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Artistic research, craftsmanship, new technologies, research into new materials and even industrial activities are equally worthy and important to us, as they are intimately connected and interdependent. Florence Jewellery Week is a first attempt to reconcile all these different aspects, which have been artificially placed in opposition to each other / Giò Carbone
What was the main reason that drove you to organize the Florence Jewellery Week?
From 2005 to 2013 LAO organized the exhibition event “Preziosa”, entirely dedicated to contemporary jewellery research. It was a very interesting project, hard work and very satisfying: our intention was, substantially, to address a clamorous void in the Italian panorama, which we tried to fill, at least in part, with curated exhibitions at an extremely high level, with settings and catalogues always in tune with the content. It was, essentially, a project of diffusion and information regarding what had been happening in the world of contemporary jewellery since the 1970s.
We presented 51 artists, from the “fathers” of the 1970s (Pinton, Hiramatsu, Becker....) to the most recent generation of young creators, almost all in museum and private collections. The full list of the artists could be find at Preziosa facebook page.
This is not, however, the only aspect that interests us: artistic research, craftsmanship, new technologies, research into new materials and even industrial activities are equally worthy and important to us, as they are intimately connected and interdependent. FJW is a first attempt to reconcile all these different aspects, which have been artificially placed in opposition to each other. LAO will certainly continue to put on projects for the diffusion and promotion of contemporary jewellery research, but from a disenchanted and anti-conformist viewpoint, outside established parameters and offering room for all forms of creativity.
FJW puts together exhibitions, lectures, workshops, new technologies, craftsmen demonstrations…Tell us about the idea behind it?
The idea behind FJW has been explained in the brief introduction to the programme of events: to connect worlds. Offer the people who visit FJW the opportunity to take a hard look at various dimensions and aspects of jewellery research, not only by visiting exhibitions, but also by attending lectures and taking part in collective discussions. FJW is also an attempt to give life to a dialectic, interactive event: not a static exhibition, in which the visitor is a mere spectator, but a meeting between people who can talk together, put questions or criticize if the need arises.
You have been organizing Preziosa & Preziosa Young successfully for many years now. FJW is an event of events, was it more complicated to bring together all the participants and make agreements with Patrons?
The organization of an exhibition event such as might be compared with creating a painting. There’s an idea at the start, then all the composition work, choice of colours and perspective stay within defined canons… FJW 2015, on the other hand, might be compared with a fresco: you work in different areas simultaneously and using more hands. The objective is to combine all the sections so that each one has the space it merits, and that the ensemble of all the sections is coherent and meaningful. Much more complex and taxing, but also more enjoyable. FJW presents works by some Chinese, European, Korean and Thai contemporary artists, together with traditional Indian and African works, workshops, lectures...and visitors will see live demonstrations of work by Italian and Indians craftspeople, while close by several speakers will talk about different aspects of jewellery research… a small fresco, if you will.
Ganjam jewellery has been present in previous editions of Preziosa. What is your relationship with and interest in Indian Jewellery?
Mr. Umesh Ganjam is a delightful person, very cultured, inquisitive and with a mind open to new things, as all company managers should be. I’ve visited the headquarters and workshops of Ganjam on several occasions, and I’ve always found new, interesting aspects – in the management, the organization of work, in the management-worker relationships and in the study and development of the products. Ganjam has a workshop exclusively dedicated to the production of traditional jewellery using ancient production methods, but at the same time they have an ultra-modern workshop to produce high-level jewellery with a strong design content, aimed at an international clientele. To be able to count on a partner at this level has been a source of pride and motivation for us. With Ganjam, we managed to take to India the first large exhibition of contemporary jewellery ever staged there (Preziosa 2009, with Mario Pinton, Yasuki Hiramatsu, Graziano Visintin, Robert Baines, Georg W. Dobler, Annelies Planteijdt, Karl Fritsch, Svenja John, David Bielander, Lisa Walker, Sally Marsland, Sebastian Buescher).
We don’t have a special interest in Indian jewellery compared with other areas: we are equally interested in jewellery from the “Golden triangle”, or from New Guinea, as well as that from Italian regions. We’re interested in everything. Rather, with India we have an affectionate relationship with the country and the people, and we think that there can be reciprocal exchanges between European and Indian cultures, each learning a lot from the other. Even without having read “The dance of the Peacock”, by Usha R. Bala Krishnan or “Traditional Jewelry of India" by Oppi Untracht, you can appreciate the power and depth of Indian traditional jewellery.
How can we benefit from the approach of Indian and African jewellery to craftsmanship?
With the exception of low-level “crafts” production aimed mostly at the tourist marked, both India and the African continent have in common the fact that there is still a very close relationship between crafts production and people’s lives. The jewellery has a ritual, social and symbolic function, which has long been lost in our society. Moreover, the craftspeople in those countries, especially in India, have extraordinary technical expertise, which is not only the pure repetition of processes and forms, but a knowledge that is capable of renewing itself and to find solutions that are always creative and suitable for contingent needs. We believe that getting to know this way of working better could be a formidable source of inspiration for everyone. For too long we have been ruled by a way of thinking and educating according to which the knowledge of “traditional” materials and ways of working are to be considered surpassed or antiquated, worthy only of being seen in museums or institutional exhibitions – relics of the past, so to speak. Not only that which arrives from many African countries or India, but also what we can find in many other places in the world – and they are an immense resource here at home as well. Contemporary research can learn from craftsmanship at least as much as craftsmanship can learn from contemporary research.
Do you feel that nowadays craftsmanship skills have become less important than artistic research?
I don’t believe that craftsmanship has lost its importance compared with artistic research: what is true is that high-level craftsmanship activities (in general, not only in jewellery) have lost a lot of ground in Italy. Some traditional activities have disappeared completely, others have very few people working, and those who do, in turn, haven’t passed on to any apprentices their knowledge and skills. This is a real cultural loss – it’s a bit like when a language dies out because no one speaks it anymore. In crafts, when you ”jump” a generation, that’s to say when there is no transfer of knowledge from a “Master” to a new generation, that knowledge, that work, is lost for ever. We’re not only talking about “knowing how to do” something: it’s a small/big world made up of ways of creating things, nomenclature of tools and procedures, networks of contacts – a whole microcosm that came from the distant past and then disappears. Doesn’t it seem to be outrageous to you? In the jewellery sector a lot of damage has been done, partly due to those who wanted to place artistic research and craftsmanship in opposition to each other in the schools, the galleries, meetings and exhibition events. When LAO led for the first time the preview of Preziosa to Inhorgenta jewellery fair, the usual contemporary jewellery fundamentalists felt the need to criticise our decision: “What does artistic research have to do with a fair?”… well, for us it does, and how!
Based on your long experience as a jeweller, teacher and director of a school, what would be the factors that would allow the jeweller’s profession to evolve and/or advance?
Certainly the new technologies (CAD, 3D prototyping, laser soldering…), but also the rediscovery and re-assessment of traditional ways of doing things, can both be a powerful stimulus to jewellery research. These new technologies allow us to produce forms and volumes that were impossible just a short time ago, and the new materials offer us unexpected opportunities in expression. These elements, allied to manual, creative and technical skills, can generate renewed interest in the world of jewellery. The schools have a great responsibility, and have to offer training opportunities adapted to people’s changing needs, combining innovative techniques, contemporary design and knowledge of traditional working process, as happens, for example, in LAO from 1985, with great results.
About Giò Carbone
Born in Cosenza, Italy in 1952. A self-taught goldsmith up to 1985 he ran his own workshop-boutique in Florence.
The production of jewellery has always been limited to the creation of unique objects and the realization of master models and limited editions on behalf of manufacturing companies.
In 1985 he founded "LAO - Le Arti Orafe", international school of jewellery, jewellery design, engraving and stone setting.
His work as a goldsmith was discontinued in the early 2000's, to entirely devote himself to his commitments for the school and for the organization of events and exhibitions on contemporary jewellery, and the coordination of transnational cooperative projects.
In 2005 he founded "Preziosa Contemporary Jewellery exhibition", international event devoted to the promotion of contemporary jewellery.
In 2015 he launched the new project “Florence Jewellery Week” (FJW), for the diffusion of jewellery culture.
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