Fornasetti, design house loved by so many, was the creation of the late artist, craftsman, poet and printer Piero Fornasetti. Born in 1913, his work transformed the art scene of the 20th century by following the path of ‘Tema e Variazioni’- Themes and Variations. Revered for his application of two dimensional art to three dimensional form, he adapted drawings to real life objects and surfaces such as furniture, theatre sets, books, magazine covers and interiors. Butterflies, fish, coins, the sun and clocks are all familiar images seen in Fornasetti design.
Probably the most defining moment of Piero’s design career was his adaptions of the opera singer Lina Cavalieri famous during her time of 1874-1944. Piero’s son, Barnaba Fornasetti is now head of the design house and recalls Piero’s love of the singer’s image “After seeing an old print of her face, my father believed that Cavalieri’s face had perfect symmetry and was the ultimate beauty. She was loved by everyone in her time, but was also quite misunderstood’. There is a series of 500 adaptions of her image on Fornasetti’s designs and furniture, 300 of which are seen on their famous ceramic plates.
Above: Fornasetti saw himself as a decorative artist, with a boundless imagination for art- seen here in a selection of his Lina Cavalieri variations
The Fornasetti brand is also versatile in that boundaries and limits can be pushed; “this is art that can be applied anywhere. We simply work on design, print and variation” Barnaba says, and indeed the house does produce all manner of interior furnishings such as cabinets, mirrors, tables, wallpaper, ashtrays, tables, lamps and the list goes on. The brand has a flagship store Spazio Fornasetti in Milan but also works on bespoke orders and projects. Bringing such a heritage brand into relevance for the 21st Century was not a matter of compromise however, and respecting the original tradition of his father’s work ensures the brand remains iconic. He explains “I’m not obsessed by being modern. I don’t push for modernity, it’s something that comes naturally”. Barnaba has now brought the brand into wallpapers, rugs, ceramic vases and now, a home fragrance collection.
A bold use of colour and texture is the backbone of the brand’s palette, with emerald greens, strong metallics, gold leaf, silver leaf and black all used freely. Attention to detail is equally as important; for example- tiny illustrations of delicate sea creatures covering a large cabinet, are each painted by hand by Fornsetti’s ateliers based in Milan. Other hand-painted items include plates with playing cards, knights and castles painted on them. The heat used to mould the plates changes the way the paint reacts, so the artists ensure they paint the plates one individual set at a time. The outcome is that each set of plates is entirely unique. Fornasetti newly developed line of interior perfumes, fragrant candles and incense were created after Barnaba became interested in the idea of a scent for the home. He turned to Olivier Polge, master perfumer at International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) for this new collaboration. Barnaba quotes “We always look to join other creatives outside of our field. Creation is my field, but we needed someone to bring a new feeling to the project”.
The partnership was the start of a long line of scent collaborations, with the scents deriving from Polge visiting the Fornasetti house in South Milan. The house was built by Piero’s father and where Barnaba lives today and the pair went on an exploration of the woods used within the home interior, Fornasetti designed objects, as well as the wild flowers and herbs in the house’s garden. The result of the research amounted to an ultimate Fornasetti perfume, the ‘Otto’- with top notes of Thyme and Lavender, with touches of Cedarwood, Orris, Tolu Balsam and other exotic essences. The house proclaims the scent as being ‘the olfactory portrait of a brand that is timeless, and that transcends gender and fashions’.
Above: the development of the ceramic perfume containers was handed to Ceramiche Dal Pra, Nove, Vicenza (Italy)