To get beyond boundaries, even when the initial situation seems daunting – or perhaps precisely because of that fact. Two words keep returning in the passionate story of Hybrida, as told by Patricia Urquiola, a porcelain collection presented at the latest Edit Napoli and produced in the middle of the pandemic by the designer in collaboration with Istituto Caselli della Real Fabbrica di Capodimonte. The first word is “alchemy,” because there is no better term to indicate the unique, thrilling process that draws man and material into a united destiny when faced with the imponderables of firing in a kiln. The other word is “WhatsApp,” which in Urquiola’s tale embodies the sense of contemporary living and designing, in a dimension that is no longer just analogue, but also draws on the digital to eliminate the distance created by adversity, helping us to evolve.
Between analogue and digital
“The collaboration with the Real Fabbrica began in 2020,” the designer says, “but then, because of the pandemic, we were not able to continue physical contact as planned. With the students and teachers we thus began to exchange many images and videos with our smartphones, continuing to work like hybrid creatures, with one foot in the past and the other in a future that is already contemporary.” The meaning of this adventure lies between analogue and digital, past and future – Hybrida is not just a name – in a formidable enrichment for design and for the historic excellence of fine craftsmanship, like that of Capodimonte. Two worlds that have always been in dialogue, but not always with the mutual desire to take risks, to raise the bar of innovation.
Hybrid and mutant time
Urquiola, in the case of Hybrida, also likes to talk about boundaries: “For this experience, I took my cue from the phenomena in which art, design and crafts are blended, without worrying about labeling their specific contributions. What counts is breaking down the barriers. We live in a hybrid, mutant time, and we are less capable of orienting the situation. In this sense, porcelain is an excellent metaphor: it is something alchemical that eludes human control, so it aptly narrates this epoch in which we have to widen our overly anthropocentric vision, restarting from nature.”
Metaphor of coexistence between different species
Updating the tradition of Capodimonte, the creations of Hybrida are not classic porcelain showing genre scenes on plates, cups and centerpieces. They have been enhanced with moss, lichen, fungi, pieces of bark found in the forest of the Reggia, which become an integral part of the artifacts, in a sort of metaphor of coexistence between different species, which is also the demonstration of how we can update an age-old tradition, giving it new energy, bringing it into the contemporary world.
An educational garden
The collaboration between Urquiola and the Real Fabbrica began after one of the designer’s many visits to Capodimonte. The director Valter Luca De Bartolomeis wanted to create an educational garden, but he had yet to find suitable funding. Urquiola’s intuition was to use the landscape around the school and the museum, reproducing it in porcelain using the concept of the “table garden” which the students had already roughed out.
Form and texture
During the work, with constant exchanges on Whatsapp between Milan and Naples, many pieces changed their form and texture, as in a true open artwork, so the collection is an attempt to capture a moment through a table setting, where the planted areas of the patio suggest the mutation of hybrid forms and materials of plants, animals, minerals and people, in a serendipitous, eclectic chain of metamorphoses.
“I like experiments where hybridization of languages is a central factor: that is where the future of design and crafts lies. Edit Napoli gave us the possibility of exploring this boundary, just as another initiative that points the way for this breakthrough is the Loewe Craft Prize, for which I was on the jury and thus able to observe people working in this direction for some time,” Urquiola says.
“At Capodimonte I wasn’t interested in simply creating new centerpieces or dishes, although they would be inside the context of a very prestigious tradition. I wanted to demonstrate that we can widen our perspective, to reach unexpected achievements. The students of the school approached Hybrida with novel methods and new molds. The hope is that we have added a new chapter to a centuries-old tradition.” What is certain is that Hybrida has had its first practical impact: auctioned by Christie’s during Edit, the collection helps to finance that very garden from which the adventure began.