The Search for Unconscious Beauty. Interview with Stefania Lucchetta and Giulia Savino by Waldemar Kerschbaumer

Published: 09.05.2022
Waldemar Kerschbaumer
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The Italiano Plurale art collective presents a strong, complete, and diverse image of Italy’s art scene with a veritable mosaic of fresh talent and passionate ambassadors of applied art. Curator Waldemar Kerschbaumer carefully selects artists whose work not only meets the highest standards but also provides refreshing insights into Italy’s contemporary art production.

We introduce the members of the group with a series of interviews.
You both use uncommon materials. What led you to use these different types of metal as the main material for your works?
Stefania Lucchetta: My research on new production techniques led me to experiment with new materials.
The material in my work is extremely important, since the aim of my design has always been to achieve a synergy between form, structure, material and technique. There is a very close relationship between the individual parts of the structure, the manufacturing processes, the material and the final shape of the object. Therefore, the same object would not make sense, it would not "work" if one of these elements were not exactly as originally planned: my resin jewellery would not work if it were made of metal, just as my stellite or titanium pieces would not work if they were made of gold, silver or plastics.
In my first years of experimentations, I made many biocompatible resin and polyamide objects, and I have to admit that I never fully liked those materials, both for their aesthetic characteristics and their fragility. I have always preferred metals to plastic materials, but when I started working with 3D printing machines, the technology was not mature enough for laser sintering metals. Over time, with the advancement of the technologies, I discovered new alloys to work with and fell in love with stellite and titanium, which are now the primary materials I use for my works. They are in perfect harmony with my jewels and thanks to their typical hardness and lightness, I can work with shapes and volumes that would not be imaginable with other metals. Moreover, I have never had a good relationship with ephemeral things. Perhaps this is also where my love for these materials, which are extremely hard, difficult to alter, resistant to the storms of life, comes from.

Giulia Savino: Actually, I’m not sure uncommon is the right definition for the materials I use in my pieces. Lately I mainly work with silver, brass, aluminium, and sometimes steel or titanium. What does make these metals unconventional is the way they are treated and the relation I establish between them. I like metals because of their hardness, their wide variety of weight, colour and strength, and at this point of my work they allow me to find solutions to express my ideas.
Stefania Lucchetta: Vertebrae 274, brooch, 2021. Titanium, steel. Photo by Stefania Lucchetta.
Giulia Savino: Hoops earrings for the contest at Gallery 9052 in Chicago. Brass and titanium powder coated, silver. Photo by Giulia Savino.

Your art is constantly evolving. Which technique do you currently favour?
Stefania Lucchetta: Although I sometimes use different techniques, my favourite remains additive manufacturing or selective laser melting, to be more precise. It is a technique that I love because my goal was to overcome the boundaries imposed by traditional materials and production techniques from the very beginning of my creative adventure. And this precise technique enabled me to find new possibilities of expression in my attempt to create a new and contemporary language for jewellery.
Even conceptually, I like that my pieces are created with an additive technique: I like the idea that they are a product of successive layering. Layering suits me and my work: I see myself as the result of a sedimentation of experiences, emotions, visions, reflections that I pour into my work, which in turn takes shape through layers of matter. We are both the result of immaterial and material stratifications.

Giulia Savino: I can’t live without my PUK welder. This is the technique that I use the most to weld my pieces. In the past two years I have started powder coating metal. Colour is becoming more and more important, and I am increasingly developing new pieces where it is the focal point.

Stefania Lucchetta: Working process.
Giulia Savino: Work in progress “Vedute collection”. Photo by Fabio Rovere.

Which piece are you particularly proud of?
Stefania Lucchetta: I am never fully satisfied with what I have done and therefore very often the work I am most proud of is my latest piece, because it represents a step towards my ideal of a proper object.
However, I remain very attached to jewels that have represented turning points in my work, such as, for instance, the Crateri 25 ring, the first I managed to cast in titanium after several attempts.  

Giulia Savino: I believe I still have to make the piece I’m really proud of! But I can say I’m pleased with my 1:20.000 project. I find it exciting how this map project seems to touch people, and it definitely has potential for further development.

Giulia Savino: Nice 1:20.000, necklace, silver and bone. Photo by Federico Cavicchioli.

Where does your inspiration come from? 
Stefania Lucchetta: This is very difficult for me to explain. Until a few years ago, I liked to say that much of my inspiration came from experimenting with new technologies and materials: in fact, a combination of the curiosity of a pioneer and my enthusiasm to create something innovative gave me a great creative boost.
But I am aware that there is much more behind what is called "inspiration". My inspiration does not come from careful observation of nature or from a precise image that I take as a model ... mine is a fundamentally abstract, mental, almost interior inspiration, which springs from reflections that gradually take the form of an image. Perhaps I could say that I find my inspiration by trying to shape my ideal of beauty, while not knowing exactly what beauty means.

Giulia Savino: I love travelling and finding inspiration from what I see; in particular I’m interested in the relationship between cities, architecture and people. I use photography as a medium for collecting memories and at the same time to find new perspectives of what is around me. I visually capture details and I look for composition and balance of the elements.

How do your clients perceive your work? Do you have in mind who or how it will be used?
Stefania Lucchetta: I have noticed that my collectors still perceive my work as innovative even when a piece is several years old. I made rings in 2006 and even earlier that are still seen as extra-terrestrial today. This makes me very happy because it means that I have succeeded in introducing a kind of new style in jewellery design.
I don't follow any marketing strategy; therefore, I don't always think about who will wear that object. I don't always do it consciously, but I realize that I mostly make jewellery that I would like to wear myself.
Instead, I always keep in mind that my pieces must be comfortable to wear despite their large size. Wearability of my jewellery is a big concern because I don't like creating pieces that are really just sculptures.

Giulia Savino: My relationship with the public gives me the energy I need to work on my projects. It’s inspiring to hear the stories of the customers, their own personal experiences and the connections they find with my pieces. This is what makes them want to wear my jewellery.

How do you feel about having to put a price tag on your creations?
Stefania Lucchetta: I admit that I don't like to price my jewellery, especially the pieces I have devoted a lot of intellectual and manual work to. It may seem exaggerated, but to mee that feels a bit like putting a price on my children. However, selling is part of my job, and so I have to determine a price trying to use objective criteria, such as the cost of materials and processing, leaving out my personal preferences and most of the amount of time taken to achieve that result.

Giulia Savino: It’s never an easy task, because of both the personal attachment and the market value. Calculating the right price is a matter of finding a balance of all the elements involved, and it’s not only about mathematics…it requires considering multiple points of view and making choices.

Do you have an underlying concept that you express in articles, books, galleries, museums, etc.? What do you think of contemporary Italian jewellery art?
Stefania Lucchetta: What I tried to do with my work from the beginning was to interpret the zeitgeist, the spirit of our time. To do so I chose to use the latest generation technologies, both in the design and in the manufacturing processes. Employing new technologies and materials was a precious tool for me to try to create a new and truly contemporary language for jewellery, made possible only by contemporary tools.
Contemporary jewellery in Italy seems quite lively to me; many young people are embarking on this difficult career, even though in the face of a very large supply of so-called "contemporary" jewellery, demand is very limited. In Italy, there are excellent schools that teach how to make jewels to perfection, with great attention to the technical aspects of the craft. Thanks to these schools, too, I see serious artists emerge: they have new ideas, great technical ability and are capable of making original aesthetic choices. Alongside these, there remains a conservative current in Italy and abroad, which seems to keep repeating concepts, provocations and ideas dating back to Dadaism or conceptual art.

Giulia Savino: Not enough people know much about contemporary jewellery in Italy, not least because of a lack of exhibitions and events. I believe it is also our role to inform and educate the public and to find new ways to be present and visible.

Giulia Savino: Mariposas, pins, brass powder coated and still. Photo by Simone Nepote André. Model: Laura Jiang

When does jewellery become art?
Stefania Lucchetta: On this issue, I have many more doubts than certainties. It would be nice if there was an "objective" criterion to establish what is art and what is not. Aesthetic philosophy has tried to solve this riddle for centuries and has shown how difficult, if not impossible, it is to say what the specificity of the work of art is. In the last century, there have also been movements in which art had become philosophy: for instance, with Guy Debord's Situationism, the work of art was abolished in favour of a critical theory of society, which was very close to a radical philosophy. Conceptual art, too, rejected the shape, favouring instead the reflection that every artist had to make on the very nature of art.
As for jewellery, the question is even more complicated because jewellery is considered applied art. Thus, in my opinion, there are also other questions to be resolved: can we talk about art when we talk about jewellery? Does a distinction between applied art and art still make sense?
Amid all these philosophical issues, it is tough for me to give a relevant opinion on this subject. I can only rely on my feelings, which are obviously very subjective. To me, jewellery is close to art, as I find in it a balance between technical skills, innovation (which I could also call originality), aesthetic outcome and recognizability. I don't perceive art as a branch of philosophy, but I think that an artist's ideas must be conveyed through a shape, which is the materialization of thought.

Giulia Savino: It’s about the uniqueness, the message the pieces carry and the process that brought them to life. Talking about contemporary jewellery sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between art and design, as they might coexist in the same objects.

Stefania Lucchetta: Digital 65, Ring, 2008. Stellite, diamond. Photo by Stefania Lucchetta.

You are part of the “Italiano Plurale” artist collective. What prompted you to join them?
Stefania Lucchetta: When I was asked to join “Italiano Plurale”, I immediately liked the idea of a collective, because it tries to go beyond the natural individualism of the single artist, bringing together a group of people who can count on each other’s support and collaboration. Right from the start, I found within the group not only good professionals, but also a cordial and very friendly atmosphere, which makes working together very pleasant. Now I am very happy to be part of this group because the exchange of views and a very dynamic and proactive curator encourage me to do more than I would do alone.
Giulia Savino: The idea of meeting people in Italy actively working in the field of crafts and the chance to share my experience with them. As a group we can strengthen our position and create new opportunities.

What is next on your calendar?
Stefania Lucchetta: I have been invited to participate in “Orizzonti d’Autore”, the first International Biennial dedicated to contemporary jewellery in Italy. It will open on May 7, 2022.
In July I will take part in the Handwerk & Design fair in Munich with “Italiano Plurale”.
At the end of September I will go to Germany again and take part in the Studio Exhibition organised by Atelier Munsteiner. And in November I will be joining „Italiano Plurale“ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, where the collective is to represent Italy as guest country.
Giulia Savino: I will take part in Handwerk fair in July with “Italiano Plurale” and I have been invited to do an exhibition in Trieste in the autumn. Also, I organise a series of small events at my Turin studio together with my colleague, a ceramist. Our next one is scheduled for May 2022. And then I will finally get to travel to NY to find new inspiration.
Stefania Lucchetta: Volutae 30, ring 2020. Titanium. Photo by Fabio Zonta.



About the Interviewee

Stefania Lucchetta, based in Bassano del Grappa, holds a degree from Ca' Foscari University in Venice (1999, BA with Honours in Arts and Humanities) and a master’s degree from Scuola Italiana Design in Padua (2004). After training as a goldsmith for her family business, she began to focus on 3D software and rapid prototyping machines in 1999. In 2002, Stefania Lucchetta started producing her one-of-a-kind jewels, exploring experimental techniques and materials while still working as an industrial designer. She is considered a pioneer of additive technologies applied to several materials such as stellite and titanium to create an innovative language for jewellery. 
Stefania has exhibited her work worldwide and won her several awards over the years. Her jewels have been acquired by private and public collections, such as the Alice and Louis Koch Collection in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Giulia Savino is an Italian jewellery designer with an international background. She holds a Master in Contemporary Jewellery from Alchimia School in Florence as well as a Bachelor in Fashion Design from Politecnico di Milano. The artist works and teaches in Turin, where she opened her own studio in 2020, and co-ordinates and teaches the Jewellery Design Course at Ied Milano. For three years, Giulia lived in Cairo, where she helped with opening the Middle East’s first ever jewellery school set up by the pioneer designer Azza Fahmy. Giulia Savino’s work has been exhibited around the word, most recently at “Drawn to the net” in Munich, “Circus is 21” in London, “Walking Treasures” in Milan. The artist has been selected for “Schmuck 2022”.

About the author

Waldemar Kerschbaumer
is the Creative Director and founder of the advertising and web agency adpassion based in Bolzano, Italy. He spent 7 years working for a local weekly magazine and over 10 years in different advertising agencies before founding his own company. adpassion caters to a variety of different sectors, from business to education and museums, and private and business clients as well as artists.

Italiano plurale was born in 2018, when Waldemar Kerschbaumer was asked to select Italy’s best and most promising jewelry artists for the Vienna Jewelry Days. The big leap came after just a few months: The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s annual PMA Craft Show settled on Italy as their guest country for 2020 and Waldemar was asked to curate and select the best Italian artists from various art categories. His previous experience promoting artists and having their work shown at international events proved an invaluable asset in the early days of the project. Italian artists expressed the need for support, especially for a whole host of excellent yet underrated artisans.