As well as strictly design work, you’ve done things with children and organise ad hoc workshops for them, and worked with university students on your social design course at NABA in Milan. Worlds apart, one might think. It suggests that the common denominator must be play, which, in principle, puts designing, teaching and learning all on the same level. Basically all your things are in a slightly playful, ludic vein, not so much tangibly as in the message they convey. Would you agree?
I really like that observation. People are often a bit bewildered by this multidisciplinary approach, which can see me spend the morning in a crazy workshop with students in the suburbs of Milan, lunchtime with a drill in hand working on a set/window display and in a super boutique in the afternoon planning their new products. I have a very precise, crosscutting method in the various disciplines, which doesn’t make much of an attempt to follow pre-set definitions. I always start by listening hard and with deep confidence in being able to generate possibilities from chaos and improvisation. It’s a process that takes me back to the theatre, but it works very well with people and materials! I have great fun with all this generative chaos; irony and fatalism, the tranquillisers that make everything easier, are my best drivers.
I think we really need to put so much effort and so much passion into making our lives exciting enough and so I can’t stop playing enthusiastically with it. I feel it’s my duty.
Your vocabulary often includes the words nature and death – when they aren’t together in your “still lifes” – making us pause in the moment. Does this stem from your passion for and training in Ikebana, in that flowers have influenced your approach to everything?
Death is a sort of dark and velvety presence that I have felt wrapped around me since I was little – a daily and ominous presage – at a certain point though I decided not to be weighed down by this presence but to stop and look myself right in the eye. Ikebana was one of the tools that managed to give me the strength to look my fears full in the face, calmly and breathing deeply, and taught me to compose and arrange them in precise shapes and patterns in order to contemplate them. We need to recognise our own limitations and work out how to turn them into positive triggers for great designs. That’s what leads to a balanced and joyful relationship with one’s own present.
When you’re working for a company, what do you like best and what do you like least?
I love working with companies and managing to create something that is very personal within their associated limits. Swimming like an eel inside the dictated parameters. So far I’ve only come across companies that are happy to go with my approach, which means their conference tables are well “decorated” when I come to do my presentation – I arrive and set everything I’ve been working on out on the table, materials, little experiments, sketches, narratives, concepts – it all leaves everybody somewhat perplexed. Then lots of confidence and freedom of action set in so that I can give my utmost to the projects. I like everything about this world, even having to cope with the dynamics of packaging, suppliers, payments, trade etc. etc. It’s all part of the project.
In 2016 you took part in SaloneSatellite: can you remember what your feelings and what your expectations were?
It was one of my absolutely first exhibitions. I remember gigantic wall-to-wall brainstorming to give birth to every single piece I brought to the fair. Supplier after supplier, transport, production, last minute solutions. SaloneSatellite is a great and worthwhile experience, it’s given me so much, the public response is amazing, companies, fundamental praise and criticisms come along, you gather your strength to talk about yourself and in doing so you rediscover yourself as a designer. Once the eyebags and the last spotlights have been dealt with, the great joy is seeing the message coming in from the public about your designs. Defining yourself through other people’s eyes too. An indispensible showcase, I think, for self-assessment as a designer. It’s a great atmosphere – friendships made on the stands, meetings, orders, journalists and lots more.
You observe the world very closely, but you also manage to look at it from a distance to create syntheses. This is expressed in your objects and in your installations. What word would you choose to sum up a way of living calibrated on contemporary needs?
One very powerful word that I hear right now and would like to suggest is “Identity.” We should never lose sight of what we are and reshape it to send out a well-defined and unerringly authentic message. We have to look very hard inside ourselves to bring out the unique qualities that we each possess and this is achieved by means of a conscious and propulsive relationship with our own identity.