For centuries, the boiling red, volcanic ooze that has geysered out of Mount Etna and Stromboli has provided an excellent source for Sicilian stone cutters. Hardened into dark slabs known as basalt, this plentiful rock once commanded a high premium among Italian artisans, who used it to build much of the region’s Baroque architecture and sculptures. In recent years, however, basalt has been used to less transcendental ends and is now best known for the cheesy Sicilian souvenirs sold at the Catania airport.

Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the Italian-born, Eindhoven-based design duo behind Studio Formafantasma, are set to change lava rock’s current status with an ambitious collection of new objects. Entitled ‘De Natura Fossilium’ (after Bauer), the pieces are currently being shown by Gallery Libby Sellers at Palazzo Cerici in Milan during the Salone del Mobile.

Working exclusively with lava-based materials extracted from both Mount Etna and Stromboli, the duo have spent the last two years investigating the possibilities of transforming the geological substance from the banal to the mind-blowing.

Their experimental tinkering with lavic stone has now resulted in an unusual 35-piece collection: from traditional slabs that have been cut and chiselled into sober tables or stools inlaid with brass; via melted stone whose carefully extracted fibres have been woven into lavic tapestries or unusual paper-thin ceramics; to melted stone that has been cast or mouth blown, for the first time ever, into geometric, lavic glass.

‘We were fascinated by the way these volcanoes are constantly expelling material,’ explains Farresin, who, together with the Sicilian-born Trimarchi, has spent the last few years studying these two active volcanoes in Europe. ‘In a way, it’s like a person mining. But in this case, it’s nature that’s mining.’

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TAGS: FORMAFANTASMA, SALONE DEL MOBILE