This is a place where it takes a day to make a jug. Here, metals get heated up with a manual torch and gauging the correct time for the exposure requires an expertise that only time can provide.
Welcome in the De Vecchi lab in Milan. An atelier of 3, 4 rooms in an old building on the Navigli in which the flavour of a Renaissance workshop lingers in the air. Here the first ever non traditional chandelier was conceived ini 1947; here the original experiments of cinetic design were carried out in the Sixties, with the famous mirror coffepots by Gabriele De Vecchi (see above).
These are hard times for craftsmanship. And in particular for the small businesses who work with silver, like De Vecchi. Its price has gone up a fivefold in the last few years, with tragic consequences for retailers of finalized goods. The “old fashion” image of the vast majority of silver objects also did not help. In 2010, the De Vecchi family thus decided to sell its lab, created in 1935, to the gold art producer Vhernier.
Since then, the great challenge for Carlo Traglio, president of Vhernier and De Vecchi, is to re-interpret the amazine heritage of the Milanese atelier with a contemporary twist. The winning ace remains tradition and the expertise of the lab’s craftsmen (who are, themselves, now challenged with finding young talents to convy their art). The past is, in any case, more and more the winning factor that made in Italy companies use to turn themselves into narrators and dream builders for the wealthy customers who, all over the world, search for quality and prestige.
Silver was the basis that De Vecchi originated from. And thus remains its key material. After all there are still lots of places in which the price is no worrying factor (quite the opposite, it tends to reassure). But the new company strategy is to widen its portfolio to other materials such as the precious De Vecchi alloy (a metal and silver mix), silverplating, wood, ceramics. And it also includes a more international distribution approach, with retailers all over the world as well and online e-shop.
4p1B have designed for De Vecchi the iconic 273 vase, a 3D rectangle sculpted by water. «We started off from a well-refined industrially manufactured shape, with squared corners», they told me. «We then filled it up with water and placed it in a deep freezer. When water freezes, it increases its volume of roughly 10% and it deforms the metal, and breaks it». The yound Milanese designers had already worked on a similar concept for Bologna Water Design and realized that silver was the material that would best react to the process. They proposed the idea to De Vecchi and it soon enough turned into the 273 vases whose uniqueness does not stem from manual work but from the variables connected to the process. «We did not invent anything», they say quoting the work of masters such as Enzo Mari or Gaetano Pesce. Yet in the world of silverwork, the 273 vases are quite a statement in terms of experimentation. For De Vecchi, they also represent an opportunity to show that its new course has actually started.