Portrait credit: Giovanni Gastel
Guglielmo Poletti catched our eye at Spazio Rossana Orlandi with his products, taking the surface tension and turning it into a daily matter. As a newly graduate from Design Academy Eindhoven, Guglielmo shares his experiences on exhibitions, design process and the industry.
You moved your path to Eindhoven Design Academy after studying in Milan, as some other Italian designers did. What did you have in mind? Do you think Italy has the masters and Eindhoven is more open and supportive to the emerging scene?
My path has not been very linear. After various initial experiences, I needed specific circumstances that would allow me to evolve, and Eindhoven was the perfect setting. DAE has a very analytical approach based on ‘thinking with your hands’, and it focusses on nourishing each student’s individual talent. It’s a very open-minded academy, driven by a broad vision, where differences in the way of thinking are enhanced instead of being abolished. These are quite unique qualities for a design school, something you would not easily find anywhere else.
Italy had many masters a few decades ago, but their figures were very much linked to aspects that were peculiar to that specific period. When you experienced such a golden age, the tendency is to rely on that past, and as a consequence the energy that brings innovation might migrate somewhere else. I am proud of my country’s design heritage and I try to get the best out of it, but with its very different approach, Dutch design represented a sort of friction that was necessary for me to constantly introduce fresh inputs, taking some distance from my origins. I see The Netherlands as the most experimental environment, very supportive both economically and artistically speaking. I feel it’s the right place for me to be at the moment.
Guglielmo's process with abstract studies for ‘Equilibrium’
Rossana Orlandi presented you for the first time at Milan Design Week this year. Can you explain the exhibition process and how the exhibition changed your early career?
It’s exciting to collaborate with Rossana, she is a very passionate gallerist with great knowledge and experience, and she truly believes in her intuition. So when she likes someone’s work, she really does her best to promote it, and this creates a special synergy with the designer.
For me the biggest chances came thanks to DAE Graduation Show, which is such an incredible platform to present yourself to the world for the first time – I am still very grateful. Rossana has always been a supporter of Dutch design, and the show is one of the places where she seeks for new emerging designers. That’s where the first dialogue started, when she asked me to show the pieces during the next Milan Design Week, a crucial event for the gallery to introduce new works.
I would rather say my career path started by exhibiting at Rossana’s, since I was just a fresh graduate. So this gave me a good push, but generally I don’t think one’s career can suddenly change as a result of a single exhibition, as things evolve gradually. For sure showing with a gallery like Rossana’s is an amazing opportunity, you enter in contact with a responsive and mixed audience, and this brings many new possibilities
Equilibrium is actually your graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Contextual design master department in 2016. Did you consider your graduation project as something which will define you as a designer in the upcoming years?
For my graduation project I worked on two parallel layers, the theoretical one on one side, and the one concerning the making on the other. My thesis explored some philosophical aspects that one often encounters during the process of making, while the outcome itself took shape on its own.Being able to work freely during my 2-year master allowed me to get a certain grip on myself in relation to my practice, and define some criteria which helped me to create my playground.
‘Equilibrium’ shows a personal fascination for construction, based on the manipulation of details and small gestures. Simplicity comes as simplified complexity, a search for the heart of the matter and its limit. Tension is not a specific theme I will stick to for the future, but I guess from this project one can get an idea of some aspects that interest me.
Speaking of tension, you take a physical fact; the surface tension, and turn it into a daily object. What was the starting point?
The process evolved on its own as the result of a certain set of conditions I created, that let chance play an important role. In order to catch the right idea you have to be receptive, and intuition is a key element. In the ‘Equilibrium’ series I just started with many non-functional and abstract studies in a small scale. This way of working is based on quantity, and opens up so many unexpected possibilities. In the next stage, function comes into play as an extra challenge. The potential use of an object in this sense represents an additional layer in my work.
What do you think about today’s design scene? Young community finding support to take a part in the industry…
I haven’t worked with the industry yet. I am still looking for a certain freedom, and the gallery world allows you to do so. I see many experimental young designers around also willing to explore unconventional routes, searching for very personal outcomes. If I think of industry, in my opinion the best furniture and lighting companies are still based in Italy, although nowadays the scenario is changing. Many of these companies were family-driven businesses, characterised by a human connection that made the collaborations with iconic designers so powerful. This is slowly disappearing, and without this formula I am not sure what can make a difference. Certainly the production in Italy is still of extremely high quality, and if I had the chance to work with the industry I’d choose my home country. But I think this might happen later on, as an evolution of my more free work.
How the city you live inspires and motivates you?
At the moment I live in Eindhoven. After graduation I did not have time to think much, I needed a space to start working immediately. In The Netherlands – and in Eindhoven specifically – you can find a great studio at very affordable price, usually sharing it with other artists and designers. It’s an ideal situation, something that is hard to imagine somewhere else. The city is quite calm, and it allows me to take time to think of my work. As you might also travel quite a lot in the first years, Eindhoven is a good base from which you can easily reach almost any place in Europe.
What do yo have on your table at the moment?
At the moment I am mainly working on a continuation of the ‘Equilibrium’ series, dealing with bigger scales and also translating some of the abstract pieces into lightings. I think these variations will eventually close the circle, as I am looking forward to feeling lost again by starting new work from scratch.