Combs turn artworks at Geneva’s Máti gallery
Designer Aurore Piedigrossi untangles the history of the comb with her Grands Hers collection at Geneva’s Máti gallery
Grand Hers is new collection of sculptural horn combs created by designer Aurore Piedigrossi and now on show at Geneva’s Máti gallery.
The project is an homage to the history of the Hers Valley in the south of France, which, when described by ECAL graduate Piedigrossi, reads almost like a fairytale. ‘The manufacture of combs is a craft that developed in the 14th century in the Hers Valley,’ she says. ‘The production was organised in many factories that were established along the river [the Hers, or Grand Hers].’
‘Millions of combs were produced each year in the region and were distributed around France and exported around the world. There were horn combs of all kinds, for all types of hair. The arrival of plastic in the middle of the 20th century gradually led to the closing of the factories and the loss of the know-how associated with horn comb production, as people turned to the more modern and less expensive plastic combs. Today, that craft has almost disappeared in France.’
The destruction of fine craft at the hands of industrialisation is a familiar story, and one Piedigrossi hopes to rewrite with Grand Hers. By moulding each of the horn combs into unexpected, sinuous shapes, she has transformed an everyday object into a sculptural work of art.
‘The comb is a very classic object in its shape,’ says Piedigrossi. ‘It has become a commonplace object of our daily life and therefore almost invisible. I wanted to offer it a new perspective, to make it evolve in a way.’
The result is an enchanting meditation on the history of the Hers Valley, as well as combs and how we use them. ‘It is a fascinating object to me,’ observes Piedigrossi. ‘The comb has been around in our civilisations for millennia, in infinite forms and materials. It has a special meaning in every culture, and can be found in traditions, but also in myths and rituals.’
‘I like the fact that we all have a personal relationship with our own comb; it is full of emotion and meaning. There’s an aesthetic in its use and its connection to the hair. Beyond that, I think it’s a beautiful object. I fell in love with it somehow.’
In this way, Grand Hers has found an ideal match in Máti gallery. An incubator of emerging design talent, the young, nomadic gallery is dedicated to ‘breaking down the boundaries between art and design [so that] everyday objects become works of art’.