Improving what already exists in the nature
We are not interested in polluting the world with our design. We look at objects that has already a better story. Why do you need to start from zero? There has been civilisations with the same topics. Most of the time we try to go through history which has the better form to express that idea.
You are both Italian and you still use your route, materials in the Sicily like basalt stones, textile techniques etc…
I think this is because we are immigrants. I think as soon as you go out from the country you are coming from, you have a more clear view from this kind of far perspective. We indeed reflect Italian culture, heritage and society in most of our projects. Now we are here and it makes it more simple to see a clear picture.
‘CRAFTICA for FENDI Design Performances in Design Miami/ Basel. The making of process.
FENDI has invited Formafantasma to develop ‘CRAFTICA for FENDI Design Performances in Design Miami/ Basel. ‘Craft-Punk’ and ‘Craft Alchemy’ are a new body of work exploring leathercraft in conversation with other hand-worked, natural materials.
‘Confrontations’ / an exhibition curated by Amelie Znidaric, Vitra Design Museum Gallery. Studio Formafantasma, whose previous work comments on the notion of tradition and nostalgia, draw inspiration from the tension between the dystopian connotation of charcoal, causing pollution and destruction, while also being employed in healthcare and water purification.
What made you stay in the Netherlands?
Now we are in Amsterdam. We moved here from Eindhoven last year. In general, we decided to remain in Holland because we started studying here in Design Academy Eindhoven. I think there is a good context for design in Eindhoven. All the designers in here are freer than the other parts of the world. It is not because of some strange reason or money. Here in the Netherlands, there is more respect to design discipline than any another country. And more respect for young people… In Italy you are considered as a young designer until you are 70. We have this big masters. The society or the design community in Italy makes you think that you are young all the time. We are really working well and it is pleasant to live in a country believes in the new generation.
I can read different civilisations’ daily routines at your objects. You try to improve what already exists in the nature. What is the reason behind the interest of ancient cultures, nature and archeology?
When we start our design process we look what has been done before, not as a form of inspiration. We look at objects that has already a better story. Why do you need to start from zero? There has been civilisations with the same topics. Most of the time we try to go through history which has the better form to express that idea. This is the same for the nature. We don’t like processed materials so much. We really like to give the material as much freedom as possible. We don't force material into the matrix, we let it speak. At the Lava project, we wanted to force the material into the matrix, then the material had its own personality. We really let the material speak. We didn't try to transform it too much.
Studio Formafantasma, in collaboration with Gallery Libby Sellers, present ‘De Natura Fossilium’ – an investigation into the cultures surrounding this particularly Sicilian experience to bring both the landscape and the forces of nature together as facilities for production. Lavic glass, produced by remelting Etna’s rocks, has been mouth-blown into unique vessels or cast into box-like structures that purposefully allude to the illegal dwellings and assorted buildings that have developed at the foot of the volcano. In homage to Ettore Sottsass, the great maestro of Italian design and an avid frequenter of the volcanic Aeolian islands, this new body of work takes on a linear, even brutalist form.
You launched the Lava and the Delta collections in Design Miami Art Basel. They are both re-interpretations of the ancient times. Taking some references from the Romans culture and their daily routines. Has it become Formafantasma's mission to add new values to the objects already exist.
In Delta, you can totally see it in the porcelain pieces. The porcelain pieces that we designed are actually taken from the archeological museum in Rome. We just updated them with a few more contemporary details. The original piece was a bit rounded and we wanted to have a more precise square. The end shape is really about what we found in the museum. This is a perfect shape when you pour the water. This is something we actually connect with our name. Formafantasma means absent shape. Objects are not formalized, they can change by time depending on the context we are working with.
Can you explain your research methods?
We went more than seven times to Rome for Delta project. Roman people are still working on ancient material in Rome. It was a really tough project because lots of craftsmanship have lost in time in Europe. Most of the moment we tried to find facilities with high skilled person to work with but the process really can change time by time. For example, the Lava has been a real experimental project. We actually made glass from scratch. So we had to find a creative person who was able to support that idea and take the risk to experiment this material. Most of the time the process is quite long. Delta project has been developed in 2 years and Lava lasted for 3 years before its completion. It is a really long process.
Botanica is the latest project by studio FormaFantasma, commissioned by Plart, an Italian foundation dedicated to scienti c research and technological innovation in the recovery, restoration and conservation of works of art and design produced in plastic. With Botanica Studio Formafantasma is giving its personal homage to plastic materials by investigating the history of polymers.
The objects displayed in the Botanica collection are designed as if the oil- based era, in which we are living, never took place. Almost as if historians, Studio Formafantasma investigated the pre-Bakelite period, discovering unexpected textures, feelings and technical possibilities offered by natural polymers extracted from plants or animal-derivatives. The designers researched and hunted for information, digging into the 18th and 19th centuries, when scientists began experimenting draining plants and animals in search for plasticity.
You are also tailoring the process.
Because we never design frequently. We don't sit and design. First of all, we investigate the topic and then the form comes real at the end where we have all the elements to design. Form comes all the time at the end of the process
You are teaching at the Design Academy Eindhoven. I saw your article in Dezeen. You say that the design students’ demands are shifting. Now, they don't want to establish their studio as soon as they graduate but develop new skills and experiences in the industry. I don't think that all the students should be practicing design in the long term.
Unfortunately, design discipline is really niche. It is a real small niche and there is no space for everybody. Today, students are conscious of that but it really shifts into society. Society demands more people who can generate new ideas. We have good students who think differently in Design Academy Eindhoven. I was not talking about a specific industry but industry in general. We see present students interested in collaborating with a doctor or in material developers or scientists… This is really healthy for the design world.
Your future plans?
We have a lot of projects coming at the moment. We are working for two cosmetics company and developing industrial package designs for them. We are doing a new project for Biennale Lugano which will be presented next year. We are working with an Italian industrial lightning company for Salone del Mobile and we have been given a new commission by the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. It is going to be a project about metal extraction, a real experimental material and this project will be presented in October 2017 in Melbourne. I don’t like the word retrospective but we are also working on a big exhibition about our work that will be presented in Rome in a museum.
How does it feel to make a retrospective for such a young design studio?
We already did one in Stedelijk Museum in Holland. It is always good because it also forces us to make a conclusion for some period. Indeed we don’t like calling it a retrospective. I would say our “status quo”. We will put our work together and try to give a kind of perspective on what we are doing. It will be about our process. We wont be showing any piece. Sometimes when you see the objects in a museum ,object tells you something but not everything. We will try to unravel the layer with this project. It will be a good way to show what’s behind our process.