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Brilliant! The futures of Italian jewelery

This year, among the events of the week of the Salone del Mobile, the XXI International Exhibition of the Milan Triennale was one of the undisputed protagonists. Inside, numerous shows and exhibitions seem to have a new flavor, different from those of the recent past, you feel the desire to leave and above all to take back Milan and the art scene that seemed to dominate twenty years ago. Among all the exhibitions, “Brilliant! The futures of Italian jewelery ”, the exhibition curated by Alba Cappellieri. Observing the creations I could not help but reflect on what the jewel can represent, especially in the complex Italian reality. Lovers and not, we find ourselves dealing with a symbol, the jewel, which reincarnates the most important stages in everyone's life and the traditions linked to our culture. In particular moments of life you can expect a jewel, and when you have received it it becomes the symbol and the indissoluble memory of that moment. I was lucky enough to be able to ask this energetic designer a few questions.

Maura Mantelli: At the beginning of your career you dealt with architecture, when did you realize you had to design jewelry? Where does this vocation come from?

Alba Cappellieri: It was a coincidence. At the end of the 90s I moved from New York to Milan and worked on skyscrapers. The dean of the then Faculty of Design told me that there was the possibility to work on the world of jewelry. This left me a bit perplexed, because I had never dealt with it, I immediately realized that in reality it was one of the very few areas of intersection between design, art and fashion that had not had any kind of scientific treatment. It was an art that had always been a matter of relevance to art historians and never instead of the world of design. Italy was the leading jewelry producer in the world, which meant above all that there was a demand for skills in terms of training, so it was very important for a school like the Polytechnic. I decided to devote myself to jewelery and above all to training as a jewelery designer - which is a radically different profession from the jewelery artist rather than the jewelery craftsman. So I started studying jewelry from a design point of view and the kind of skills that were required by the goldsmith sector and that could be useful for our students. So from the 90s to today the Polytechnic has become a reference for this type of design.


MM: Craftsmanship represents an Italian force. Traditionally, jewels embody the most important stages in people's lives. They represent a social art that in this period is going through severe difficulties due to the contingent economic conditions. Do you believe that this sector, due to the historical moment, is losing the strong symbolic character that a jewel can represent?


AC: In reality the situation is very complex. From the artisan point of view, the jewel has always been there. In recent years it had come to a standstill in terms of innovation and language because the artisans, despite being the custodians of very interesting techniques and processes, had not managed to innovate the language of jewelery. My point of view, as a designer, is to consider every object we intersect as an expression of its time. So from my point of view every object must represent its own time and it is precisely in this ability to represent it that its value and quality emerge.

For many decades, the jewel was no longer able to be an expression of its time, perhaps also because the artisans / goldsmiths closed themselves in their little world of techniques and materials, without being able to come out. Today it happens that craftsmanship has a new life, as long as it is synchronized with new technologies. It is not allowed to be disconnected with the world, it is unthinkable not to handle the new additive technologies and it is unthinkable to be only the banquet goldsmith, because in this way it is not possible to reach consumers and make it a profession. My idea, the one I try to convey to my students, is to be a little less romantic and a little more concrete, in the sense of being able to intercept what the market demands are. Italy, in this historical moment, is extremely rich in opportunities for young designers, there are many spaces in the world of industry and goldsmith manufacturing. I believe that on the part of the craftsman there must also be digital skills, techniques and the ability to decode a time that we live in so jagged, because otherwise we end up exercising skills that unfortunately are no longer enough to cross the market.


MM: What did your success depend on?


AC: I strongly believe in genre and I contributed to the women's design exhibition because I believe there is a female project. In my case, if we can speak of success, I believe that it was above all the ability to be able to take a critical position, not always in line with what companies expected and to make pluralism my strong point. In the years when no one even dared to talk about jewels due to the rampant functionalist drift, designers had to deal with functional and not ostentatious objects. I had the courage to bring together very different disciplines, such as design, fashion, craftsmanship and industrial manufacturing. The core does not only concern the preciousness of the materials - therefore who has the most carats - but the fundamental thing is the quality of the project - therefore that of keeping together material values ​​with intangible values. It took me 20 years and on the occasion of this exhibition at the XXI Triennale di Milano no one asked me why I had juxtaposed paper jewels with fashion jewels. It was the first time that people who were diametrically opposed were happy, all, in the same way and this pleased me because pluralism was recognized as a key to reading.


MM: Unlike the design of an architecture, in which man measures space, the jewel is measured on the human body. What are the salient steps in the design of a jewel and when do you realize that this process is over?


AC: In the project the context is the determining variable of whatever nature it is. Grasping that our time is a time of fragments means understanding which of these we are referring to. This means identifying who the consumer is, who is the company we work for and consequently which materials to use, which technologies, which languages, which messages to express. From my point of view, the Italian design method is based on research, it is essential to understand what is being designed and what value you want to transfer. At the Triennale, Brilliant proposes different interpretations of the jewel: the most precious in the materials, the most precious in the ideas and concepts. The fundamental thing is to transfer, through the project, multiple values ​​and different meanings.


MM: In Brilliant, why did you decide to exhibit only collier?


AC: I made this choice for two reasons: The first is of an exhibition nature. I wanted to put together the best classical tradition, that of sculptural busts, combining it with new technologies. From a technical point of view, the necklace is the most complex piece to build, it is the most difficult jewel to wear and is one of the characteristics of Italian jewelry for its completeness. The second choice, on the other hand, is linked to a romantic aspect because the necklace highlights the cleavage as well as being the jewel closest to the heart.

Brilliant! The futures of Italian jewelery, curated by Alba Cappellieri in collaboration with Ice

2 APR - 12 SEP 2016

The Milan Triennale

Viale Alemagna, 6


Brilliant! The futures of Italian jewelery | Alba Cappellieri in collaboration with Ice

© N Marco Santomauro

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