The wonderful Portuguese Fine Craftsmanship was extraordinarily represented at Doppia Firma, an innovative project by Michelangelo Foundation and Fondazione Cologni in which creative designers and talented master artisans joint forces and collaborated to create breathtaking masterpieces.
Here we present to you the art pieces born from this project that took our breath away and made us proud of the way the international artistic community is perceiving Portuguese arts and crafts:
Ricardo Alegria (Vista Alegre) and Sam Baron
Sam Baron graduated from the Saint Etienne and EnsAD schools and was recently considered one of the most relevant French designers of his generation. He has a true passion for projects that show how materials can be used in multiple ways to express feelings and ideas. Creative Director of Fabrica for over ten years, he discovered the Portuguese company Vista Alegre in 2001 during an artistic residence.
The expertise of its artisans inspired him to produce a collection of unique pieces, born from the mutual acknowledgement of the designer’s and artisans’ own unique skills and talents. Each one of these pieces was a real challenge for the Portuguese craftsmen, a challenge that Ricardo Alegria, who’s been working at Vista Alegre since 1991, also found in the creation of “Fabula”.
To craft this mesmerizing piece, Ricardo had to join mould-formed elements, such as the boar’s head, with handmade ones, like the flowers or the bird. The painting phase, always done by hand, was particularly intricate, since it had to be delicate enough to express the idea of poetry and magic that the designer wished to convey.
Like a moment frozen in time forever, something born out of a fairytale, a singing bird hides itself among the leaves and the flowers that form a crown, which decorates the head of a smiling wild boar. “All the actors involved in the creation of a piece like this should be fascinated by the concept and the story. In this way they can go beyond their own abilities and allow the magic to happen”, explained Sam Baron. “Dialogue can help us defeat any technical difficulty”.
José Vieira and Christian Haas
José Vieira, an artisan from the Portuguese city of São Torcato, owns a tinsmithing workshop in Guimarães and makes everything by hand, working with galvanised tin, copper and brass. He grew up in a family with a long tradition of manufacturing tin products, mostly for agriculture and rural purposes. His grandfather and his father were the ones who introduced young José to the art of tinsmithing.
Following the footsteps of his ancestors but adding a contemporary twist to his pathway, José developed a more modern production of goods for daily use, with a focus on shape and functionality. The project developed with designer Christian Haas went in this route. The three tables called “Pleat”, all in polished brass, demanded exceptional mastery of bending and welding.
Born in Germany but nowadays living in Portugal, Christian Haas found it inspiring to collaborate with José, one of the few tinsmiths left in the country. Always searching for an aesthetic that focuses on simplicity and elegance, driven by the harmony between temperance, utility, sentiment, durability and uniqueness, Haas was already awarded with several international prizes and is celebrated for his remarkable tableware.
“It is always interesting to design in a new material and to discover new ways of solving production problems: in our case, being introduced to the techniques of tinsmithing”, he said. “Detail and structural issues that could not be solved on paper but needed the expertise of a craftsman specialized in his field”.
Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva and Emmanuel Babled
“Beverly” was born out of the alliance between French designer Emmanuel Babled, who works and lives in Lisbon for several months a year, and the Portuguese Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva (FRESS), which, since 1953, has been protecting and nurturing Portuguese decorative arts. Conceived as a chest that presents a beautiful surface but hides a few mysteries, “Beverly” has no front or back, no visible openings or handles, no planed surfaces: it invites you to explore and discover its true shape.
The secret is finally solved when you reach a storage compartment hidden behind two cabinet doors. The two polished copper plates on the side create the illusion of depth and infinity. “Beverly” is available in several styles, sizes and finishes.
Emmanuel Babled, an award-winning designer who has a true passion for craftsmanship, was inspired by the potential of Portuguese artisanal heritage. He developed this project as part of an pact signed in 2017 between FRESS and Passa Ao Futuro, which aims to reinforce the dialogue between design and craftsmanship in the 21st century.
In this context, Babled brought his romantic, yet extremely detailed and versatile vision of decorative shapes to the specialized and creative craftsmen of the FRESS workshops, who embody the centuries-old Portuguese intangible cultural heritage. Their precision, mastery and know-how transformed Babled’s project into a groundbreaking, inspiring piece, appropriate for contemporary tastes, standards and challenges.
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