Irresistible bouquets

Florence, the city of art and know-how. Florence, the city of perfume. A longstanding tradition that started in the Renaissance and is perpetuated today by the city’s time-honoured perfume houses and award-winning noses, creating innovative products that are appreciated all over the world.
The city’s dedication to artistic perfumery has brought about the establishment of a very successful specialised trade fair, “Fragranze”, managed by Pitti Immagine. Many things have changed since the days when the “Nuovo Ricettario Fiorentino” was developed by the Collegio dell’Arte dei Medici, in 1498, setting the rules for apothecaries when they created their compounds, and the development of botanical sciences, so dear to the Medici family.

Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was established by the Dominican friars who originally settled down in Florence in the 13th century. The Officina Profumo’s entire history can be admired in its perfectly preserved furnishings, instruments and decorations. Famous historical creations include Alkermes (a red liqueur obtained from dried cochineal) and the Polvere per bianchire le carni (a “skinwhitening powder” developed in the 1920s). Eugenio Alphandery, the perfume house’s entrepreneurial owner, firmly believes in the value of an entirely “made in Florence” production. «Medicinal plants, lavender and roses are grown in our garden at Villa La Petraia,» he explains, «and all our candles are manufactured in our facility.» Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella creates fragrances to celebrate many special occasions: Acqua di Colonia Cinquanta marked the 50th anniversary of Florence and Kyoto becoming twin cities; Lana is a limited-edition eau de cologne that is soft and warm as wool. «The Cupid and Psyche exhibition held in 2012 at Palazzo Marino in Milan inspired a special room fragrance; and the Maledetto fragrance was created for the Caravaggio Experience project.»

Old style paper

With special thanks to Sicilian cassata. This famous and delicious dessert, typical of the island, played an important role in the survival of the Amatruda paper mill. In the first half of the 20th century, when systematic industrialisation and the development of more modern commercial arteries were heavily penalising the increasingly isolated Amalfi, Ferdinando Amatruda and his son Luigino (the same “Don Luigi” who, in his later years, was highly revered among the most sophisticated publishers) succeeded in keeping the family activity alive thanks to a particular white paper known as “briglia”, which was widely used by pastry shops in Southern Italy, as well as by law firms. Even today, at the zenith of email and ebooks, it is not easy to keep afloat; but luckily, luxury books and wedding announcements have replaced Sicilian desserts and legal folders.
Don Luigi’s daughter, Antonietta, carries on the family trade with philological rigour, in keeping with her father’s principles and with the history of the Amatruda family, who have been associated with paper production since the 15th century. Antonietta is ably assisted by her sister Teresa, her brother-in-law Lucio and her nephew Giuseppe Amendola, as well as by a handful of employees who have been working with the company for decades. Indeed, the production of handmade paper at the ancient bridge mill on the River Canneto has substantially remained unchanged since the Middle Ages, when paper was made from rags (“Bambagina”, as it was called around here). Now, as then, the water that descends from the heights of the Amalfi hinterland through the Valle dei Mulini is used to produce a cotton or cellulose pulp almost without impurities. Also bearing witness to the many centuries of the mill’s activity are the ancient stone tubs, called vats, into which the water was conveyed by opening a stopper that was linked to a chain; the water flowing into the vat moved a wheel that put into motion a transmission shaft attached to a spiked wooden mallet that pounded and reduced the rags to pulp.

Workers of the soul

Tarshito’s artistic journey represents the link between the cultures of art and craftsmanship of the Western and Eastern hemispheres. His designs are full of mystical and spiritual references, and find their most intense portrayal and formalisation in India’s artisan culture.

Your coherence and your love of Mediterranean materials and culture are well known; as a designer, what is your position on the cultures of design and applied arts?
I don’t regard them as conflicting. In my approach, in my artistic sensitivity, both elements come together. Indeed, I feel I am a “link” between both cultures. I was born in the Western world, but I have had the opportunity, in fact I still do, to visit many other parts of the planet, in particular India, a country with deep cultural roots. I am reading the Vedas, the sacred texts, which were given to India four thousand years ago. When I spend time in two parts of the world that are apparently so different, perhaps even divergent, I shift between the art and craftsmanship of both cultures. In India and in industrious Puglia, in the south of Italy, I learn what these opposites have in common. I am gradually experimenting the “Oneness” of East and West. The more I travel, the more I discover little rituals that the world is forgetting: among the people I meet in the south of Puglia (like the craftsmen that make gilded ceramics, a great Italian tradition) as much as among the tribal people I meet in India, those who propitiate the gods by painting their houses, their raw mud huts, for a good harvest, for a good marriage… I am rediscovering these practices particularly in this part of the world, the one from which I am talking to you: Italy, the founding rituals of which I am investigating. Being an architect, I come across these rites in my work. I often hear old masons talk about their small offerings, perhaps just a few coins, to Mother Earth. It is part of the “old knowledge” and know-how of the hands I am lucky enough to work with. Sometimes the hands are Italian, sometimes Indian and sometimes Albanian. What I’m saying is that, over the course of time, I have gradually started to see how, through the magical area of symbolism and ritualism that expands beyond the specific cultures of the East and West, these two parts actually come together, they become one. What I perceive now is no longer a Mediterranean culture or an Oriental culture: it is simply culture. Just now I was mentioning the roots, the rituals and symbols. The visualisation of the roots, giving them a physical shape, is something that I can create or that an Indian or Puglian artist or craftsman can create. If, through the shape, the symbol guides me to a concept, there is an equally powerful energy that drives me back towards Transcendence. What is really important is that the symbol creates a state of profundity, which gives me access to conceptuality. This action inevitably leads me to the essence of design, to this form of awareness. In the effort to approach the essence we are paying tribute to design, offering it to Transcendence. So, as a designer, my position toward creativity is that it is a process, a journey.