White gold

According to the Chinese, Kao-ling and pai-tun-tzu represent the “backbone” and the “meat” of porcelain. Today, they are commonly known as kaolin and feldspar. Combined with quartz, they form the alchemical compound, which is at the origin of the purity and hardness of the so-called “white gold” developed during the T’ang dynasty (618-907). 

After many unfruitful attempts, between 1708 and 1709, E. W. Von Tschirnhaus, physicist and chemist, and the alchemist J. F. Böttger achieved a miracle: they reproduced in Germany a porcelain almost identical to the Chinese one. The first European manufactory of hard-paste porcelain was established in Meissen in 1710, under the command of Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. He was also a great collector of precious Chinese porcelains. Augustus suffered from what he called the “maladie de porcelaine”: a porcelain obsession rather than a passion. Jealous of Tschirnhaus and Böttger’s discovery, the King prohibited the copying of their recipe and ordered that the Meissen porcelain factory be transferred to the castle of Albrechtsburg, an impregnable fortress near a kaolin mine. 

Shortly after, however, the secret was leaked and spread rapidly across Europe. Porcelain factories started popping up in Limoges and Sèvres, France as well as in Doccia, Italy. All of the factories were situated close to kaolin deposits. Kaolin is the sedimentary rock on which the purity of the finished product depends. In the Meissen manufactory, the creation of statues was entrusted to the sculptor Kirchner. Kändler overtook for him later on. Hundreds of life-size porcelain animals were produced for the “Japanese Palace” in Dresden. Under the guidance of Kändler, who became master modeller in 1733, the factory created new decorative motifs and china sets, as well as famous figurines inspired by the Orient, by the Italian “commedia dell’arte” and by everyday life.

Lorenzo Borghi

Lorenzo Borghi’s story started in 1952, at the age of twelve, when he started working at Lionello Passerini’s millinery shop. When Passerini died, Borghi took over and moved the business to Via dei Piatti in the heart of Milan. There, he has been dedicating himself for over fifty years to the fine art of traditional hat-making. During his career, he has collaborated with great fashion designers such as Krizia, Ferré, and Moschino, as well as with theatre costume makers. He makes hats for famous people (including Queen Elisabeth II) as well as for ordinary individuals. Each creation is made with a certain passion and love that only a true craftsman can express through his work.

Giacomo Moor

When did you decide that your future would be in woodworking?
My passion for wood grew in a craftsman’s workshop where I used to spend a lot of time during my university years. My passion for design flourished at the Polytechnic University of Milan, also thanks to Beppe Finessi, an extraordinary professor who influenced my choices and marked my future.
I developed the idea of designing and, especially, of making the objects myself. In the case of single pieces and limited series, the object’s added value lies in the fact that it is hand made. Based on a solid working experience and by examining almost obsessively other consolidated artisan businesses, I persuaded myself that I could make it work.

What training is needed for this profession?
I believe that  it takes a double education. On the one hand, you need to have a formal training in the field of design; on the other, you need to develop the technical and manual skills that are necessary to transform an intuition into an object.

Communicating savoir-faire

It is not easy to keep up with Sam Baron. He works in Italy, France and Portugal and is always on the move between Europe and the rest of the world, where he stages his exhibitions and takes part in all the most important design events. The 37-year-old French designer is well known in the design world because he places himself halfway between factory and workshop. So much so that in the last ten years – he started working in 1997, before finishing his studies –he designed objects for design brands such as Zanotta, Ligne Roset and Casamania and took part in special partnership projects with important manufactures, such as Sèvres and Limoges. On top of this, he works as head of the design department of Fabrica, the school/research centre founded by the Benetton group, and the personal projects that he carries out under the name Baron Edition.

Sam, you are a prolific designer as well as a very active art director, and your projects develop into installations and exhibitions with a cultural content (such as your most recent, Belvedere, held at Villa Necchi during the last Salone del Mobile). Are design and its “mise-en-scène” a valid medium for the protection and promotion of savoir-faire?
Design is a process, a practice which allows you to combine different components: creativity, technique and communication… so as an art director it is possible for me to convey a message through a collection of objects that can be focused on a particular subject or theme, depending on the occasion. I believe that when young talents can be dedicated to elaborate new visions (like the projects elaborated with the Fabrica team. Ed.) we are given a great opportunity to establish a dialogue and a contact with the public on specific issues, such as how to defend the legacy of craftsmanship.


Fabscarte, established from Emilio Brazzolotto’s twenty-year long experience, is specialised in the production of handmade and painted wallpapers. We have visited their wonderful Milanese atelier.

Does this profession require specific training?
An education in arts and crafts is essential, but what is even more important is to work with a master specialised in interior decoration, and to keep broadening knowledge and improving personality.