The Universal Language of Shapes. Riccardo Masini and Stenia Scarselli interviewed by Waldemar Kerschbaumer

Published: 31.08.2021
Waldemar Kerschbaumer
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Italiano Plurale is an artist collective, that represents Italy with a strong, complete, and diverse image. It is a mosaic of talents and passionate ambassadors of Italian 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 scene.

We introduce the members of the group in a series of interviews.

Waldemar Kerschbaumer: What led you to use wood/metal as the basic material for your artworks?
Riccardo Masini: I always say I believe it was the wood that really chose me. Probably having been brought to the mountains by my family from an early age (at the age of 4) and having been in contact with the woods and the South Tyrolean reality of wooden sculpture was decisive. This has led to a very close relationship with nature, particularly with trees and wood since I was a child.
Stenia Scarselli: Before fully dedicating myself to jewelry, I gathered experience crafting props for theatre and cinema. This gave me the chance to try out various materials. Later on, I fell in love with metal, particularly the act of welding two parts into a single shape. Another feature I like about metal is the fact that it is possible to melt an object and give it a completely new shape.

Riccardo Masini. L’Aureo, 2018. Woodturning and woodcarving on a single piece of Maple wood. H40cm D.17cm
Photo by Nicole Furlan.

Stenia Scarselli at the bench.

Your art is constantly evolving. Which technique do you currently favour?
Riccardo Masini: I have started turning to more traditional methods, reducing the number of tools, and working as much as possible with hand tools (such as rasps, scrapers, chest knives, and gouges). I believe we should strive to know everything history and tradition have given us and learn to combine it with the most current technology as needed. The past is not a heavy burden that we have to carry around but rather a treasure chest full of possibilities we can put to good use in times of need.
Stenia Scarselli: I mainly favor two techniques. The first is using metal plates and wires. The second is creating a wax copy of an object that will be later melted into a rubber mold. This allows me to have the same starting material when I want to create a series of pieces with a common thread.

Which piece are you particularly proud of?
Riccardo Masini: It is very difficult to express a judgment of this type because I associate certain pieces with particular moments in my life. If I had to look at my early work, I would certainly choose four pieces: Vincent, Divenire, L’Aureo, and Barriera. As for my later period, where the work has become an artistic project with a well-recognizable stylistic figure, I would probably say the Bells.
Stenia Scarselli: Whenever I fully manage to convey my original idea through the object I have created. The first pieces of each series are often the ones I like the most, even after some time.
Stenia Scarselli. Ring: Prati Dorati, 2021. Silver, gold, iron.

Where does your inspiration come from?
Riccardo Masini: My inspiration comes from multiple stimuli, I am very passionate and curious about many things. Lately, I have been developed an interest in the nature of things, while previously painting, mathematics, geometry and the coral world have played an important role. In any case, I believe telling something personal is by far the most important thing.
Stenia Scarselli: Inspiration can come from anything, from a mood or a specific sensation, although sometimes original ideas appear out of the blue.

Riccardo Masini. Sculpture: Collezione Forme & Volumi, 2019. Woodturning, woodcarving and woodburning on Ash wood.
Photo by: Giulia Hara.

How do your clients perceive your work? Do you have in mind who will own it or how it will be used/worn?
Riccardo Masini: Let me quote Degas: “Everyone sees what they want to see. That's mistaken, and this mistake is what art is based on.”
As for the second question, however, I must categorically answer no. This is a question that I have never asked myself. What I have always imposed on myself is to do what I feel, to be absolutely honest first of all towards myself, and to maintain that freedom that is the foundation of art.
Stenia Scarselli: I often have the feeling that in order to become familiar with my jewelry, and therefore wear it with ease, people need time to establish a relationship with it. When I create a jewel, I never think about its life once it’s been bought, but it is exciting when I happen to see it worn by people years after.

How do you feel about having to put a price tag on your creations?
Riccardo Masini: At first it was very difficult to accept, but then I realized the price you give your works allows you to keep creating, studying, and experimenting. If you can’t sell your art, you need someone to support you, like a patron. The only way to avoid this is to sell your work, there are no other solutions. So, putting a price on your creations is a necessity.
Stenia Scarselli: Giving a price to my work is perhaps the most difficult aspect since each creation contains a piece of me. I am always tempted to factor in what it means to me and how much I managed to give it the right shape, so it may become difficult to be coherent in the eyes of others.

Riccardo Masini. Sculpture: Studio di Lira, 2021. Woodcarving, acid on Ash wood.
Photo by: Fabio Marcangeli.

Do you have an underlying concept that you express in articles, books, galleries, museums, etc.? What do you think of contemporary Italian wood/jewelry art?
Riccardo Masini: Certainly synthesis. What I try to do is always a synthesis of what I have in mind. Reduce the concept to a minimum and ensure that it is always readable by the observer. I believe that art and crafts are currently going through a very complex period in Italy. Although we perceive the need to return to a more human dimension on things, we are still very far away. Unfortunately, the Italian art scene is deteriorating, and the underlying problem is of course to do with culture.
Stenia Scarselli: I have never had the opportunity to write on the subject that indeed would deserve a deep reflection. I think that in Italy all things to do with the contemporary language of art are being neglected, and contemporary jewelry is no exception.
I think that unfortunately most people still don’t have the sensibility and the tools to fully understand contemporary jewelry. Even those who appreciate it in museums around the world often don’t wear it and don’t own contemporary art.

When does wood/jewelry become art?
Riccardo Masini: That is a difficult question, and any answer would still be completely subjective depending on one’s assumptions about what art is and isn’t. Certainly, as far as I am concerned, art should be a comprehensible universal language that speaks to the observer regardless of culture or era. I believe this is a crucial aspect.
Stenia Scarselli: I think that a jewel must have the ability to excite and carry a message. I like to think that my most successful pieces become travel companions. I believe that this magic happens when the craftsman feels the urgency and need to make that specific object.

Stenia Scarselli. Bracelet: Animale Marino, 2021. Bronze.

You are part of the artist collective „Italiano Plurale“. What made you join?
Riccardo Masini: First of all, the level of the artists within the collective. Relating to capable people who express themselves with different materials and different backgrounds is an indispensable moment of growth in the life of every artist.
Stenia Scarselli: I immediately felt at ease within “Italiano Plurale”. The group was born with the intention of promoting artists by enhancing their quality, originality, and diversity of materials and languages used. It creates synergies between people and helped establish great collaborative dynamics and mutual respect.
It is a great human and professional resource in such a complex world where promoting one’s work requires the constant development of greater skill. I have proudly been a part of it since its conception in 2018 when I participated in the Wiener Schmucktage.

What is next on your calendar?
Riccardo Masini: The event at the Grassimuseum in Leipzig where I will be present with a part of the Italiano Plurale group. Furthermore, I am working on my second personal exhibition, which will be next year (2022), and which will collect my latest studies on the subject of synthesis.

Stenia Scarselli: I will attend the Grassimesse in Leipzig with “Italiano Plurale” in October 2021.

About the Interviewee

Riccardo Masini was born in Rome on 4 December 1984. After classical studies, he discovers wood. He works with the French Maestro Claude Arragon, learning woodturning fundamentals in 2016 and advanced woodworking techniques in 2016. Also in 2016, he studies woodcarving and sculpture techniques with Italian Maestro Giacomo Malaspina. In 2017, he takes part at the “Concorso Internazionale D’Arte I Dauni II ed”, an Italian art exhibition for wood turners, winning “best rookie prize”. In 2018, he studies wood branding techniques with Marco Bellini. In 2019, Riccardo Masini joined the artist collective “Italiano Plurale” that is set to represent Italy at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the PMA Craft Show 2022. In 2020, he joined Wood Symphony Gallery of Los Angeles, one of the most important gallery for wood turners worldwide.
Sculptor and goldsmith, Stenia Scarselli was born in Volterra in 1968 to a family of alabaster craftsmen. She inherited a natural propensity for manual work from her father Dolfo, a sculptor. She started experimenting with jewelry in the early eighties, with a healthy disregard for classic and traditional shapes and materials. Stenia Scarselli uses iron, bronze, aluminum foam and wood, combining them with precious materials. Her experience also extends to the field of sculpture. In 2004 she created a stainless steel totem still in place at PAC in Livorno, and in 2011 created her first illuminated sculpture that she is currently reverse-transforming into illuminated jewelry as part of her “nightlife” project. From 2015 to 2019 she participated in numerous exhibitions and events both in Italy and abroad. Stenia lives and works in Pisa.

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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.