Bold as brass: the new 'Ghidini 1961' collection shines at Salone
Based in Brescia, in the heart of Italy's Lombardy region, Ghidini Giuseppe Bosco has been Italy’s leading manufacturer of classic and baroque-style brass handles, fittings and components for lighting projects since 1961. The company now has a catalogue of over 4,000 brass objects and parts and has created an additional 1,500 bespoke products for private customers worldwide. ‘In the past 50 years, we have slowly developed a rather in-depth knowledge of brass manufacturing,’ explains Enrico Ghidini, general manager of the company and grandson of its founder.
Ghidini works closely with his uncle, cousin and brother in what is a quintessential and enthusiastically traditional family-run operation. In the past the company has largely operated business-to-business. But now it has decided to produce its first range for the consumer.
‘We felt that working solely as a business-to-business supplier wasn’t giving the right value to our product and expertise anymore,’ explains Ghidini. ‘So we thought: why don’t we extend our production to design pieces that we can sell directly to the public?’
The new collection, tagged 'Ghidini 1961', was developed in collaboration with veteran Milan-based designer Stefano Giovannoni. He took on the project on the back of launching Qeeboo, a new brand specialising in well-designed, relatively affordable furniture made of plastic and sold online. He had been energised by the challenge of dealing with production and distribution and working with other designers, rather than simply producing his own designs to order. ‘I was interested in moving my focus to what was above and around the project,’ Giovannoni explains.
When Ghidini called him to contribute to the debut 'Ghidini 1961' collection, it became clear that Giovannoni’s interest lay in the totality of the project. ‘From the start, I was impressed by [the company’s] productive potential and by the possibility of producing brass, copper and other metals at the highest quality. There is no company in Europe expressing the essence of a material like brass the way they do.’ Shortly after revealing a more curatorial vision for the new line, Giovannoni was appointed creative director. ‘It was mutual love at first sight,’ he says.
The inaugural 'Ghidini 1961' collection will be unveiled at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan’s Fuorisalone, and will include a range of pieces by a diverse group of designers. Giovannoni commissioned Slovenian designer Nika Zupanc, the Rotterdam-based Richard Hutten and Italian architect Andrea Branzi, who also collaborated with him on Qeeboo designs, to create new pieces. He also enlisted Brazilian duo Fernando and Humberto Campana, alongside Belgian-Dutch practice Studio Job, both studios having produced exceptional metal works in the past.
The collection of about 40 pieces was created in just over four months, and the tight timing, Ghidini admits, was the only real challenge. He and his team found that the factory could easily transfer its manufacturing know-how from classically decorative to more modern designs. ‘Our expertise lies in a wide range of techniques,’ he says, with die-casting, lost wax-casting, sand- and gravity-casting among his operation’s skill set.
Some elements of the collection are handcrafted, but several of the larger pieces are made using PVD (physical vapour deposition), an innovative, long-lasting brass-coating treatment for steel. The new collection, Ghidini explains, takes full advantage of all the company’s manufacturing possibilities.
The range includes both geometric objects and more sinuous pieces. The designer’s own playful and slightly abstract figurines pop up to decorate geometric napkin holders, salt and pepper shakers, candle holders, vases and trays. The Campana brothers’ piece for the collection is a play of geometric forms, an asymmetric, backlit mirror with a highly polished brass finish. Branzi’s console, lamp and shelves are made of steel and brass with a galvanised gold finish and Plexiglas fittings. Hutten produced maths-driven designs for baskets and fruit bowls, but also took a different direction with a set of more classic tables.
Studio Job, meanwhile, created a thimble-shaped champagne bucket, the first in a three-piece collection drawing on designer Job Smeet’s childhood memories. Favourite designs of both Giovannoni and Ghidini are Nika Zupanc’s pieces, titled ‘Take me to Miami’. They include a desk, a chair and a lamp made of PVD-treated steel, as well as a bowl and a mirror that feature a highly intricate palm motif achieved with a delicate, high-pressure die-casting. Shiny and sophisticated, Zupanc’s set is both precious and pop, elegant and contemporary.
Each designer introduced a unique spirit to the brand, seamlessly brought together by the sophisticated brass fabrication that unites them. ‘This collection really represents our company,’ says Ghidini.
As originally featured in the May 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*206)