushing the artisan in a new direction, also showcased his craftsmanship skills. The results are ten arresting unique objects, not prototypes, but finished pieces, ready to be bought, used and loved.
Craftsmanship is having a renaissance, and the importance of helping it thrive cannot be underestimated. The knowledge on which crafts are built is, above all, an important cultural heritage and it would be a great loss if it dissipated. At the same time, the significance of craftsmanship in terms of progress and economic growth is not negligible. This is especially true in Italy, where artisans are renowned internationally for their excellence and competence.
This renewed interest in craftsmanship has little to do with nostalgia for a greater past; the future is bright and offers exciting opportunities. Projects such as Piemonte Handmade – where artisans, designers and galleries work holistically – are important catalysts for finding new outlets of knowledge and skills. Designers, with their unique ability to interpret and innovate, are the ideal interlocutor for the artisan. This creative dialogue leads to new ideas, techniques and formal languages.
The texts by Alice Stori Liechtenstein – curator of Operæ 2017 – are extracts of the exhibition catalogue.
Castagno - A Tray Family
Gallery: GREAT DESIGN gallery
Designer: Alban Le Henry
On his way to meet the artisan with whom he would be working, Alban Le Henry found himself in the mountain community of Valle Stura, a region keen on preserving its strong cultural identity. Chestnuts woods and sheep-farming are two distinctive resources of the territory. Animated to create a project linked to the history of the land, Le Henry went in the woods with Daniele Balangero of Balume and collected chestnut branches. They were then bent with heat, in the same traditional way used by the shepherds when making their curved canes. The bent branches have become the structural and defining elements of a tray and tables.
Chest of Wonders
Designer: Matteo Cibic
While nosing and poking around the atelier of DOC, Matteo Cibic was struck by the skill required for making cushions and craft with which boxes and containers were leather-bound. He started to play with the idea of a trunk, seeing it as a timeless object which is passed along in a family. With an eye to the luxurious travelling trunks of the past, and one to the humbler and traditional wooden chest, Cibic developed his own very personal interpretation. The result is a seating bench, that by lifting the lid can be used as a storage space. Using the most natural leather as a canvas, he applied colour and a pattern with his signature humour.
Forconi, Mestoli e Pugnali
Gallery: Galleria Luisa Delle Piane
Designer: Andrea Branzi
Artigiano: Coltelleria Silvano Collini
When confronted with knife maker Collini, Andrea Branzi thought of the medieval origin of cutlery, when knifes, forks and spoons were closer to tools or even weapons. At Palazzo Davanzati in Firenze, the renaissance archetypes are kept to this day, displaying the not yet domesticated violence of these objects. The handcrafted collection conceived by Branzi wants to recover the primordial brutality of cutlery, which today have become elegant ceremonial tools for a bourgeois society that prepares meals that have lost much of the primordial flavor.
Gallery: The Gallery - Brussels
Designer: Zanellato / Bortotto
Artigiano: Chiara Ferraris
Part of the pleasure of collecting is the displaying of the coveted objects: unusual and antique trinkets fill mesmerising cabinets of curiosities. This was Zanellato/Bortotto’s starting point. Wood and glass cabinets are rather canonical objects, with regular rectangular structures. The designers decided to remove the frames, deconstructed the traditional shapes, and play with coloured glasses. The result are bright caskets, of irregular geometric shapes, where the milky translucence of the glass, worked with maestria way Chiara Ferraris, gives light to the objects inside, just like the stained glass of a cathedral.
Light Conversation Pieces
Light Conversation Pieces is a series of small monolithic stools and coffee tables made of Luserna, a dense metamorphic stone - gneiss in geological terms - found in Val di Susa. By presenting the pieces as a set of geological samples, Piovenefabi make tangible the narration of the tectonics of Piedmont Alps; the combination of rough top and smooth sides achieved by Versino reveal the effort of compression and make readable the stratification of the stone. A grid of pillars sculpted in the mass creates a gentle connection to the ground: the volumes are thus morphed in a family of micro-architectures, almost an ideal urban environment.
Mar Mikhayel (Saint Michel)
Gallery: Carwan Gallery
Designer: Carlo Massoud
Scale can be an interesting variable for a designer, opening up different paths of experimentation. When confronted with jewellery maker Annaratone, Carlo Massoud had the idea of an object composed like a puzzle, in which each piece would be an individual jewel. He developed an urban landscape: a local street façade, made out of silver, using different textures and finishes, with stones as accents bringing attention to some of the elements. Creating a work of this kind was a first for Annaratone, and a worthy challenge for both designer and artisan. The fruit of the work is a unique object suitable for a contemporary Wunderkammer.
Medusa - Lonesome cowboy Nando
Gallery: Camp Design Gallery
Designer: Elena Salmistraro
Turritopsis Nutricula is a small jelly fish, more commonly known as the Immortal Jellyfish: it has the unique ability to invert its own life cycle, and once reached adulthood, can transfer its cells back to childhood, in a hypothetical perpetual regeneration. Inspired by both the zoological and mythological Medusa (in Italian a jellyfish is a medusa), Elena Salmistraro has conceived a hanging seat. Trakatan’s know-how in making handbags has made possible an unusual approach to leather: the soft material is not used simply as way of upholstering an existing structure, but rather it becomes the medusa itself.
Designer: Francesca Fiore
Artigiano: Euro Marmi
Marble processing produces scraps that are often of great beauty and value; small slabs of ancient and rare marbles accumulate with time. Francesca Fiore choses to recover these colourful fragments to create a small domestic architecture, a hybrid between a bench and a console. Juxtaposed to the delicate Mongolian Green used for the structure, the polychrome butterflies made with marbles such as Rose Norway, Atlantis Yellow, Cloudy Gray, Levanto Red, contrast powerfully. Francesco Berruti's skill in inlay and engraving evokes the illusion of a butterfly swarm freeing itself from the stone to fly away.
Gallery: NERO design gallery
Designer: Marcello Pirovano
Artigiano: Pavan Arredamenti
Traditional cabinet making is usually associated with precious and rare wood essences. The structure of everyday furniture however, is mainly constructed using MDF. The carpentry Pavan is no exception, and Marcello Pirovano wanted to find a new processing method and aesthetic for this incredibly versatile material. Inspired by natural and synthetic sponges, he designed a texture composed of different sizes holes. A special round-headed mill was developed to make the surfaces, which were then painstakingly lacquered. The resulting cabinets are sculptural blocks, hiding their real function and acting as sound-absorbent elements.
Designer: Guglielmo Poletti
Artigiano: Berrone Livio & C.
Once in Berrone’s imposing hangar, Guglielmo Poletti knew unhesitatingly that he wanted to work with minimum intervention: his aim was to give stability to a simple metal pipe. He studied the geometry of the tube and the distribution of weight, and devised an apparently simple solution to create a bench, by cutting and rotating a section of the pipe. The quality of the objects is in the restraint with which they are conceived, the strong geometry and the feeling of precariousness they communicate, enhanced by the skill of the Berrone brothers, who were able to work the pieces with precision, welding only four small corners.