I love to give a new life to second hand things.
Worn out objects seem to have a history of their own that reveals itself in every single blemish caused by wear and tear.
I’ve always loved flea markets and small antique shops and not only because, sometimes, it’s possible to find some very good bargains. Plates with broken edges, cracked little bowls and occasionaly, some marked tools. “Look. I can give you a discount for that damaged plate”. Damaged? What a nonsense! I buy it exactly for this! In those small defects I see its uniqueness: there isn’t another one like it. For me, the imperfection is an added value and it’s priceless.
I’ve started to use the word freaky when speaking in Italian, here and there, and often someone would ask “What did you say?!”- “Freaky! You know, something which is unusual and a bit odd. Absurdly imperfect!”. What a lovely sound it has! I like it to the point I’ve made some Italian variations like “freakyssimo” – which is similar to bellissimo – because this word has a very positive meaning for me. Freaky is the cracked plate left aside because it doesn’t match the others any more. But for me, freaky has become more than just a word; it’s another way of approaching what is around us.
Perfection doesn’t exist. In my opinion there is a variety of beautiful imperfections which make things and people unique. But it’s also the passing of time that plays a fundamental role in this vision because it changes inevitably every single thing.
I’m not saying anything new, I know. The Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi-Sabi is based on the temporal and on the imperfection of things.
Wabi-Sabi is a very special word and doesn’t have a direct translation. It implies a precise aesthetic value. It’s a philosophy that covers a large conceptual area and that teaches the detachment from the idea of perfection as a must, in order to rediscover a spontaneous and incomplete beauty by going beyond the mere appearance.
Nothing is perfect – Nothing stays forever – Nothing is incomplete: beauty is linked with the transience of things and to the effect of time.
Wabi-Sabi is an aesthetic concept that can be detected but that isn’t linked to any defined physical features. However, to our material culture, Wabi-Sabi objects are often seen as rustics because at first, we view them as asymetric, simple, with unrefined surfaces and they are irregular and faulty.
A perfect example of this kind of aesthetic are Raku ceramics.
Raku is a firing technique for pottery whose origins are linked to the ancient Japanese art of tea ceremony. This technique is deeply rooted in the Zen philosophy and related to the influence that Buddhism had in the Japanese culture, whose Raku ceramics production can be traced back to the XVI century.
It seems that this technique was created by chance, by a craftman named Chojiro. In order to make pottery that seemed old and worn out in a quick way, he used the same materials and technique used for roof tile production: sandy clays, and by removing the pottery from the kiln as soon as the glazed had reached the red-heat stage. The thermic shock provoked by the cooling process gave the pottery an aged look, that also added some value to the objects.
The most amazing thing when making Raku pottery, is the moment of removing each piece of work from the kiln when it is still bright red hot. Creativity and improvisation, together with a knowledge of different materials, give way to some unique and surprising objects. In fact, a Raku firing process is something like an event where all the primordial elements such as water, wind, earth and fire are combine together in an equilibrium that is given both by a bit of chance and a bit of chemistry. The value of this technique is in the impossibility of forseeing the perfect result which, with its imperfection, can also be surprising.
I was first introduced to the magic world of pottery by my father, Luciano.
As far a visual arts are concerned, my family is like an artistic community where everyone has their own profession. We exchange views very often and it’s particularly nice when someone’s enthusiasm in experimenting with new techniques, influences also the others who are very eager to learn.
Luciano is now 72 and regarding painting techniques he’s like a alchemist wizard, but he is also a tireless experimenter and researcher.
When he started to fill his studio with some huge bags of clay, carrying them with an effort and sweat, we looked at him thinking he was crazy and that everything would have been over soon. Three months later we had built together a large pottery workshop with three raku kilns. We have become something like a trio, Luciano, Francesco and myself.
We have studied and worked hard in order to learn a technique that was new to us, starting from nothing. We have experimented with chemical combinations, combustion methods and clay shaping techniques. Raku is not simply making objects, it’s an ongoing experimental process that is strictly link to the primordial elements and to Nature. It’s an amazing ritual.
We have built our kilns in our garden, near the bamboo thicket, and when the sun goes down we wait for the evening to arrive. That is the perfect moment to remove our bright red heat works from the kiln and to see the thick cloud of smoke covering the garden like a mantle of fog.
In the silence of the night, our expectations are always fullfilled by all those small setbacks that make each piece unique. Raku means finding great pleasure in those moments because they contain the core of this ritual. I strongly feel that beauty often lies in the freedom of being able to surprise myself with the unexpected.
The “freaky raku” is a project about the search for beauty that can be found in the uniqueness of anything that is not perfect.
Every object has its own story, its own time and its own soul.