An IUAV University – Institute University of Architecture, Venice – workshop explores new ways to communicate this material
New suggestions for communicating leather come from the young designers of the IUAV. After a day dedicated to discovering the process of leather tanning at the Dani tannery last September, the students, led by the communication professor and designer Donatello D’Angelo in a workshop titled “How to communicate leather”, have created works that investigate different aspects of this material and present them with a new outlook. Concepts were revisited and redesigned and expressed with creativity and style: Leather as a natural material, the idea of recycling to which its production is linked, leather as an icon of style and design and elegance.
Today, the tanning process is the applicative synthesis of industrial techniques that preserve and apply an ancient artisan knowledge. A ductile, resistant and beautiful finished product is obtained. So, why not personalise it with just as much artistic skill to create new, original textures? Here, through the works of the students, a transfigured piece of leather, modulated by their personal artistic sensitivities, now bears new textures with original and highly personalised patterns.
In another development called “a fior di pelle”, which means “skin deep” but literally translates to “flower on a skin”, natural elements such as branches, leaves and flowers are pressed onto the leather; nature to nature, giving the leather, in a didactic way, its natural connotation. The work creates panels with great harmonious and aesthetic effect. Similar to a tattoo, the vegetal elements are imprinted on the leather that re-proposes their shapes over time.
The concept of recycling, so dear to companies such as Dani that make sustainability their operative leitmotif, is well expressed in the work Humanaturecycle. A tongue-twisting name that evokes a visual path, starting from vertical bands of overlapping leather, first with nuances that recall the colours of human skin, tone by tone, immediately harmonic and then breaking, reaching the most unnatural shades, to evoke the concept of recycling and versatile reuse. It is a virtuous process where nothing is discarded and everything is valued.
Again, the icons of design, from fashion to furniture, would not have existed without the ductility of leather. We give this material the right importance, removing all the elements of support: the patterns remain in a geometric decomposition with great abstract taste. No longer usable, no more practical, just beautiful.
But what did the students think about leather? “They consider it a material of great value – explains D’Angelo – and they were really amazed by the company’s attention to environmental sustainability”. When asked if there was a favourite among the exhibited works, the professor replies “All the designs presented are a valid development of creative concepts that could be applied to communication campaigns”. This could be considered as a diplomatic answer, but D’Angelo confesses that each of the works contains a part of himself, besides the students who developed them.
Guido Zilli, the representative of the Dani tannery project, was asked whether there is any distance between the academic world and the industry: “In the specifics of this project, the availability to share opinions, to get involved and the acceptance of different perspectives has essentially cancelled the distance between the two worlds,” explains Zilli. “This was useful for describing the needs of Dani in a transparent, precise and articulated way. And to obtain from the students a creative contribution in terms of concepts, ideas and artefacts that enhance leather as a natural and sustainable material; so versatile and elegant that it becomes a design icon while maintaining a youthful and daily trait”. After the workshop, what will be the subsequent steps?: “We are evaluating how to provide stability to the relationship with IUAV in terms of joint research activities, the possibility of hosting students in internships, developing new projects that also involve other actors in the leather supply chain, such as soft furniture manufacturers and architecture and design firms in particular”, Zilli concluded.