Milan Design Week is almost upon us and there are multiple appointments in the city that may be of interest to creative minds. Visitors into crafts, jewellery and fashion eager to learn more about traditions and history should head to the Triennale to visit the "Past Future – Craft Design in Sardinia" event (4th - 9th April 2017).
The inspiration for this event actually came from Antonio Marras' A/W 17 show that, as you may remember, took place at the Triennale and employed his own exhibition as a fairytale set to tell a fashion story.
Rather than being just a holiday paradise, Sardinia is represented in this event as a makers' workshop, a place where the legacy of history, culture and shared traditions can lead to a solid future in design.
In Marras' show the designer combined his garments from his new collection with his personal story and background, and "Past Future" does the same through a wide range of items.
The exhibition presents indeed a series of objects, images, visual and sound atmospheres that try to establish connections and juxtapositions between craft and design in Sardinia in three historical moments.
Displays explore therefore the 19th century traditional craft production, the rebirth promoted by artists and designers during the 1950s and the more recent developments.
The past is explored first via a series of black and white pictures from the '50s showing women at work, making baskets for an artisanal course at the I.S.O.L.A. (the acronym sounds like the Italian word for "island", but stands for "Sardinian Institute for the Organization of Handicraft"; Marras himself has a line called "I'm Isola Marras" that echoes it in its name), a regional agency whose mission included artifacts' redesign, artisans' training, manufacturing and the sale of products.
The I.S.O.L.A. organised biennial exhibitions that attracted visitors and buyers from all over the world.
In 1957 products made by the I.S.O.L.A., including terracotta vases, rugs and tapestries were displayed at the 11th Triennale Exhibition in Milan. There are plenty of objects in this first section – from traditional gold filigree rosary beads to a rich silver chain with a heart-shaped reliquary and pieces of jewellery incorporating textile inserts; from intricately colourful tapestries, to a cork umbrella stand and several rugs and baskets by Eugenio Tavolara.
A sculptor, ceramicist, illustrator and designer Tavolara (1901-1963) was known for wooden puppets of Sardinian peasants and shepherds. He started co-directing the I.S.O.L.A. in 1957 and managed to bring Sardinian handicrafts to the attention of the international press.
The DOMO section of the exhibition includes a mix of products such as the Lina Bo Bardi-inspired "Gedda" chair designed by Angelo Figus and made by Maria Raimonda Pinna; Figus' "Sospiri" necklace made by Francesco Cadinu's Aurum; the "Cisto" rug, designed Marta Laudani & Marco Romanelli, and made by Maddalena Mula's historical family workshop Su Telarzu and the egg-shaped vase by Ugo La Pietra made by Terra acqua & fuoco.
Among the most interesting elements from the first section there is a textile wall dedicated to rugs, tapestries and fabrics hinting at the role of weaving in Sardinian craft.
The dialogue between the past and the present is represented by a textile and digital installation with graphic patterns by Stefano Asili proving that technology can take traditions and radically reinvent them for exciting future applications.
Quite a few items displayed in the event prove therefore that Italo Calvino was right when he stated: "Memory really matters - for individuals, for the collectivity, for civilization - only if it binds together the imprint of the past and the project of the future, if it enables us to act without forgetting what we wanted to do, to become without ceasing to be, and to be without ceasing to become."
Rediscovering local crafts, made following specific techniques and employing unique materials, can help us establishing new traditions. In the case of Sardinian handmade handicrafts the discourse also revolves around other themes such as sustainability and environmentally friendly designs.
The only disappointing thing about this event is the fact that it seems to last only for a few days, while they should have given it the opportunity to be on at least for a month.
"Past Future" will continue through a series of campaigns to promote the region in Italy and abroad: artisans registered on the Sardegna Artigianato website will for example be able to access the Amazon e-commerce platform, or be offered retail spaces in boutiques located in Cagliari and Olbia airports together with opportunities to exhibit in several venues.