Craftsmanship: There’s no doubt that Italians are talented craftsmen and creative designers, their artistic and artisanal excellence is known all over the world. From Ettore Sottsass‘s quirky Memphis furniture to Gio Ponti‘s lustrous pieces, Italy has been a leader in innovative, beautiful, and high-quality design for decades.
_ Achille Castiglioni, ancient Rome, ancient techniques, Architects, Craftsmanship
There’s a reason why isaloni (Salone del Mobile.Milano), one of the best and most notorious art and furniture design showcases in the world, is based in Milan since 1961. Italian Craftsmanship always was internationally celebrated.
Brianza, for example, is considered the craftsmanship-design district, halfway between Milan and Lake Como. It is a mesmerizing place, in which over the past two centuries noble and affluent families built many villas. These constructions required the skillful hands of master artisans and experts which furnished the breathtaking houses. This is the motive why such a fine and precious know-how survived there, as a crucial part of the region’s legacy. Some traditional craftsmanship knowledge can’t even be found anywhere else in Italy.
Since the 1950s, design entrepreneurs come to this area to collaborate with famous Italian and foreign artists, bringing to life of iconic furniture and lighting.
All the best Italian-made craftsmanship products merge together traditional craftsmanship and technology in an extremely detailed and almost perfect way. Artisan expertise has an irreplaceable value which allows delicate finishing details and final touches in all manufactured pieces. Human hands are capable of sensitivity and emotion while maintaining almost industrial precision.
Each hand-crafted art piece is truly unique, since it is not being mass-produced. Every small little detail embraces the authenticityof its material and maker, a perfection in each flaws are features.
The popular saying “Love French. Drive German. Dress Italian” already assures us of the high quality of Italian design and craftsmanship. Just to name a few, Berluti, Brioni, Brunello Cucinelli, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Etro, Fendi, Gucci, Armani, Kiton, Loro Piana, Paul Evans, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, and, of course, Versace, are all celebrated luxury brands with Italian origins. In luxury furniture and accessories we can also find Moooi and Swarovski, among many others.
Thanks to the nonstop evolution of technology, there are a million ways to use chemicals, for example, to tan leather. However, the best leather in the world is made by Italian tanners who use millennia-old traditions of au natural liming and dying. The result is a material that’s sturdier than any other on the market, as we can see in genuinely Italian-crafted shoes, which all have also a beautiful hand-painted finish. Also, most fabric mills use water that’s saturated with salt and minerals, which leads to fabric that’s covered in a thin, color-quashing layer. But Italian fabric mills are usually located in the North, an outstanding region in the south of Swiss Alp glaciers. Craftsmanship italian mills use pure water to produce fabric, that’s why you won’t find a single thread covered in undesirable substances.
> Fascinating Murano Traditional Glassworks
Achille Castiglioni, ancient Rome, ancient techniques, Architects, Craftsmanship
One of the most relevant examples of Italian excellent craftsmanship is the Venetian Glass, created for over 1500 years and with a production focused in the island of Murano since the 13th century. Nowadays, Murano is known for its artistic glassworks, but it also has a long history of innovations in glassblowing and is Europe’s major glassmaking center. During the 15th century, Murano glassmakers created cristallo, and almost transparent glass, considered the finest glass in the world. They also developed a white glass called lattimo which resembled porcelain. Later, Murano also became Europe’s finest mirror’s production center.
Venice was controlled by the Eastern Roman Empire, but eventually became an independent city state which flourished as a craftsmanship trading center and seaport. The city’s alliances with the Middle East created opportunities for the glassmakers to learn with more advanced countries as Syria and Egypt. Venetian glassmaking factories existed since the 8th century, but they started to be controlled by Murano in the beginning of 1291.
Glass factories often caught fire, so removing them from the city and locating them in an island avoided major fire disasters for the populations. It is known that Venetian glassmakers protect secret recipes and methods for making glass, which are still treasured in Murano.
The island popularity peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries. Venice’s dominance in trade along the Mediterranean Sea created a wealthy merchant class that was a strong connoisseur of the arts. The demand for glassworks increased. The spread of glassmaking talent among Europe eventually lessened the importance of Venice and its Murano glassmakers, especially since Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat in 1797. However, Murano glassmaking began to recover in the 1920s and today the island is home to numerous glass factories and a few individual artists’ studios. Murano’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) in the Palazzo Giustinian showcases the history of glassmaking as well as glass masterpieces from Egyptian times to the present day.
> Remarkable Italian Master Artisans
Achille Castiglioni, ancient Rome, ancient techniques, Architects, Craftsmanship
Among many incredible Italian master artisans we can refer Piero Fornasetti, a painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver who lived most of his life in Milan. He attended the Brera Art Academy from 1930-32 and created more than 11.000 art pieces, many featuring the face of a woman, Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. Fornasetti found her face in a 19th-century magazine. Other usual characteristics of his work include the heavy use of black and white, the sun and time. His style evokes Greek and Roman architecture, by which he was heavily influenced. Nowadays, it is frequent to see Fornasetti’s style in fashion and accessories such as scarves, ties, lamps, furniture, china plates and tables.
Talented contemporary Italian master artisans include, for example, Simone Cenedese (glass sculptor), Massimo Lunardon(lampworker), Cesare Toffolo (lampworker), Simone Crestani (glassworker), Lucio Bubacco (lampworker) and Giovanni Corvaja (goldsmith).
Simone Cenedese, one of the best Italian master artisans dedicated to glass sculpture, started working in a glass furnace created by his grandfather when he was still a boy. Through his work, Simone got involved the family tradition of glasswork and gathered the key elements required for developing this art and creating designs. Artistic ability, creativity and the mastering of refined and exclusive techniques as well as the use of a wide chromatic range of pure and brilliant glass have developed into new ideas, creations and projects.
The italian master artisan Simone Crestani specialized in glassworking is known as one of the best craftsmen in Europe. He started working with glass at the prodigious age of 15. After a ten-year apprenticeship in “Lunardon’s factory”, he opened his own studio: “Atelier Crestani”.
> Inspiring Italian Designers
Patricia Urquiola (1961) was born in Oviedo (Spain) and currently lives in Milan. She studied architecture at the Polytechnic of Madrid where she graduated in 1989. From 1990 until 1992 she was an assistant professor in the courses given by Achille Castiglioni and Eugenio Bettinelli, both at the Polytechnic of Milan and E.N.S.C.I. in Paris. Between 1990 and 1996 she worked for the development office of new products of “De Padova” and signed with Vico Magistretti the products: “Flower”, “Loom sofa”, “Chaise” and “Chaise Longue”.
Between 1992 and 1996 Urquiola opened a studio with two friends, Renzio and Ramerino, working with architecture, interiors, restaurants, among others. In the next 4 years she was manager of the Lissoni Associati Group and in 2001 she opened her own studio in Milan, focused on product design and architecture. Patricia won many design awards, such as Antares-Flos, Artelano, Boffi, Cappellini, Cassina, Kartell. In addition to attending events, conferences and lectures she designed for B & B, Bosa, De Vecchi, Fasem, Kartell, Liv’it, MDF Italy, Molteni & C., Moroso and Tronconi.
Her products were selected for the 2001 Design Exhibition in Italy and for the Annual International Design Catalog of 1999 and 2001. In 2001 she was a jury of the 19th CDIM Design Competition and lectured at the Domus Academy. She currently conducts her professional career at her own craftsmanship studio in Milan in the fields of design, exhibitions, art direction and architecture.
> Renowned Italian Art Galleries
Since the end of the Nineties, Nilufar knows how to find its own unique place, so it became a reference point to everyone devoted to historical design, craftsmanship and to people who love to follow the trends and understand the evolution of contemporary design.
Above all, Nilufar inhabits that fine line between artistic knowledge, poetry and visionary ideas, all of them characteristic of contemporary art. Nina Yashar is the gallery’s founder and works with her sister Nilu plus a team of five people. Nilufar was present in several editions of Pavillon des Arts et du Design in Paris and is always in the spotlight at Design Miami/Basel. This art gallery also has its own little manifesto, composed of three words: Discovering, Crossing, Creating.
Achille Castiglioni, ancient Rome, ancient techniques, Architects, experts, art tradition, Artisan expertise, Authenticity avant-garde Design