White snow still capping the tops of Trentino’s mountains; spectacular punk and gray cliffs jagging the sky’s rim; bright red geraniums; emerald green lakes, changing their tone several times a day; the vibrant green of the vineyards. This is the palette of colours in which the inhabitants of Trentino Alto Adige have grown up. Conversely, their cities are painted in pastel colours, rather toned down when compared to the surrounding nature.
Perhaps, like Coco Chanel, who put on red lipstick with dark clothes, those who live here have intuitively sensed that this is the best way to highlight the colourful abundance of nature. It’s a matter of balance.
Michela Bruni (founder of the Michela Bruni Ecodesign atelier, based in Ala, south of Rovereto) is a good example of that. She is a crafter (and designer) who respects with all her heart the nature of this land.
Michela Bruni: It all started with some interior design and furnishings that I was commissioned by an architecture firm and then the focus shifted towards fashion design.
When I finished my studies at Trento’s School of Art and at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence, I started working with natural materials and discarded industrial fabrics. Fabric is the material I like the most, the one which I find more satisfying and which suits me best. You can dye it, tear it, cut it, sew it, adapt it, it is flexible and pliant. You can leave it aside for a while and come back to it later. It’s something that is evolving. This is what fascinates me.
MB: Silk and velvet fabrics have a venerable history in here. As you mentioned, Palazzo Taddei is being renovated and will host the Textile Museum. My work, for some unknown reason, is indeed in keeping with the tradition of this town.
W: Your creations are both ethical and stylish. Recycling is important nowadays, but it is only when it is armed with the right ideas that you can see the true meaning of “upcycling”, which should truly meet people’s expectations and has a future, because it is marketable.
MB: These days a great family tradition of craftsmanship has no place in a flea market. Unfortunately, it is only inevitable that there will be imitations, but when they are done poorly, you obscure the passion invested into someone’s enterprise.
W: And, if imitations are much cheaper, that also devalues the professional efforts of crafters; the image of craftsmanship and, to some extent, of the community itself will be tarnished, if only a little.
MB: Shortcuts are easy to follow but usually do not bring real results. The best craft fairs are those in which crafters are rigorously selected on the basis of merit, so as to satisfy customers, who should feel confident that they will find something nice and of good quality.
I have my own atelier and I’m following my path. Those who buy my creations also buy a part of my history, a common thread that runs through ideas, values, stages of life, and even epochs. It is not just a matter of buying a nice thing: you purchase a very personal interpretation of an idea, and of a material.
W: We have seen how you wrapped your creations at the time of purchase. Each piece has its own story, which then evolves as it enters the life of a customer. Displaying and selling artworks in the right manner is just as important.
MB: Sure! Beauty creates humor, lightness, joy and happiness, it has the capacity to contribute a moment of awe, to stimulate creative inspirations and nourish the spirit. A pleasant environment improves sales and makes the artisan feel more comfortable. The same goes with social networks. This is a very delicate phase in our history and we have to focus a lot on communication if we want to find the right market. If one does not have the money it takes to participate in trade fairs, then social networks are certainly effective tools. You can communicate your ideas and projects almost instantaneously, together with a background of emotions, intuitions, feelings and values. We are people, not machines that churn out products, and in order to introduce ourselves to those who live away from us it is best to tell a little about who we are.
W: It would be easier if people got used to buy gifts / souvenirs well in advance. You buy something beautiful even though you do not know the person who will receive it. So you have something on hand, ready for any eventuality and you don’t have to walk around frantically until you find a decent present, something that seldom is what you had in mind.
MB: That would be a good habit: you buy when you find something that impresses you and you put it away for the first special occasion. This is another major task for communicators those involved in the world of communication and tasked with the promotion of creative crafting.
MB: We need to slow down, to synchronize ourselves with the cycles of nature, with the tales we tell our children, the time of ideas that have been pondered. We should be living in a different time, in a silence that for many hardly exists, and in a cyclical, seasonal time, devoid of the over-stimulation of electronic screens. The time of home-made cakes, when you could learn to do a bunch of useful things by yourself and learn to fix what you broke. The time of grandmothers knitting miles-long scarves. I still remember the smells of my grandmother’s house – I used to spend whole days there – and her disapproving frown when we knit without putting much effort, the laughter of us children when we waited for tea time, and for the biscuits she had baked while we were at school. It was a small house, but with several storeys, right in the middle of the historic district. There is no telling how much we have learned with patches and scraps of wool and how much fun we had even when we did nothing special.
MB: Today more attention is focused on what you do instead of what you are. Experiences, even our children’s experiences, must be rushed, as in a rat race. Unless we slow down we won’t have the time to savour the finer things in life.
W: The enthusiastic reactions of those children who took part in the workshops offered by the Mini Expo WazArs should teach us a great deal. Instead, many parents would rather “park” them in a shopping mall.
MB: It is all part of the logic that we no longer have to fix things. We throw them away and buy something else, almost automatically. This compulsive throwing prevents you from experiencing the joy of fixing, and keeps you from being able to listen to someone who teaches you how to put things back together. When people, especially kids, live exciting moments, they remember them and talk about them for days, because such an experience has touched a part of them which is deep, real, healthy, the part that makes us feel awe and wonder. This is what we need.
Michela Bruni ecodesign homepage: www.michelabruni.it/
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