The mosaic standing between tradition and modernity: an artistic medium to express something personal.
If you’re looking for a small original mosaic for your home, there’s an artist in Venice that I absolutely need to introduce to you. She is Michela Nardin, founder of MNM Venezia, and her creations ranges with ease across different sectors from furnishing to interior decoration. A collection of unique pieces, a selection of mini squared mosaics to make up a very special wall. But also smaller objects such as simple earrings and glass coasters to dress yourself and your house with mosaic and colour.
The creativity of Michela Nardin has no limits of shape. Experiment is her watchword. Pulling together stucco and mosaics, marrying materials like glass and wood, mixing coloured lime and marble powders, “playing” with glass tiles to create very interesting modern collections.
Michela is an original and never predictable mosaic artist, who reinterprets this antique technique with her own sensitivity. She’s a craftswoman able to translate every hint and meeting of life into works skilfully made with her hands. Starting from glass, a material that always attracted her, from an art picture carefully treasured or the memory of a place, Michela has plenty of chances to express her most intimate creativity.
Let’s discover together something more about her and her artistic production through this short interview.
Among the different techniques and art forms why did you decide to dedicate yourself to mosaic?
It was actually an accidental choice, even though I’m convinced that the artistic production is deeply linked to the place where it is produced. I think that there is a sort of “call”, say I was seduced by local techniques and materials.
I made my first mosaics together with an artist from Treviso – Olimpia Biasi – who took me into her studio when I was very young. Thanks to her I experimented with different artistic forms (drawing, painting, mosaic). Then I attended the art school here in Venice, antique print and graphic branch, before arriving at restoration of wall painting, frescos and stucco. I devoted ten years to the profession of restorer travelling throughout the Italian peninsula and discovering its beauties and variety. One day I received a proposal of working together to make glass mosaic reproductions of famous artistic artworks for galleries and glass factories in Venice. And so I began, and, as in all the new adventures I deepened, explored and experimented.
How do your artworks, so modern and contemporary, differ from the traditional mosaics?
When I started to experiment with techniques and materials it was both necessary and fruitful to meet with with the mosaic school of Friuli to understand if I was going on the right direction. But I must say my artistic path has been quite influenced by my personal experience. I had negative feelings about losing or abandoning all of my previous experiences and I thought that maybe in some way I could use them in a new and different way, following my own feelings. The first collections are more a research into composition, starting from the material, the extremely precious glass paste produced here in Venice in the historical furnace of Orsoni – a charming place!
When later I experimented and introduced the “pastelloni” (a finish made of traditional Venetian plaster) I tried to balance the composition depending on the spaces, alternating the materials, creating backgrounds and reliefs, pulling over slabs and tiles, exploiting lime and marble powders of different colours in a unique combination.
In your works there are references to art, places, characters. How do you select the subjects of your collections?
A confession: the first, very first work is taken from a postcard with Matisse’s drawing (nude with her back turned) that I bought as a girl from a museum bookshop. That image was always with me, stuck inside a book or hung to the wall of every placed where I lived. It was the first subject I created with mosaic tiles and it was a gift, a well-liked gift. Then something strange happened: the request to make other similar pieces and, as if it was a call, I started to study the female characters depicted in art from different artists in the past, from different artistic movements and periods, countries, styles. So the first collection has born: Favorite. It was an instinctive work and later I discovered that the feminine theme could gather and recount all of those women, sometimes muses, in whom we can recognize ourselves.
To continue with Motivi, a quite ambitious project that expresses the urge to make a map of Italy from the artistic point of view, of the details that make it unique, dedicating to each city a triptych of patterns in glass mosaic. I started with Venice, the city where I live, Treviso, my birthplace with medieval fresco patterns and inevitably Ravenna, choosing some details of the places that mostly struck me. I believe that details can tell a story better. Every choice is accompanied by a tale that takes us inside the story of the selected place and explains why I was impressed by it. It is not a random choice. I must discover the place in depth to identify the perfect subjects. But if I have a long life, I hope I can capture a larger part. Now I’m focused on Turin but the list is obviously very long…as here in Italy we have everything!
What will be the next? I don’t know…I’m leaving for Sicily!
Thinking about uniqueness and repeatability, but above all about the manual skill of your job, do you feel more like artist or a craftsman?
Both: the craftsman work is linked to techniques and materials of art. There is a precious knowhow that must be preserved and handed down. It’s incredible how something which is only on my mind could become real, using my hands. This is what I love about my job. Art is a language, materials and techniques are fundamental in expressing it. Plaster and glass are made by simple basic materials (oxides, sand, powder, lime, fire) that are turned by expert hands into incredible products. In my small way, I try to transmit my own personal artistic language through these media.
Tell me about your very particular wooden sculptures decorated with mosaics.
Here again, it was an accidental meeting: materials sometimes speak! I found this abandoned pile of olive tree wood and immediately it inspired me. Those shapes dictated the path to follow. The intention was to give new life to those former trees. Every trunk is cleaned and finished with coloured tiles and microcrystalline wax. I made very small changes necessary for stability, sometimes none, and so they become sculptures, a lamp, a stool, … all unique pieces, both for shape and for the final result.
Amazing furnishings were born also from the partnership with Casarialto, which new projects are you working at in this moment?
The partnership with Casarialto is priceless: when a designer and an insider meet, they exchange expertise and the inspiration becomes a choral matter. It certainly leads me to realize things that I could never have done independently. I love to try giving life to the imagination, and the vision of Caterine Urban is refined, elegant, contemporary with a sensitivity aimed at enhancing both Italian and local savoir faire. I believe that engagement is always fruitful in terms of personal and professional enrichment. Moreover, the pieces I made will be on display at Palazzo Litta in Milan during the time of Salone del Mobile. What a thrill!
Recently I cooperated also with Fornace Orsoni participating to the making of one of ten pieces (that will be seen in Venice at the end of August) for a very famous Italian fashion brand. This time it’s traditional hammer work for really special artworks. It was an honour for me to be called and cooperate with these pre-eminent Italians for an exhibition that promises to be very exclusive.
Finally, I would like to work on new original subjects, always mixing plaster and glass, composing with shapes and materials to achieve vibrant results, home accessories.
You live between Venice and Turin, two major cities of art and culture, are there events and initiatives aimed at promoting and sustaining high-quality artistic handicraft?
In Venice, there is Glass Week, an event in which I participated for three seasons, but that this year won’t see me present because I’m busy developing other projects. But also Homofaber…well there is no shortage of opportunities here, if only walking in the streets. In Turin there is Paratissima, that I visited and where I always thought of taking part, but sadly the last two years were too complicated to think about participating.
However, I’ve had the chance to know, especially in Turin, interesting people and situations that give me good feedback to my activity and keep me going to continue.
The creative process never ends…and we’ll see!
Photo credits @ MNM Venezia – Michela Nardin