'I was destined to become the Pope'

By Italian standards, I grew up to be an unusually tall kid. So of course I looked at Michael Jordan and began to dream of a career as a professional basketball player in the NBA. The next thing that occurred to me, at age 14, was that I was destined to become the Pope. You have to be aware that I was born in Parma and raised in Treviso, places in northern Italy that boast a very old historical architecture. You never can tell, but all that pomp and architecture may have overwhelmed me at a young age. Anyway, the Pope thing was too much for my parents, so they decided to send me to my uncle Aldo in Milan for the summer vacation. This change of scenery worked out tremendously well and became something of a turning point in my life.

alienated

Aldo was both impressive and kind. In the 1980s he was one of the founders of Memphis, with Ettore Sottsass, and his studio was always bursting with clients and assistants running in and out. Next door there was a model agency full of wonderful girls and every night Aldo took me to design and art openings and parties. Lots of energy, fun and colour. ‘This is me,’ I decided. Next I went to an artistic high school in Venice and then moved on to study design at the Milan Polytechnic University. Followed by some experimental projects at Fabrica, the conceptual research school for design, founded by Benetton.

For ten years now I’ve been running my own studio from Vicenza in the Veneto region. The craftsmen from here are my masters. The use of materials and reinvention of techniques is an integral part of my daily practice in which I come up with new applications. Like the use of resins to recreate the effect of bone and horn inlays for the Vanilla Noir Collection for Scarlet Splendour. Innovation is part of the process. But the alienated form-language introduced by Memphis by my uncle, somehow resides in the back of my mind. There is no escaping it, design is fun and maybe that’s not the complete story, but it happens to be the first thing my work conveys to people.

vasonaso

Many relate spontaneously to the morphology of fantasy creatures like ‘Il Paradiso del Sogni’, a paradise full of dreamt figurines I drew up and transformed into ceramic objects. People like the figures, probably because they recognize some of them from their own dreams, or maybe the dreams they would like to dream. One of my big presentations at the Salone of this year was VasoNaso. Contrary to my ‘usual’ creative behaviour, which is all over the place, I decided to commit myself to a research project. The basic idea came from Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, who spent most of his life painting still life of bottles and potteries. So in 2016, every day for 366 days, at noon I turned out a handmade vase with a nose. This is personal, I like noses. The project is an investigation of the relationship between shape, colour and height. It then turned into an analysis of groups of objects, interpreted as if they were genealogical strains, joined by somatic features, and similar characters or colours.

Some of them were based on archaeological ceramics from the museo Egizio di Torino, Musée d'arts Decorative Paris and the V&A. I never copy anything, but freely resource all types of forms and cultures to see if parts of them fit into my own story. The history of art and architecture is one large compendium of inspiration to reconsider. You could even state that by exploring all sorts of historical and cultural layers, you step back from the drive towards the new and original, which has become a dogma of modern Western design. This might be serious stuff, but in the old days ‘disegno’ was taught by a master; one learned through imitating and eventually trying to emulate his work.

vasonaso matteo cibic design milan week vases homeware ceramics dezeen 2364 col 7
VasoNaso Series by Matteo Cibic
vasonaso matteo cibic design milan week vases homeware ceramics dezeen 2364 col 8
NasoVaso Series by Matteo Cibic5 copy
VasoNaso Matteo Cibic p3

awareness

You have to take into consideration that my studio is in the heart of Vicenza, where we are surrounded by history – in particular the heritage of late-Renaissance architect Palladio. When you venture as a designer into craft-related areas like glass and ceramics, which are an important part of my creative output, this learning process has always prevailed and included all kinds of examples: classical, high-end or utility goods. This is part of my awareness and it takes me everywhere. I work for international companies, private collectors and cultural institutions. In 2014 I became involved in the development of Scarlet Splendour, the first Indian luxury brand founded by Ashish Bajoria and Suman Kanodia. Instead of bringing Western design into India, they work with Western designers like Nika Zumpanc and present their creations at the Salone and in other creative hotspots. It is an exciting new venture that intermingles the mentalities and qualities of East and West.

The energy emanating from that mix has really caught on. In under three years, we’ve already prototyped and realized 80 products and compiled seven collections with them. The finish and materials relate to the ancient Indian craft of inlayed surfaces of luxury objects like tables, benches, cabinets, mirrors and even a hobby horse. But instead of ivory and bone, we use a resin to recreate a similar finish. The designs allude freely to a variety of iconic examples; the fantasy and graphics of Fornasetti, the arcs of the Vicenza theatre by Palladio, and a series of tall cylindrical cabinets shaped like a pump or a bowling pin. One of the most precious new cabinets is a pink and gold Mandala, encapsulating the spirit of the East. Bringing the extraordinary into the everyday living room.

matteocibicstudio.com


This interview was published in WOTH No6. This issue is still available in english via Bruil & van der Staaij. Or get a subscription here! 

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