“It is a great pleasure for me to go to Faenza to address the youngsters who have enrolled at ISIA, to tell them the stories from my professional history and to speak of desire. It is a situation in which I find myself at ease”. We are in Giulio Iacchetti’s studio, a few days before the beginning of the academic year at the Higher Institute for Artistic Industries, Design and Communication, on 31 January, where he will hold a keynote lecture entitled “Design: designing desire”. It is no surprise that they called on a professional figure who has always been interested in the connections between design and craftsmanship, exalted by the unique design and manufacturing system InternoItaliano. It is a combination which is constantly examined by this institute, in the Faenza branch with traditions of ceramic making. The choice of desire as the cornerstone of a speech linked to education and the profession of designer could however seem discordant, anachronistic. It needs clarification.
What do you mean by “designing desire”? Whose desire?
Designers. I think it is important to go back and listen to our inner desires, discover our design vocation. It is not about recalling high, spiritual values, but rather discerning, on a daily basis, what we want to do with our lives, what we want to design. Instead, it seems to me that we are often denied the pleasure of expressing desire on an idealistic level.
This should be a prerogative for the younger generations, dreamers par excellence.
They don’t dream enough, or at least not in the right way. Let me explain better. Everyone is capable of saying that they want to be a designer or that they want to design a chair. It is a vague answer, it is not enough. We need to ask ourselves: What chair do we want to design? For which company? We can only identify the right way to go, and turn our desires into reality, if these desires are very detailed. No-one can stop us from designing an object according to the style and modality that we imagine. The drive may come from the desire to express affinity with a brand or a type of object. Further on, we can propose our project to a company, finding ourselves in pole position because we have made a declaration of love.
You believe in the strength of passion.
It is fundamental. Completing a project that no-one has asked you for, just for the pleasure of carrying out a gratuitous exercise, is already a nourishing source of great satisfaction. Indeed, there is no such thing as design on-demand, when no-one knows you and you need to find your niche. It is not a question of starting at the bottom and breaking in one’s abilities, but rather of being the driver of events. You need to place yourself at the centre of the action.
No-one can stop us from designing an object according to the style and modality that we imagine.
How much passion do you find in the numerous letters from students which, I imagine, your studio receives, asking for the opportunity to work as an intern.
In the majority of requests, I find a kind of very sad unbalance. These are clone letters sent to 1,000 different studios, which will lead these students to donate three months of their time to the first person that answers. The key criteria for the selection of that which is a potentially important formative moment should be the opportunity to gain experience in the studio of a specific professional figure.
Do you think this behaviour is generational?
I think that at times people are overly pragmatic, they stifle themselves. They fight defensively when there isn’t even a battle to be fought. If you want to work with Ron Gilad, you need to enter into his dimension, find a strategy, without becoming a stalker. If you lack passion and you have no specific objective, send an email to 200 people and you will be answered by an obscure professional who will exploit your work for little in return, you will have a discouraging experience and you will begin to think that the world is a sad place and that everything is going wrong.
I paint this picture crudely because I want to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did. My story is a little tragic and a little comical, because it took me years to understand how things work. I started out from a small provincial town and I never spent time in a Milanese studio, I invented my approach to the profession day after day. Now we have all the means to discover and relate with the locations of the profession, both physically and digitally, while in those days I felt I was taking part in the world of design only when I received letters from design associations, every three months. I spent the rest of the time wandering discouraged around a province which was completely unsuitable for any project whatsoever, not only design.
If you lack passion and you have no specific objective, send an email to 200 people and you will be answered by an obscure professional who will exploit your work for little in return.
Let us end by talking about school. What do you think of Italian education?
Our profession has a reason to exist, above all in Italy. Here, didactic methods have always consisted in not making a distinction between thought and action, in asking the reason for things, being, ultimately, a gymnasium for mental and cultural exercise. Italy has always held the humanistic leading role in this automatic way of behaving. This is why I find the fascination with certain international schools, where there is an embarrassing expansion of workshops, to be slightly amusing. In Italy we have a balanced education system. There are wonderful schools such as ISIA, a state structure which has a very distinctive story because it was created and formed in certain typical districts. Furthermore, I believe that ceramics is a preparatory design field for another 1,000 fields. If we consider the experiences of our great masters, we see how they came from ceramics, it was a moment of birth as a designer, as it prepared people to take on other worlds.