Homo Faber - The Best of European Craftsmanship to the backdrop of the Canals of Venice

Homo Faber - The Best of European Craftsmanship to the backdrop of the Canals of Venice

Whilst visiting design events around Europe this past summer, there seemed to be one mysterious event which no one knew much about - yet everyone was talking about: Homo Faber. It was like a game of telephone, where the few reliable keywords we were able to distill from the buzzing gossip were ‘European Craftsmanship in Design’. Was it a tradeshow? An exhibition? An installation? A symposium? Quite frankly, I had no bloody idea - which made it all the more enticing. Twenty-nine hours in Venice booked.

I think most people and or members of the media tend to do quite a bit of research on the places and projects they are to visit (makes sense, non?). I, on the other hand, rarely do any research before heading off to events or new destinations. In my case, ignorance and having no expectations or preconceived notions about what I am about to discover has become a key element in the equation to my discovery process. Bref, as expected the tactic served me well as I approached the small island Palazzo complex turned exhibition playground by boat.

Once left to my own devices on this picture perfect Italian Island, I discovered a labyrinth of exhibitions all centered around European craftsmanship and how it relates to contemporary design. From exhibitions on the history and evolution of craftsmanship in design to a working lab showcasing the process of art restoration in a myriad of different mediums, workshops with master artisans from British bookbinders to French couturiers showcasing their craft and a final exhibition showcasing ‘the best’ of Europe in craftsmanship in design. After hours of discovery, I highlighted some of my favourite moments from the event below.

 

date
October 3, 2018

event dates
September 14-30, 2018

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I . Centuries of Shapes

Our first stop brings us to a long impressive hall inside one of the palace buildings. It serves as a vitrine into the evolution of design its impact on craftsmanship during the 20th and 21st centuries through a story of a unique selection of iconic vases.

After our own recent curation of vases for a show in Paris, we were enthralled to see more of historical timeline as well as exploration into different mediums and processes. In the ‘Centuries of Shapes’ exhibition we found work of Vítor Agostinho, who like two of our favourite designers using blown glass in textured moulds, Swedish based Jonatan Nilsson and Paris based designer Constant Clesse , all use a similar process of blowing glass into a mould created with natural surfaces to produce the shapes and textures which mimic those of the mould.

A hand-blown cylindrical vase made of red coloured glass is juxtaposed with a square sheet of blue glass fitted vertically above the vase. The vase evokes the style of the Memphis Group, with whose members Pierre Charpin worked in his early career.

This series of white and black hand-blown cylindrical glass vases was designed by Pierre Charpin and created with the assistance of the Centre International de Recherche sur le Verre et les Arts Plastiques (CIRVA) in Marseille.

 This jar designed by  Vítor Agostinho  was made using a mould construction by overlapping plaster blocks, in a controlled as well as random way.

This jar designed by Vítor Agostinho was made using a mould construction by overlapping plaster blocks, in a controlled as well as random way.

 Paadarin Jaa (Paadar’s Ice) was designed by  Tapio Wirkkala  and produced by Finnish glassmaker  Iittala  in 1960. The piece is made up of two blocks of colourless cast glass. The sides show a constant linear pattern that runs from the top to the bottom of the sculpture. The surface of the top seems to sink into the glass itself, creating a melted glass effect.

Paadarin Jaa (Paadar’s Ice) was designed by Tapio Wirkkala and produced by Finnish glassmaker Iittala in 1960. The piece is made up of two blocks of colourless cast glass. The sides show a constant linear pattern that runs from the top to the bottom of the sculpture. The surface of the top seems to sink into the glass itself, creating a melted glass effect.

 Designed by  Henri Heemskerk  and manufactured by  SA Verreries de Scailmont  in Belgium in 1930. The organic shapes of this Art Deco vase have been cut out by sandblasting.

Designed by Henri Heemskerk and manufactured by SA Verreries de Scailmont in Belgium in 1930. The organic shapes of this Art Deco vase have been cut out by sandblasting.

Geology was designed by Ettore Sottsass Jr and manufactured by Alessio Sarri Ceramiche in 2000. The sculptured vase is composed of 15 individual layers of boxes of different sizes, in nine different matt glazes, and with an inner container for flowers in white porcelain.

 

II . Discovery and Rediscovery

You may be familiar with the array of beautiful images of uniquely alluring fine art furniture pieces, out of context, on our Instagram account. After years of looking at, and appreciating, the work of the designers I discovered on a daily basis - I
became particularly interested in process, craft and technique behind the work.

The context was slightly removed from the types of processes which may go into collectible furniture we typically feature but with that being said, the ‘Discovery Rediscovery’ workshop hall was an eye opening entry-way into the world of European Craftsmanship. I spent the better half of two hours exploring how couturiers who work for Haute Couture collections painstakingly sew, bead-by-bead entire patterns by hand to how Italian perfumers delicately balance top notes, heart notes and base notes to create complex and unexpected olfactory combinations.

 

III. Imaginary Architecture

say hi to_ Homo Faber - India Mahdavi
 photo credit_ Tomas Bertelsen

photo credit_ Tomas Bertelsen

La reine, Paris based architect and designer, India Mahdavi, was invited to create an immersive interior space quintessential to her luxurious and boldly colourful creative language - which she highlighted this time through a focus on master craftsmanship.

Walking through the first space you are met with intricate rattan marquetry made by one of the last master artisans to work in this technique. The concept was to create an abstract winter garden paying homage to painter Henri Rousseau. As you approach the second space full of organic, contemporary furniture upholstered by hand you can’t help but drool over the handmade embroidered fish on the boldly hued, silk-clad walls.

 

IV. Restoring Arts Masters

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photo credit_ Tomas Bertelsen

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was the room dedicated to the craft of art restoration. Usually being attracted by shiny and aesthetically beautiful objects and settings, I nearly skipped over this space on first glance. I have to admit, the informative and energetic ‘Young Ambassador’ Eve Doyle, who knew more about every detail of what was going on in this room (more than some curators know about their own shows - just saying) made it all the better.

Namely, I got the chance to see how a restoration craftsman approached repairing various art pieces dating back from the 1500’s until present day. They delicately repaired missing seams on a 16th century Belgian tapestry and we learned how they approached that of a weathered plastic foot sculpture, not only having to remove residue but repair cracks in an authentic and seamless way.

 

V. Best of Europe

photo credit_ Fred Merz

Siba Sahabi

Michal Fargo

The space which resonated most with what we do and feature here on say hi to_, was that of the ‘Best of Europe’ exhibition space. I saw some pieces such as the series of felt vases ‘Blue Alchemy’ by Siba Sahabi, which we had previously featured on our Instagram and new treasures such as Michal Fargo’s flocked porcelain vessels.

The tightly packed plinths showcased an array of very different work from around Europe. Some of my personal favourites included Anne Marie Laureys’ hand manipulated, sand glazed, nebulous vases, Marian Karel’s glass sculptures which aim to mimic 3D spaces in flat form and Rob Renzi’s textured, metal-mirror glazed vases.

Anne Marie Laureys

Marian Karel

Robi Renzi

 
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