When people used to ask Piero Fornasetti the secret to his eponymous home décor brand’s creations, he would reply, simply, that “the secret is in the imagination.” There was a level of necessary confidentiality when the Fornasetti label was founded in Milan in the early 1950s; techniques and ideas were held close to the vest so that they were not copied or stolen. In present day, however, things have changed.
Today things have changed, largely due to technology, but there are still many artisanal and craft secrets that can only be discovered after years of acute practise—in this case, carried on by Piero’s son, Barnaba Fornasetti, who now runs the company. “Of course there are still many secrets, but they are all related to artisanal manual skill that you acquire only thanks to experience and years of hard work,” he says. “I dare you to create—with the same quality and in so little time—the objects that we create in our atelier.” It is with this confidence in skill that Fornasetti is releasing a series of videos that explore and explain the brand’s creation processes. Offering a glimpse into the mysterious and whimsical atelier, the videos outline the various artisanal processes within the company and mark the first time such ideas are being shared outside its walls.
Fornasetti has always been focused on the magical and bewitched, favouring iconography embodying the sun and the passage of time. Piero, a sculptor, painter, engraver, and designer, was famously infatuated with the soprano Lina Cavalieri, and it is her face that is lovingly emblazoned on many of his pieces. The plates, trays, chairs, and other household objects he designed held a certain enchantment—something Barnaba is proud to continue building on. “I’ve never had doubts about following my father’s footsteps,” he says. “It was a natural choice for me. My father was lucky to find an heir in his same bloodline and, since I think it’s not an easy circumstance to find a new heir in a further generation, I’m organizing all things so that there will be a team of people with past experience in the atelier. I believe more in teamwork than in only one identity.” Piero, who died in 1988, was celebrated last year with a huge retrospective exhibit at the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs, after it debuted at the Milan Triennale. “As Philippe Starck once told me, it’s not easy to identify the moment of transition, because I’ve been very careful in preserving my father’s philosophy using themes taken from a very rich archive and developing and adapting them into what I like to call ‘re-inventions,’” Barnaba says. “I’ve never been obsessed with the necessity of being modern and contemporary and the same is true for my father, I’d say.”
Time ticks, technologies advance, the sun rises and sets. What remains constant is the feeling you get when you pick up that perfectly fashioned plate, made with the same attention to craftsmanship as the decades passed.
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