The Michelangelo Foundation disseminates and promotes artistic crafts in Europe. A fundamental mission especially for our country

They are a huge cultural heritage but also an economic one. It is a lever that companies betting on quality – especially those in fashion and design – take into account in order to continue to differentiate themselves in an increasingly globalized and flat market.

We are talking about the craftmanship, that is, all those jobs that require a very high level of sensitivity and training in the use of manual skills (but also, increasingly) of digital.

Questioning about this universe is even more fundamental today than before. Because if on the one hand it has always been evident that the future of Made in Italy is linked to doing a few things but doing them very well (rather than low-cost mass production), now it is clear that at this quality and at least done better, the future of the planet is also linked.

How then to safeguard crafts and know-how? We talked about it with Alberto Cavalli, Co-Executive Director Michelangelo Foundation who monitors the world of high craftsmanship through various initiatives, including the famous Homo Faber.

How do you see the relationship between high craftsmanship and the world of design today?

Today it is more than ever necessary to contribute to building a healthy and balanced relationship between design, that is a culturally conscious creative planning, and the art professions: a relationship based on the principle that the craftsman is never a simple performer, but a real interpreter. This is the relationship that must be built and sustained: a dialogue, a mutual discovery of concrete possibilities and creative opportunities.

Working internationally, can you give us an idea of ​​what value is given to quality craftsmanship around the world?

In Japan the most important master craftsmen are called National Living Treasures. In France, the title of Maître d’Art is awarded. In Italy it was the Cologni Foundation, together with the ALMA school of Colorno, who introduced the title of MAM - Master of Art and Craft in 2016, precisely to give a more intense value to the extraordinary ability of the artisans who are recognized as Masters . The Michelangelo Foundation is trying to create a common language, at an international level, precisely to talk about quality craftsmanship and to understand the criteria that determine its objective value: for this reason we have created an evaluation tool based on 11 criteria, carefully distilled and defined, which has already come into use in many European countries thanks to the institutions that are part of our international network, and which is based on a work (The value of the profession, Marsilio, 2014) time developed by the Cologni Foundation. Knowing how to distinguish folklore from excellence, and art crafts from a manual skill that is not always interesting, is a cultural process which – albeit patchy – is affecting many countries: with the Homo Faber Guide we want to contribute to the affirmation of this movement.

Homo Faber Guide has recently been launched, which connects countries, artisans and users. What is it about?

Our founders, Johann Rupert and Franco Cologni, realized that the crafts represent an extraordinary cultural, economic and artistic heritage. The Michelangelo Foundation has given life to an international cultural movement which, by enhancing the work of master craftsmen, brings their talent and uniqueness back to the center of attention. The creation of this publishing platform, designed to help users discover, or rediscover, the art professions of the different territories of Europe, is a fundamental part of this long-term project. The Guide was put online on September 17 with 650 master craftsmen, in 25 countries of Europe: but every 10 days, shops, ateliers, factories and experiences are added. The Guide contains museums and collections of applied arts, specialized galleries and also the experiences that can be done, should you decide to opt for a hands-on approach. We believe that such a tool, available on the website and also on the App, is an indispensable vademecum for anyone who loves to explore a territory, be it behind the house or very far away, with the curious eyes of those looking for beauty and charm, discovery and surprise.

Does the Foundation also provide training projects?

The Michelangelo Foundation has launched two important projects to bring young people closer to the world of artistic crafts. The first concerns the Young Ambassadors, that is the girls and boys who, every two years, welcome visitors to Homo Faber in Venice. These are not ordinary art speakers, but a selection of the most promising graduates of the best European schools of design and applied arts, who are trained to be able to tell all the objects, techniques, stories that make up the contents of our exhibition.

The Michelangelo Foundation also supports and finances the Summer Schools: a series of summer courses that allow young designers and artisans to learn or develop specific skills, in an important international context and together with important masters. Last year we collaborated with the City and Guilds of London, for example, but also with the Aubusson weavers, with the glassblowers of Belle-Île-en-Mer, with the Portuguese basket makers.

What is your vision of the future and the role of craftsmanship?

We live in a world dominated by standardization and the proliferation of disembodied experiences. And yet, the more digital our lives become, the more analogous our dreams remain: because even in a context increasingly marked by technological transformation, we remain sentient and imaginative human beings, which feeds on our senses. Inherent in our pursuit of happiness is the possibility of creatively transforming our world; there is the desire to recognize ourselves in objects that represent us; there is the wonder of a manual skill that allows a material to take on its most beautiful form. The art professions can offer employment opportunities to many talented young people who wish to turn their passion into a profession: because there will always be something that human hands will be able to do better than any automaton, and that our heart will desire.


Cover photo: paper creations made by Asya Kozina & Dmitriy Kozin. ©All rights reserved