Design on the flip side

Self-produced design is a cultural phenomenon that is expanding, as Milan Design Week 2016 demonstrates

The rediscovery of the love of “making” and manual skills. Not only making objects but a conscious choice and a determined stance: self-produced design not only means designing an object but following it throughout the entire production and distribution cycle. Severing the traditional chain of industrial design, with its serial production runs and huge numbers, self-production represents a return to the slow pace of the artisanal tradition with small runs (or unique pieces) without the necessity of a costly initial investment. 

Emerging from this design approach are objects that are based on a story to tell, produced thanks to the rediscovery of the artisanal tradition but without disdain for new technologies, such as the 3D printer. Innovative workmanship (or in any case processes that are far removed from industrial runs), accessories and furnishings, including for the kitchen, enriched with the winning narrative that the object carries with it. 

An alternative path is outlined, traced by those creative individuals who are members of a movement that is not only becoming less and less underground but is now fast-growing, and even finding a place at international events such as Milan Design Week from 12 to 17 April. A considerably large group of independent designers are in fact exhibiting their work at Fuorisalone (, in the Lambrate and Porta Romana districts, including the Fabbrica del Vapore art complex. 

Self-produced design is a design approach where the designer is free to experiment and combines the rediscovery of craftsmanship with the use of new technologies. 

They like to see themselves as creative individuals swimming against the current. Moreover, “only dead fish swim with the stream. And the pay-off is FuoriSalmone, a social network dedicated to creating connections between designers, firms, planners and workers in the sector. For its food design category, FuoriSalmone features Tiziana Ponzio’s “Experience Smell Tasting” (@Loft FUORISALMONE- Via Massimiano 25). This line of research, grounded in the decomposition of odours, has led to the completion of the “OL_factory Set” project, a set of four products for tasting, specifically designed to teach and support us in a new olfactory experience at the table, with the objective of heightening the perception and memory of what we are tasting. The set is composed of: “Lily”, “Aroma”, “Cloud” and “Organ”. 

Products that in their shape and function draw inspiration from the world of perfumery in order to consciously induce an approach oriented toward the olfactory experience.

It’s just an example of how self-produced design, by its very nature, represents fertile ground for research and experimentation, offering the opportunity to freely create with necessarily accepting the usual rules of the game.

A clear sign of the worldwide expansion of self-production is the birth and growth in Italy and elsewhere of events that are wholly dedicated to this important design trend. Source self-made design ( is just one example: a young but established Florentine collective dedicated to self-production, which, each year, organises an exhibition for designers from the world over and, already in its fourth year of life, has become a permanent laboratory for education and creativity. Source is returning to Fuorisalone and is doing it by decorating a 150m2 loft at the Porta Romana venue (via Burlamacchi, 6). In the kitchen we find, among other things, “Bordolese” by Studio Lievito, a marble basin that hides a rolling pin inside. 

Studio Lievito can be defined as a link between the past and the future: the rediscovery of master craftsmanship to inject energy into modern industrial production techniques. Hand-finished mass production, mass assembly of unique pieces to respond to the pressing needs of a design show but at a pace that takes account of today’s market dynamics. 

Once again, it is from Source that we have the Mezzaluna decanter by Codice. Depending on the amount of wine inside, the decanter reveals different patterns representing a new phase of the moon each time. It is an object in whose functionality there is a certain poetic sensibility that breathes life to a unique artisanal piece. 

Albeit the winning couple is often a designer-artisan pair, every once in a while there are some interesting variations on the theme. Amarro!, a self-production laboratory in Reggio Emilia making ceramic articles, was born in 2012 out of the collaboration between an architect and a painter. Different backgrounds yet mutually complementary in the study of shapes, materials and colours. On exhibit at DIN-DESIGN IN, an event curated by a Promote Design, a collective of designers and architects (, that is being organised in a big industrial space in the Lambrate district (via Massimiano, 6), is Struzzine by Amaaro!.

Coffee mugs and cups with zoomorphic handles -ostriches and elephants- combined with assorted earthenware saucers. Each piece is hand-made with an engobe underglaze in several pastel shades. 

A marriage of professions, and it doesn't end there. The TOGETHER, loggetto per due exhibit curated by Maria Christina Hamel, teams up designers who have combined their talents from both a professional and a romantic standpoint. Pairs of designers who create objects specially designed for people living as couples that are produced by six craftsman from Albisola. The exhibition, housed at the Fabbrica del Vapore (2-17 April), is presented in Sharing Design, an event dedicated to self-production, green innovation and shared design, sponsored and organised by Milano Makers ( in collaboration with the City of Milan. 

 This year the theme of this collaboration between designers and craft workshops is the kitchen designed for couples and is the culmination, in chronological terms, of a project focusing on making genuine self-produced thematic ceramic collections and involving a different Italian city each year. 

Un esempio degli oggetti in mostra? Il set di piatti progettato dallo studio Veneziano+Team, nato nel 2007 dall'incontro tra Gianni Veneziano e Luciana Di Virgilio. Set di piatti in ceramica con decalcomania - divisa sui tre piatti - che simula una pennellata di acquerello.

Veneziano porta in tavola la riflessione sui rischi per ogni coppia di cadere nell'abitudinarietà dello stare insieme. Oggetto per la cucina che ci ricorda quanto questa eventualità sia sempre in agguato e, perchè no, ci motiva anche a non cadere vittime del tranello. E a trovare sempre nuovi spunti creativi nella nostra quotidianità.

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