The world of craftsmanship creates a network: it brings together knowledge, talent and generosity to train the young generations. In the shop and in the university

“With the closure of the art institute laboratories, the last garrison dedicated to research and experimentation in the field of artistic craftsmanship has been lost”, writes Ugo La Pietra in Lithos. Stones, marbles, mosaics in contemporary artistic craftsmanship (Ed. Fondazione Cologni, Marsilio, 2023).

The book photographs the unprecedented look of a great author on a widespread centuries-old artisan tradition: that of stone. It may be due to the great crisis of 2008 which cleared an autarchic life model, but we are all more 'engaged' by artisanal themes, and if we look closely at domestic interiors, it is not uncommon to find them dotted with objects in cooked terra and fabrics with precious warps, beaten metals and woven natural fibres: very current contemporary signs that return echoes of genius loci.

Their existence (with an evocative soul) is a three-dimensional translation of a local folklore that becomes universal, to cross time and space with their hands in the name of authentic experimentation.

Craft: evolution of a disciplinary species

“Decades of experience in investigating the material, pushing it to the limit of the possibilities of use, as, for example, we were able to see with alabaster, in the laboratories of the State Institute of Art of Volterra, no longer they are more practiced", continues La Pietra, denouncing how over the years the places of know-how have progressively disappeared.

"In recent years, other paths have been developed to bring design culture closer to artisanal resources that are still vital", paths that today focus on new formats for training and promoting hand-made products, tailored to the territory and current affairs. In this Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d'Arte represents a point of reference for the artisan system Italian and foreign.

Not only for the events it hosts (from Homo Faber in Venice, to Doppia Firma in Milan up to and including ArtiJanus/ArtiJanas (we talked about it here) in Alghero), but for the network that it has been able to build over the years.

Alberto Cavalli, in the fifteen years in his role as General Director of the Cologni Foundation, has worked to build a precise vision: mapping the artisanal heritage, highlighting and recognizing talents, passing on knowing how to do and protect discipline.

Sardinia: a case study

“Together with Barbara Cadeddu and Barbara Argiolas of beTools, in Sardinia we imagined what steps to take forward", the objective is to graft the contemporary into a land that is culturally receptive, but still very much anchored to tradition.

“For Sardinian artisan businesses, for example, we have activated two cycles of online seminars, with insights into communication, management and design, and involved our contacts among which the names of stand out Alba Cappellieri and Stefano Micelli”: the training program helps the laboratories to dialogue with the contemporary.

“Having prepared the ground, we chose two areas of Sardinian craftsmanship, ceramics and textiles, and activated the residences”, a model of collaboration that is defining an open collection, the result of the meeting between technique and authorship.

Read also: Residences for designers: for what Are they useful?

“From the first residence, the vases by Zanellato Bortotto and the Serena Confalonieri fabrics, born from the collaboration with Terra Pintada and Tessile Medusa. Of the second, the sculptures by Sonia Pedrazzini and the tapestries by Gianni Cinti created with Walter Usai and Elena Mulas”, a landscape of shapes that evoke the history of Sardinia. “I must say that all four designers hit the mark: they got involved and the result is valuable.”

At craft school

Small, increasingly concrete steps. Every year, moreover, 'A School, a Job', the initiative born 12 years ago based on a project by the Cologni Foundation, trains talented aspiring artisans and supports them financially with scholarships to facilitate their entry into the world of work. “This year, as part of ArtiJanus/ArtiJanas, the training internship for Daniele Porcedda, a young watchmaker from Cagliari, was also financed”, he points out Horses.

To date, around 300 trainees have been placed in the workshop for six months (25 each year).

“We have built a network that extends over 17 regions of Italy and involves 85 schools and 223 artisan ateliers”, an offer supported by four years ago from a university training course. “It is a four-week 'Mini-Master' to be followed in Bocconi, Iulm and Politecnico di Milano, our partners”, for a total of 825 hours of training provided in the classroom (288,000 in the workshop)”.

Today there is a lot of talk about craftsmanship: "but there are still few professionals who are aware of what artisans do", warns the Director, recalling some excellences cited in the Homo Faber Guide, among which the names stand out by Bam Design and Gianluca Pacchioni, Sara Martinsen, Felix Muhrhofer and Antrei Hartikainen: very rare art direction figures who know the value of craftsmanship, enter the factory as in the shop and know what is happening, they are aware of the processes.

“I feel proud and satisfied about one thing: that the projects we invented as the Cologni Foundation have left their mark by changing the lives of many people.

The over 300 kids we put in the workshop, the masters to whom we gave the title of MAM (Masters of Arts and Crafts), the workshops we involved, the newspaper we publish every six months are not they are obvious projects, but projects that are changing the way we talk about craft and its representation."

Which doesn't just mean challenging the material and passing on knowledge, but transmitting a sense of pride to those who belong to this world.

“If thanks to us and our projects the artisans feel less alone”, concludes Alberto Cavalli, “I am very happy”. Because today building a community means building value.