The collection is made up of objects that at first were something else, cups, biscuit jars and sugar bowls, where the white, minimalist ceramic is perfectly balanced by the presence of a piece of silverware that acts as a handle, or old decorated plates that have been turned into jewellery or objects for the home.
We went to interview the artist: Giovanni Scafuro, an artisan from Milan who at a young age breathed in the air of Neapolitan bottegas, meeting ceramicists, smiths and carpenters, who taught him the art of making things by hand. Recycling and recuperation are a constant of his unending process of experimentation, as well as the point of departure for his Vita-Nova collection that, combining techniques and materials, gives new life to everyday objects.
Giovanni, you call yourself a handesigner … what is a handesigner?
The term handesigner is for me a different way of saying artisan, the person who designs, creates and experiments. It comes from the phrase ‘hand & sign’, where the ‘&’ stands for the Italian word for ‘and’, which is ‘e’, and therefore hand-e-sign becomes handesign. ‘Hand’ indicates the manual skill that always stands behind my work and ‘sign’ stands for experimental design, two concepts that I believe are essential for giving a soul to an object and making it unique.
How did you decide to become a handesigner?
In reality, it all came about by chance, around twenty years ago, moving from bottega to bottega among various Neapolitan artisans: Nicola, a master glass worker, the last in Naples to make artisan mirrors; Raffaele, a cabinet maker who can recognise a wood by its smell alone: Mario, a smith who doesn’t need a ruler for finding out the measurement of a pipe; Antimo, a ceramicist who makes vases with his eyes closed; Marcelllo, who makes Tiffany windows and with whom, over lunch, I designed anything and everything on pizza boxes; Gennaro, a painter who taught me how to look at colours … and many, many more. I learned from them both techniques, often traditional ones, and ways of looking at things from a different, unusual perspective. And I started making objects that, over the years, became increasingly technical and material, reusing something that already exists, things that are by now at the end of their life cycle.
What is the idea at the basis of your design?
Looking at things with fresh eyes, giving them a new direction and another life. Working with recycled materials, I am first inspired by the material, then I try to combine techniques, trying to create something new. I am often inspired by what has been ‘rejected’, things I find in flea markets or antique markets, and old stuff like fine porcelain plates that, once chipped, are considered trash. These things have not lost value for me, so I made a line of jewellery. While I transformed the old nickel silver cutlery instead into decorations for the house like centrepieces and lamps.
I have noticed that you have a huge passion for forks. Where does that come from?
The fork is the object I chose for focusing my experiments, both because metal is my favourite material, since it does not take a long time to work, like wood, ceramics or glass, and for its tie to everyday. I like seeing people smile when they realise I have used a fork for a piece of jewellery or turned one into a handle for an espresso cup. Seeing it with different eyes, it can often be astonishing, since it has a shape and use that we usually see as unchangeable.
Would you tell us about the collection you developed for Lago?
The Lago collection Vita-Nova uses objects that were at first something else, like white, minimalist ceramics (espresso cups, teacups, biscuit jars, sugar bowls), which are then perfectly balanced by the presence of a piece of cutlery turned into a handle. Or old decorated plates found at antique markets or flea markets and transformed into jewellery and objects for the home. What interests me more than reuse is the search for a new point of view, using the material in the best way possible, both for its technical characteristics and for its aesthetic angle.