Francesca Gattello was completing her master's in product design at Politecnico di Milano last spring when she decided to enter Scenari di Innovazione (Innovation Scenarios), a competition that tasks students with creating new products for small artisan companies. After visiting many of the contest partners' shops, Gattello was struck by huge sacks of waste outside a marble manufacturing facility, which she learned posed a serious environmental problem. Given the expense of proper disposal, many manufacturers opt to simply pour their stone waste into streams—damaging the local ecosystem. Gattello decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, incorporating stone waste into pure clay sourced from another local shop to create an experimental material that could be used for a line of housewares.
Gattello's project ended up winning the Scenari di Innovazione and, as a reward, she was able to prototype the products proposed. For her line of pots, cups, vases and bowls, dubbed Calcarea, the Verona-based designer drew inspiration from her collaborators' existing products. "I chose to work with Attucci Marmi, a little stone industry, to get the waste, and Rossoramina, a family-run ceramic company, to develop the product concept, the prototypes and the collection," Gattelo says. From Rossoramina, she got the idea for the vessels' distinctive vertical grooves, as well as for using two surface finishes—"a transparent glazed one," Gattello says, "to show the complete claylike production process, and a rough one, which shows the core mixed material, its nature, its visual and tactile qualities."
Gattello had to hand-sift the stone waste to remove impurities, a process she hopes to automate for the production run. The vessels are made via a combination of mold-casting and hand-turning on a wheel.The vessels are made via a combination of mold-casting and hand-turning on a wheel. Sketches for the Calcarea collectionSketches for the Calcarea collection
No two vessels are alike. "Each item turns out different because the waste I used has a heterogeneous composition," Gattello says. (The waste includes marble, granite, Pietra Serena stone, and other types of stone.) "For this reason, the material color changes in a surprising way, giving a warm shade, sometimes with whitish brush strokes. This feature came out with the first tests I did on the material: the samples I modeled, fired and glazed to understand the material attitude and to find the right mixture of clay and stone waste pleased me with their warm color, so I decided it would be an added value to show it in its whole beauty."
Although the Calcarea collection gives off an air of effortless simplicity, the process behind it involved a few challenges. The biggest was hand-sifting the stone waste to remove impurities that could create problems when the vessels are fired in the kiln. Finding the perfect balance between the waste and the clay was difficult as well, as Gattello had to achieve a combination that would hold the material together and still be able to be thrown on a wheel.
Product photos by Stefano Bellamoli
Once the industrial waste has been collected and cleaned, Gattello mixes it with clay, which gives it more strength and stability. Using a combination of mold-casting and hand-turning on a wheel, she is able to reach the desired result. "When I decided to develop this project I did not know if my idea would work," says Gattello. "It could have turned out a mess, an insubstantial sand castle."
Gattello considers the collection still in its prototype phase, and will continue to work with Rossoramina to develop the final commercial proposal. The designer also has plans for industrializing the production of the material, which she will be pursuing over the next few months. She and Rossoramina plan on presenting the final collection at the Florence International Handicrafts Trade Fair at the end of April.