Along with the nearby ECAL exhibition, Studio Formafantasma's "De Natura Fossilium" at Palazzo Clerici was one of the most buzzed-about projects in the Brera District this year—after all, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin consistently present excellent work during at the Fuorisalone, and this year was no exception. The Eindhoven-based pair often look to their Italian heritage for inspiration; this time around, they took inspiration from the November 2013 eruption of Mount Etna, creating a beautiful collection of tablewares, textiles and small furniture items from the byproducts of volcanic activity.
The project page for "De Natura Fossilium" does a far better job of explaining the work than I ever could, including striking photos by Luisa Zanzani; the "Process" section in particular illustrates the depth of Formafantasma's practice.
Volcanic glass, procured by remelting Etna's rocks, has been mouth-blown into unique vessels or cast into box-like structures that purposefully allude to the illegal dwellings and assorted buildings that have developed at the foot of the volcano. Drawing on their own vocabulary, these solitary glass boxes and mysterious black buildings have been finished with such archetypal Formafantasma detailing as cotton ribbons and Murano glass plaques.
In homage to Ettore Sottsass, the great maestro of Italian design and an avid frequenter of the volcanic Aeolian islands, this new body of work takes on a linear, even brutalist form. Geometric volumes have been carved from basalt and combined with fissure-like structural brass elements to produce stools, coffee tables and a clock."
The clock itself is deconstructed into three basalt horizontal plates to represent the passing of hours, minutes and seconds. A brass movement spins around the plates, shifting three different ages of volcanic sand that have been sampled from three different sites on Stromboli.
A few doors down, another chamber of the Palazzo had been transformed into a pop-up textile laboratory by Bart Hess, who also remained in Eindhoven since graduating from the Design Academy in 2007. Although his work generally reads more as art or experimental fashion, this is precisely why it is so compelling in the context of the furniture fair.
When I chanced upon the exhibition, an attendant—mic'd up to sound something like Darth Vader—instructed visitors to try their hand at dabbing a liquid latex solution on the stretched latex 'hide.' (Although there were sets of bespoke cloaks and rubber gloves on hand, they participants were not required to don them.)
"Work with Me People" is reportedly a sequel to his 2012 project of the same name; while neither one is in Hess's portfolio, the video below nicely summarizes the original workshop from Dutch Design Week a year and a half ago (Designboom has more more information about the Milan edition).