The Michelangelo Foundation in Venice is presenting 12 master artisans from Europe who carved a unique place in the world of the finest craftsmanship. Get into the world of these special artisans in the exhibit Singular Talents room, one of 16 exhibition spaces that make up Homo Faber: Crafting a more human future, a major new exhibition celebrating European craftsmanship, at Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.
In an industrial world even the most precious objects can be replicated. The master artisans featured in this exhibit may not be the only people in the world working in their particular field of craftsmanship, but they are nevertheless unique. Or because their skills or the materials they use are inextricably linked with a specific place; they can be the only person in their region continuing a traditional skill that was once ubiquitous; or because they are a talented young artisan breathing new life into a profession that until now has been the exclusive domain of old masters. The uniqueness is real here and it has a beautiful link with the contemporary life.
“All these artisans are unique in their own way but we think it is important to stress that rare does not always mean being on the verge of extinction,” says Alberto Cavalli, Executive Director of Michelangelo Foundation and curator of the exhibit. “On the contrary, these 12 exceptional people embody the future of these fascinating professions, setting a benchmark of excellence and innovation which we hope will inspire a new generation to follow in their footsteps.”
Bellerby taught himself to craft globes after failing to find a good enough quality one to give his father on his 80th birthday. Peter and his team now have created hundreds of some of the most sought after globes on the planet, each one personalised and meticulously handcrafted using traditional and modern techniques.
François Junod makes remarkable mechanical sculptures that showcase the beauty of mechanics. His creativity is quite ambivalent. He gladly admits a strong affinity with contemporary art and with the willingness to keep the automaton makers tradition as well. He is one of the few people using the techniques pioneered by 18th century watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz.
Passionate about reviving interest in stained glass, Izabela Kovalevskaja uses both traditional and modern techniques to create beautiful windows, sculptures and decorative objects. “Working with glass means painting and firing the glass over and over. The process includes sandblasting and enamelling as well. Sketching out designs using ink and paper takes a lot of time”.
Richard Maier uses traditional tools such as hammer and chisel to create beautiful engravings on luxury items including hunting guns and knives, working entirely by hand under a microscope. He is a German engraver specialized in two rare engraving techniques: scrimshaw and bulino. “To sharpen a graver and engrave a line is as if you learn the alphabet. My engravings however are poems, they tell stories”, says the artist.
Eric Charles-Donatien one of the few is plumassiers in Paris, making fashion accessories and pieces of decorative art using natural feathers with traditional French artisanal skills. He brings together breathtaking originality with a thorough understanding of the materials he works with. For 13 years he collaborated with the most prestigious of fashion houses, including Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vera Wang and Roberto Cavalli.
Florentine craftsman Scarpelli continues the tradition of creating mosaics in hard stone, a skill that dates back to the Renaissance. Renzo’s technical experience, his craftsmanship and sensibility, make him a complete artist, capable of conferring light and shadow to a cold and hard material like stone, with an outstanding approach to the time-honoured technique of commesso fiorentino. One of the master artisans that worth to discover.
Carloway is one of only three mills in the world still making Harris Tweed. It is handwoven on traditional single and the newer double width looms by the islanders in their homes in the Outer Hebrides. Made from pure virgin wool, dyed, spun and finished at the mills in the Outer Hebrides.
Johanna Nestor makes wood-burning stoves out of ceramic tiles crafted by hand. Her focus is to develop a design of the stove from what it has looked like historically and inspired by nature, to creating and giving the stove a contemporary attire.
Ingunn Undrum & Sarah Sjøgren handcraft rope using techniques that date from the Middle Ages, keeping this ancient skill alive. They produce handmade rope from hemp, manila, cocoanut, linden fibers and horse hair, among other natural fibres.
Daniel Lopez Obrero makes embossed leather accessories, from intricately embossed bags, signature books, photo albums to decorative panels, and stunning works of art using cordobán and guadamecí techniques, ancient traditions in the Córdoba region of Spain.
The foremost enamel artist creates delicate paintings on watch faces using traditional techniques such as cloisonné, champlevé, grisaille, pailloné, Limoges, and miniature painting – an asset that separates Porchet from her more specialized peers.
Konstantinos Vogiatzakis is the only artisan in the Magnesia region of Greece still making traditional saddles for mules and donkeys, continuing this long-held craft in meticulous fashion. Each saddle is adjusted for a donkey, a mule or a horse, like a custom-made suit. “They are all single pieces.” He takes a bundle of straw and pads a felt pillow; covering it with leather and then he fits it into the wooden frame.
These unique master artisans can be discovered by way of commissioned videos by Swiss filmmaker Thibault Vallotton, mounted in the exhibition space as though in a portrait gallery. A ballet of gestures, faces, places and wonderful objects, the films will take visitors inside and around the workshops of these European master artisans to observe the incredible techniques they have mastered, the places that inspire them and the beautiful works they create.
Also, three of the master artisans will be showcased in virtual reality experiences. Guided in their journey by a virtual giant, visitors will be immersed in the artisan’s workshop and have the chance to virtually participate in the process of creation, getting a hands-on introduction to the incredible techniques and ancient skills involved in semi-precious stone mosaics, automata and enamelling.
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