An American Designer in Italy


You know I have a weakness for ceramics and in Amalfi I have recently discovered a most amazing artist I had not heard of before. Ernestine Virden Cannon was american and came to Italy soon after the war. She discovered the Costiera Amalfitana, met the architect Matteo D’Agostino and decided to stay. He had a ceramic factory and she painted watercolours. Together they started making incredibly modern ceramics with new delicate and transparent colours. The patterns varied from two tone graphics to delicate flowers. 

Ernestine was not just an artist, she embodied the figure of the modern designer. Together with the german ceramic engineer Horst Simonis, Ernestine brought about important innovations also on the technical side of the manufacture, discovering the procedure for making mew colours and successfully removing asbestos. The production lasted less than twenty years but the sheer variety of designs and patterns is astounding. They were a huge success, especially abroad. If you bump into an Ernestine piece anywhere in the world, you have a gem in your hands so don’t let it go!

 

Art and God

In my more rebellious years I was tollerant of the Catholic Church only for having made possible incredible works of art and having been patron to innumerable artists. With age, as one becomes (inevitably?) more conservative, I have shifted perspective. My understanding of the link between Art and God has grown deeper, more complex and flows in both direction. 

As the Church – in the name of God -has made Art possible, so Art allows a spiritual dialogue with God. I don’t think I am the only one, that albeit little faith, feels moved by a stripped down crucifix, by the high vaults of a church or the sombre tones of a deposition from the cross. The beauty of created things stirs up God’s emotions.

Summer Basket

With summer holidays on the doorstep all you should be buying are baskets. For the beach and for the shopping, for magazines, for toys, for flowers and for the laundry. They are number one interior accessory. Or exterior for that matter. 

In a beautiful garden in Ravello, baskets as rubbish bins were a great look. Anything can go in a basket. But whatever you do don’t put a plastic bag in it!

A Bird in a Clock

Clocks have almost disappeared from our houses – if you exclude all those annoying digital dials inserted in televisions, ovens and so on. There used to be a time when every room displayed on a dressers, fireplace or table an elaborate and decorative clock. The more ornate the lovelier it would have been. 

In Caserta, in the private rooms of Marie Caroline hang two clocks which were given to her sister, none other than Marie Antoinette. At first sight they look like delicate birdcages. There are even realistic looking birds inside them. Underneath however they have a clock’s face. And since the birdcages hang rather high up, near the windows, Marie Caroline was always able to see the time passing bye, while sitting at her desk or while lying on her chaise longue. 

The Vienna Biennale

No, it’s not a spelling mistake. I still have to see the Venice one but in the meantime I checked out the first Vienna Biennale. It is the latest offering of the MAK which aims to combine Art, Design and Architecture in one event. This year the event is called Ideas for Change and the exhibitions offered aim to question how we want to live our cities in the future. The idea of course is that creativity can improve our way of living, but what transpired is that politics have a lot more to do with change, than the efforts of artists, designers and architects. 

Smart Life in the City proposes alternatives scenarios for key situations in cities like hotels, hospitals, shopping centers, schools, markets etc. With a successfull mixture of text, videos, images and designers’ intervention it creates a thought provoking environment and easy to follow discourse. 

Uneven Growth instead examinse 6 megapolis and how they have successfully developed coping strategies in the last years. Highly scenographic and with diverse and smart graphics, this small exhibition totally captured me. Also, just goes to show that practical examples are much more poignant that theoretica ideas. If we really want to change ideas are not enough!
  

A Kitchen Show

If you are in Positano you don’t need to worry to much about where to eat because the food is pretty exceptional everywhere. After all, nothing beats pasta fresca and fish. Perhaps, the only thing better than an Italian dish is an Italian dish reinterpreted by a Japanese chef. 

Surprisingly that is just the case at Casa Mele, where Fumiko Saki Yokohama cooks impeccable dishes in an open view kitchen. The kitchen is a fantastic twist on a classic just like the food: with large black, white and iconic Fornasetti tiles, it is like a theater setting. So, if after an exhausting day in the sun, you have run out of topics to discuss with your husband, you can both just enjoy the show of the cooks preparing your meal. And I can assure, you will not be disappointed by the result!  

At the Reggia of Caserta

 

For those of you who might have not yet guessed, my husband and I are on a little Italian holiday to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Today we were at the Reggia of Caserta, less than an hour from Naples. So close in fact, that from the spectactular waterfall you can see both the Vesuvius and Capri.

The vast regal palace was designed for Charles III – before he became King of Spain – and it was to rival Versailles. Being Italy there are less gilded mirrors and more marbles, but the never ending sequence of rooms is just as breathtaking. The paintings on the walls might not be outstanding but the silks surely are; and so is the furniture, the curtains, the floors and the decorations on the ceilings. It is an interior decorators paradise. The richness, harmony and detail make me blush to have ever thought minimalism could be an answer.