Venetian Glass Beads. Amy West
Amy West is an American artist and designer who has decided to devote herself to the ancient art of Venetian glass beads. Thanks to her creativity and international influences, her jewelry and creations express a very personal style, which blends the traditional technique of glass lampworking with modern design.
Venetian Glass Beads. Beads and Fire
Italian-Israeli composer and musician Yakir Arbib illustrates the process of creation of a piece inspired by Venetian glass beads. The artist has tried to transpose into music the action of fire, an element of creation and destruction, which is crucial in the art of glass working. He has also composed three musical scales inspired by the three colors emitted by beads while being forged – red, blue and white. The piece is performed by Arbib himself on the piano and by Thomas Block on the glass harmonica, a very rare musical instrument made of glass too.
Venetian Glass Beads. Historical Overview
The typically female Venetian craft of “impiraresse” consists of “impirare” (threading) Venetian glass beads (the “conterie”) with long thin needles, and it is traditionally carried out within homes or along the calli of the Canareggio sestriere. This ancient craft is today kept alive by resilient “impiraresse” such as Marisa Convento, Luisa Conventi and Bruna Costantini, who wish to pass on their art to future generations.
Venetian Glass Beads. One Bead, One Story
Francesca Rizzoni discusses the past and present value of Venetian glass beads, an art form now recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Legend has it that the art of glass beading was born out of a desire to reproduce the natural pearls and corals imported from the East by Marco Polo and quickly became an art of great cultural value. Today, Venetian glass beads can serve as a warning in the difficult recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is only by being aware of the fragility of beauty and of the need to create a new sense of solidarity that we will be able to start again: each one of us is a bead, connected to the others by a fine thread that creates a jewel as precious as it is fragile.
Caterina Licitra Ponti
Caterina Monda in conversation with Italian designer Caterina Licitra Ponti at the Milan Triennale. Caterina Licitra Ponti talks about the very early birth of her passion for design, influenced by her family’s tradition and inspired in particular by her great-grandfather Gio Ponti. She explains that in her creations she tries to combine references to the Italian design tradition – in particular her great-grandfather’s – with international influences, and that she likes to keep experimenting with new mediums. She also reflects on her personal mission as a “catalyst” for emerging artists and on the importance for young designers to cultivate and pass on the great Italian craft tradition.
Caterina Monda in conversation with the founders of Simple Fair, a creative consultancy company in the world of design. Riccardo Crenna and Simona Flacco talk about their ten-year experience and their creative mission, which is to tell the story of a traditional and often niche field such as design with a new and direct language also suitable for social media. This is why they chose Milan as their headquarters, a city that has made the history of Italian design but which also represents a fertile space for the future growth of the field, as it encourages encounters and collaboration between different realities and is able to draw new lifeblood from young talent. The group’s philosophy is based on personal contact, the exchange of different ideas and the sharing of values and objectives. Simple Fair’s approach is direct and informal, aiming to present innovative and often daring projects in the world of design with sincerity and humility. The desire to create an open gathering space, to offer a space for informal exchange between designers and other creative artists led them to open Riviera, a creative studio in the heart of Milan that hosts events, conferences, exhibitions and workshops. The group’s long-term plans include imagining and investigating the new perspectives of the industry after the end of the covid-19 pandemic, which has allowed them to stop and think about what changes they want to see in the world of design in the coming years.
Caterina Monda in conversation with architect and designer Pietro Franceschini. He explains his decision to abandon his career as an architect and reinvent himself as a designer, which has meant that he no longer has to wait years for his designs to be realized and can take full control of the creative process. In the design of his furniture and furnishings, Franceschini aims to combine classic elegance and simplicity with contemporary innovation and taste; and, in this sense, his constant travels between his two locations in Florence and New York allow him to find ever new creative ideas. Franceschini also discusses his collaboration with leading visual artists and reflects on the crucial role that digital technology will play in the world of design, influencing not only its creative possibilities but also its financial growth.
Artefatto + Studio F.
Caterina Monda in conversation with the designers of the Artefatto group and the co-founder of the atelier Studio F. The Artefatto studio was born from the fusion between the traditional Italian design of Lorenzo Scisciani and Salvatore Morales and the English experimentalism of Sacha Andraos; it is no coincidence that, after its birth in London, the group is about to open a branch in Milan. Studio F., on the other hand, is an atelier founded by Federico Boschiazzi and Francesco Lucchetti that deals with the recovery of wood and has created a special synergy with the Artefatto designers. Their shared desire to maintain a creative identity and rebel against the conforming laws of the market led them to found the Movimento Club collective, an online platform that brings together emerging designers from all over the world and puts them in contact with companies from a variety of different fields. Movimento also allowed its members to digitally exhibit their creations and make themselves known during the period of the covid-19 pandemic. The three designers finally discuss the concept of Made in Italy: it is crucial to preserve Italian tradition, effectively communicating the value of our often-struggling craftsmanship, but it is equally crucial not to fossilize and continue to revive Made in Italy to keep it relevant in the future.
Caterina Monda in conversation with the founders of CC-TAPIS, a company that deals with carpet design. Nelcya Chamszadeh, Fabrizio Cantoni and Daniele Lora retrace the steps of their entrepreneurial adventure, from their meeting to the first designs they realized, up to the collaborations with other great designers and companies. The group explains that they chose the city of Milan as the base of their activity because it is one of the nerve centers of design at an international level. The decision to produce all their creations in Nepal, however, stems from their attention to quality and materials and the desire to enhance the craftsmanship of carpet production. Sustainability is one of the most important values for the group, which is implemented practically in the choice of raw materials, in the production processes, in packaging and shipping. Among the projects of CC-TAPIS there is also the social sustainability program CC-for education, aimed at financing the education of the children of the company’s employees.
Caterina Monda in conversation with the two founding partners of the SBGA group. Giuseppe Blengini and Agostino Ghirardelli explain their approaches to the world of design and their common working experience. The city of Milan is the main center of the group’s activity; over the years, the two partners have witnessed the urban and cultural metamorphosis of the city, which has been transformed into a polycentric city thanks to the development of new aggregation centers that have modified the city skyline – first of all, the City Life district. The ability to combine architecture and design, technological innovation and interpersonal collaboration is the strength that will allow the city to become one of the major European centers of the near future. Architecture and design arise from the same creative process and must also respond to the same principles of feasibility. The two founders of the SBGA group also reflect on the concept of sustainability: the task of the new designers is not to make economic and environmental sustainability an empty ideal, but to devise ways to achieve it in practice in production and construction processes. Finally, the C’entro project is presented, born from the idea of learning again to meet in natural settings after the covid-19 pandemic, respecting the rules of distancing and respect for nature.
The Ladies’ Room
Caterina Monda in conversation with the group of Italian designers The Ladies’ Room, composed of Ilaria Bianchi, Astrid Luglio, Sara Ricciardi and Agustina Bottoni. They talk about their meeting in Milan and their first collaboration in an exhibition in Turin, during which they coined the name The Ladies’ Room; they also reflect on the importance of being a female group but claim their desire to be recognized as professionals in the field regardless of their gender identity. Each of the young artists illustrates their own vision of design. For Ilaria Bianchi, objects are “emotional detonators”; for her, design is a tool for investigating reality, through which we can not only find answers but also ask new questions about our reality. Astrid Luglio has a more pragmatic approach, which leads her to try to reconcile the idea and functionality in all her creations. Sara Ricciardi explains how her idea of design has evolved over time: after her initial attention to materiality, her focus has now shifted to the environmental dimension, to the analysis of how individuals move and interact with the surrounding space and how design can help to rethink urban and social spaces. Product designer Ilaria Bottoni is driven by an ideal of formal simplification and rediscovery of contact with nature, which leads her to focus on the simplicity of materials and purity of form.
Caterina Monda in conversation with the founders of Zaven, a creative studio based in Venice that deals with graphic installation and product design. Enrica Cavarzan and Marco Zavagno recall the beginnings of their collaboration and reflect on the importance of the city of Venice, which represents an endless source of creative inspiration and allows them to walk daily in a reality steeped in centuries-old design. They illustrate the fundamental moments of their creative process, their desire to continuously experiment with different mediums and materials, to always try to investigate the extreme limits of the manufacturability of each object. Fundamental for the founders of Zaven is also the possibility to collaborate with local craftsmen and to enhance the great tradition of Italian design.
Giocare con la luce: il gioiello
Video interview by Fabio Finotti – Director of the ICI in New York – with Alba Cappellieri (Politecnico of Milan, Director of the Museum of Jewelry in Vicenza) and Lucia Silvestri (Creative Director of Bulgari Jewelry), on the importance of light in jewelry design. Professor Cappellieri illustrates how the optical properties of gems, which determine their brilliance and brightness, have a crucial symbolic value: since prehistoric times, men have attributed to the light of gems the ability to create a connection with the divine and to represent the very idea of life. Design exploits the natural brightness of gems to create unique jewelry and uses the cut (faceted or cabochon) to enhance the color and light of the individual stones. Master of this refined art is Lucia Silvestri, whose creations for Bulgari are able to unleash the potential of light and color that is present in the materiality of each stone. Bulgari is an excellence in jewelry design, capable of blending the long Italian tradition in the art of jewelry with a continuous drive for creativity and experimentation; moreover, it is in the Bulgari workshops new generations of goldsmiths and engravers, who will keep Italian manufacturing alive in the future, are being trained.
Planet Light: Lighting and Design
Video interview by Fabio Finotti – Director of the ICI in New York – with Giuliano Mosconi, President of the Zanotta and Tecno group, on the inauguration of the Zanotta House in New York. Zanotta is at the cutting edge of Italian industrial design: the company has reinvented Italian living and furniture thanks to its collaboration with internationally renowned designers and its creations are exhibited in dozens of contemporary art museums around the world. The company has made the fusion of aesthetics and functionality, the balance between tradition and innovation and the attention to the individual the pillars of its success. The Zanotta House in New York is presented today, an open house furnished with Zanotta’s great design creations. It is the innovative way in which the company wants to promote the image of Italian-style living in the world. The protagonist of this project is light: natural light, artificial light and light reflected by the materials and furnishings contribute to involving the visitor in a unique experience.
Video interview by Fabio Finotti – Director of the ICI in New York – with Andrea Cusumano (University of Rome Tor Vergata) and Annalisa Minetti (singer-songwriter and Paralympic athlete), on the possibilities of “regaining light” offered by medical research to patients suffering from blindness. Cusumano presents the work of the Macula & Genome Foundation, a non-profit organization based in New York that brings together experts from around the world, engaged in the development of technologies that can restore sight to blind and visually impaired people – from drugs to gene therapy and retinal prostheses. Ambassador of the Foundation is Annalisa Minetti: the athlete and artist tells how the loss of sight has never stopped her but has in fact taught her that disability is the capacity to be able in a different and special way. She has chosen to engage in outreach, to create a community that brings together researchers, patients and the general public; she is constantly working to raise awareness about both the disease and the new perspectives offered by research, and to make doctors and patients feel a concrete support from the community. As the Foundation’s motto states, together we can “make the impossible possible” and help all people affected by blindness regain their physical and inner light.
Physics of Light
Video interview by Fabio Finotti – Director of the ICI in New York – with James J. Valentini (Dean of Columbia University) on the appearance, perception and impression of light. He illustrates the physical and biological processes responsible for human sight, explaining how light signals from outside are processed by our neuro-receptors and interpreted in the cerebral cortex. Human beings never see the objects themselves, but the images of these objects created in our minds. The same mechanism of processing and interpretation of light signals is carried out by cameras. Moreover, Valentini explains how different light sources (from natural light to artificial methods of illumination) affect our perception of color: each light source has its own specific spectrum of light, which can be more or less close to that of natural light, and which can significantly modify the way we see the world around us. This possibility of influencing the perception of objects by means of light is exploited by great designers to arouse different emotions; the aesthetics of light and color of great designers, moreover, often represents a source of authority for the general taste of society. The human perception of objects and colors is therefore not uniform and objective, but always depends on the sensitivity of the observer, the light source, the device used: we can never know how another person sees and perceives the world.
Neon Light by Fontana
Video interview by Fabio Finotti – Director of the ICI in New York – with Renato Miracco, about the use of light in Lucio Fontana’s work. He discusses the cultural roots of the artist’s idea of light: from Futurist studies on the dynamism of the work of art, to Maxwell’s and Einstein’s great scientific studies on the relationship between matter and energy, to the diffusion of electric light, Fontana developed his art in a cultural context in which the very idea of light was redefined. In his Manifesti Bianchi, the artist introduces the idea of the work of art as a “spatial concept”, that is, as an experience that overwhelms the viewer’s consciousness and takes him beyond his common vision, into a new dimension. Fontana creates a multiplicity of light installations in which he uses light precisely as a “cut through the darkness”, as a passage that takes the viewer to a new level of freedom and spirituality. The most significant examples of this side of Fontana’s artistic production are the so-called “black light spatial environments” and the neon installations created for the 1951 and 1961 Milan Triennale.
Caterina Monda in conversation with Italian designer Osanna Visconti. The designer discusses the importance of having grown up in Rome and the influence the eternal city has had on her artistic career. After dedicating herself to the production of jewelry, Osanna Visconti began making furniture pieces in bronze – the noblest of materials; after designing her works and making a wax sketch, the process of casting the metal is entrusted by the artist to skilled craftsmen. The technique used for her creations, the ancient technique of lost wax casting, requires a refined technical ability, of which very few artisans know the secrets. The artist reflects on the value of Italian craft techniques and on how they risk being lost; it is therefore fundamental to educate new generations, to make them aware of the existence and survival of these traditional crafts and of their inestimable value. Visconti then talks about her decision to settle in Milan, a city with a rich past but always looking to the future, and she reflects on the importance of the Italian natural environment for her art. Nature is for her the greatest artist, every leaf is a unique work of art, and her creations always aim to make the beauty of the natural world eternal in bronze.
Caterina Monda in conversation with Marco Sammicheli, Superintendent of the Museum of Italian Design and International Relations Chief Officer of Triennale Milano. Sammicheli recalls his education at the University of Siena and at the Bahuhaus University of Weimar and talks about his mission in the world of design, that is to use his communication skills to tell the great design story. He recalls how the city of New York, with an exhibition at MOMA in 1972, played a crucial role in the affirmation of the myth of Italian design in the world. In particular, the city of Milan, with the Triennale and the Design Museum, has contributed to the affirmation of great Italian female designers – such as Gaia Aulenti, Nanda Vigo, Cini Boeri – and to the valorization of the artisan and everyday dimension of Italian design. Finally, Sammicheli presents the 23rd edition of the Triennale, entitled Unknown Unknown. An Introduction to Mysteries: the challenge launched to the international community is to understand how design can contribute to illuminate great contemporary issues, first of all the threat of climate change. He believes that design can teach us to redesign not only our products, but also our behaviors and lifestyles, suggesting new directions towards sustainability.