We met with Giorgia Brunelli at her home, high above Lake Caldonazzo: a beautiful, rustic mountain house made with stone and wood, surrounded by greenery, with a studio full of inspiring prints, drawings, textiles, etc.
Wazars: What an interesting house, both inside and outside!
Giorgia Brunelli: This is our project. My husband (Paolo Lessio), like me, has a great passion for manual work and has furnished it by upcycling. Or I should rather say that he has built pretty much everything from scratch. He loves DIY upcycling/refurbishing, even though his real passion is DIY design.
I see a book by James Hillman on the kitchen table. Do you draw on the collective unconscious for your creations?
G.B. Who knows? Surely I am deeply inspired by nature, perhaps everything I need is already there. But of course I’m fascinated by the subjectof archetypes and symbols. I have found out that I can converse with the world through my objects: a teacup becomes something “else” when in the hands of someone…
When did you start?
G.B. In 1997, but before that I was specializing in languages, which proved quite useful for my business. The problem is that so many people do not see it as a profession. They ask me: what do you do? I explain that I am a ceramist. “Yes, but what do you do for a living?”. There is this idea that it is impossible to make a living as an artisan.
It is a matter of will, sometimes.
G.B. I have indeed this strong desire to do what I want, with what I have. Also, when I see certain images, shapes, enamels, shapes, I get excited. That works in crafts. I follow my heart, I could not do anything else in life. When you follow your dreams with determination, then things start to happen. Of course, a genuine commitment is needed: you must research materials, shapes, colors, balance and functionality, and you also need to focus on the company’s image, on your relationships with customers and dealers, on how to best present your catalogues.
G.B. A trusted retailer completely changes the way in which you think about positioning yourself on the market. I have abandoned fairs and flea markets for about ten years now and I have more time to create. But I have lost touch with my costumers, I do not meet them in person. Luckily there is facebook, which allows me to interact with people and get a feedback from them: evaluations, advice and criticisms. It was through a meeting with a public relations agent, Alessandra Santi, that the brand Giovelab was born.
G.B. Yeah. Especially at the beginning, it wasn’t simple to find loyal customers. They would buy your creations, but wouldn’t come back for the next collection. This happens in part due to a widespread obsession for all things new. Retailers feel that each year they should offer a new brand, a new crafter, new stuff. There is, so to say, a frenzy…But then, luckily, things have changed. It would be so hard, without a hard core of trusted clients who every year buy your new collection.
What did you do in the early days of your enterprise?
G.B. For years I have devoted myself to raku pottery but, as of late, it has become far too common and, at any rate, you cannot use it daily, because of its fragility. So I switched to high temperature ceramics (at temperatures of 1250-1260 degrees Celsius), high quality porcelain and various kinds of stoneware which transition easily from the kiln to the table. Each item is unique, handmade, and can be washed in a dishwasher.
G.B. I really love the Japanese style, I feel intimately close to the concept of wabisabi, the poetry of imperfection. I like the Nordic style as well, but I am happy to reconcile it with Mediterranean styles, tempering the romantic exuberance of Southern Europe. I like to blend different styles, flitting like a butterfly from one style, world, sensitivity to the other. Starting from this autumn I’ll be taking the first step in the markets of Scandinavia and Finland…Let’s hope for the best!
Thanks to your knowledge of foreign languages you are building quite an impressive international network!
G.B. Actually, I think that many craftsmen find it a little hard to create a network, because they tend to be loners. It is often a matter of personality. In my case socialization does not come natural. It’s thanks to facebook that I come into contact with other people and build relationships with artisans and enthusiasts.
G.B. I am a relentless critic of myself. Before proposing an object to my clients, I create prototypes and use them for several days at home, in order to determine their strengths and weaknesses. An object must be beautiful, shapely and decorative, but it must serve its purpose too.
What kind of advice would you give a beginner?
G.B. A catalog is essential. You are not just an artist, you are an entrepreneur. This means being thorough in the selection of images, in their description. They must strike people who are already overwhelmed by too much visual and textual information. It is equally important that you should be able to create things that meet your customers’ needs. Gratifying your own creative spirit is important, but it is not enough.
A final message for our readers?
G.B. Follow your star. Always.
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