Off the busy shopping street is Milan’s Via Torino, where busy trams zip past such chain stores like Zara and Sephora, and up Via Nerino, with its stately gray stone buildings keeping the dark alleyways dark, it’s like you’re entering an alternate world. However, the first street marks the southern border of the city’s historic Cinque Vie quarter, built on top of an even older ancient Roman settlement, and home to a network of galleries and craft workshops flourished. Among them, behind the discreetly carved wooden door on the Via Nerino, is the workshop of Laboratorio Paravicini, a hand-painted ceramics line that Costanza Paravicini founded in 1995, and now runs with her two children, Benedetta and Margherita Medici Di Marignano.
The brand has a series of former stores that have been converted into ceramic art studios and galleries, and is located at the back of the complex. Rooms overlook the courtyard, accented with palm pots and winding vines. Inside, they’re lush items: Set on shelves and tables and hung on the walls are rows of ornate hand-decorated plates depicting everything from blue nightingales and deep pink carnations complete with flying insects to the chinoiserie-style forest scene for the grinning artist to drive. Balloons look as if they could float right off the surface of the disc. There are also more abstract motifs – with blue and red flowers set against a geometric background, the brand’s Izmir collection deals with traditional Turkish pottery, while the Its Gymmetria uses Art Deco-style illustrations that look as if it were fragmented by a kaleidoscope. If the plates have a classic romantic feel to them, so is the way they were born.
Paravicini, 61, who grew up in a three-story building and still lives in its attic, has enjoyed drawing and painting since an early age. “I always have a pencil in hand,” she said. After studying at Milan’s Istituto Orsoline di San Carlo in the late 1970s, she worked as a freelance illustrator at a graphic design studio and drew cartoons for small trade magazines. However, with four kids in the house, finding the time and space to work can be a challenge. So she decided to look for a place where she could peacefully illustrate and, she said, “leave my brushes and colors around.” She asked her sister, Benedetta Paravicini, who is also artistically inclined, if she wanted to share a rented studio with her, “But she said, ‘Why don’t we make ceramics instead? ? ‘” That makes sense for Costanza, who, with a penchant for the minimalism of the day, had a hard time finding tableware that matched her own maximal and nostalgic taste. “If you’re looking to buy something white, you have a world of options,” she says. “But for something decorated, it is – and still is – very difficult to find something you really love.”
The sisters’ early pieces were inspired by the 18th-century type produced by companies such as Florence-based Richard Ginori, now known as Ginori 1735, and Milan’s Manifattura Felice Clerici, founded in 1756, which features intricately illustrated scenes, inspired in turn by porcelain from China and Japan. However, in time, Paravicinis created the original samples. Their first studio was a rented garage, and there they honed their skills until they felt confident enough to present their work to the public. In 1995, they joined a booth at Artigianato e Palazzo craft fair in Florence and attracted the attention of Sue Fisher King, the San Francisco-based store of the same name introduced the brand in the United States, which remains their largest market. “In Italy, everyone drew ceramics from their grandmother,” says Costanza. “They’re not really looking for something new to buy.” When Benedetta died in 1997, Costanza partnered with her good friend Aline Calvi and shortly after Calvi retired in 2014, younger Benedetta, now 38, and Margherita, now 36, joined the company. to help with sales and marketing.
“We all get along very well. We talk a lot – maybe too much,” says Benedetta of the family partnership. “But we understood each other immediately.” The new collections are born after a long collaborative decision-making process, she says, and since she and her sister joined, some of the collections have felt more modern – check out the series. Zodiac 2017 collection, with one plate for each astrological sign. (Gemini has a pair of dancing cherries and Taurus is a bull.) Paravicini also attributes the recent growth to her daughters. “At first, it was just word of mouth,” she said. “But after they created the website and Instagram, we really started to move.” They now have 12 employees who work between the studio and the office, and the boxes ready to be shipped to customers are stacked shoulder height.
Of course, the concept of a craft business is no longer foreign to the family. Costanza’s father, Ludovico Paravicini, inherited his father’s production company, which made cameras. On weekends, however, he is a skilled woodworker, making furniture and objects for the family in his home workshop. Then he started another venture. During his mother and Costanza’s honeymoon to Sri Lanka in 1956, he picked up a semi-precious stone and brought it back to Milan to carve into ashtrays and bracelets. Ultimately, what began as a single operation with a single carved wheel in the same yard that Laboratorio Paravicini now looks like has evolved into a powerful 70s garment factory on the outskirts of the city making furniture. stone objects and jewelry for luxury brands such as Chaumet and Dior.
However, as someone who can spend up to 10 hours on a piece, Costanza isn’t overly concerned with scale. She starts with a plate in cookie form, which means it’s baked in the oven but remains unglazed, and paints it with a pigment she mixes with water. “It is more difficult to paint directly on the cookies before the cookies are glazed because the surface is not smooth,” she explains, but it ensures that the plates can be used every day and are safe to use. dishwasher. This differentiates Paravicini’s work from many other high-end ceramics decorated by hand and requires her to be much more precise in her technique, which she likens to painting with watercolor-clay unglazed foam acts almost like a sponge, soaking up paint. and distort lines drawn by careless hands. Once decorated, each plate is then dipped in glaze, which slightly deteriorates the illustration, but also gives it a quality of chance and imperfection that Paravicini finds appealing. “It gives it a special charm,” she said.
Lots of others agree. Last fall, in Milan’s Salone del Mobile, the brand introduced a collaboration made with the New York-based jewelry brand Foundrae consists of small disks decorated with esoteric symbols (lion, compass, pyramid) representing ideas such as strength, karma, and protection. This spring, the women plan to publish a book detailing the history of Laboratorio Paravicini and kicking off a new collaboration with fellow Milanese brand. Lisa Corti. However, much of the business comes from commissions. When I visited the studio, Paravicini showed me a set she was designing for an avid fox hunter – 11 panels illustrated with bears juggling or over a monogram made of blue letters leaves repeat and a 12th plate is decorated with a single fox. She enjoys working directly with clients, which pushes the boundaries of her imagination, although the exchange goes both ways. “They often come up with strong ideas about what they want and leave wanting something completely different,” she says. “Sometimes, I feel like a psychologist.” This led me to ask about the foods she herself likes. She stopped and laughed, saying that, despite the mountains of colorful plates around us, she uses a plain set with solid blue enamel at home. “It was crazy, but I never had time to draw for myself,” she said. “After all these years, I’m still waiting to get my own.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/13/t-magazine/laboratorio-paravicini-ceramics-milan.html At Laboratorio Paravicini, Italian Ceramics brings the classic feeling back again