I love traveling because it always opens my mind and provides design inspirations and educational experiences that enhance things learned from schools or books.
I'm currently working on the holiday design projects and I desperately wanted some cultural inspiration. I live in Hawaii where it is an absolutely beautiful place - but it is also one of the most remote places and I feel that it's important to get out and see the world from time to time, especially to gain new artistic inspirations from other cultures.
This time I was especially looking forward to visiting the paper store Ablerto Cozzi in Firenze (Florence, Italy), whose Italian marbleized paper making history goes back 4 generations.
Upon entering the quaint store, the owner Riccardo Luci welcomed us with a big smile on his face, "Konnichiwa!" ("Hello" in Japanese) Apparently his store is well-known in Japan and he gets many Japanese visitors.
The store had various kinds of leather bound books and stationery items displayed on the shelves along with amazing selections of marbleized papers. At this point, I felt like a kid in a candy store, dazzled by the colors and designs of the beautiful handmade papers! (not to mention these marbleized papers were painted in candy-like colorful colors!)
Riccardo showed us a few styles of marbleized papers he created, explaining how its design concept originally came to Italy from Turkey and his great grandfather studied the paper designing techniques and started his own workshop and store over 100 years ago.
He then led us to his workshop station and provided a demonstration of creating marbleizing paper from scratch. Water with a special mixture of chemicals (his family secret) filled a shallow metal container and Riccardo started splashing various colors of oil-based ink onto the surface of the water.
The drops of ink started forming beautiful shapes and patterns. After multiple colors are splashed, he used a small stick to stir the water back and forth from right to left, creating a wavy design.
Riccardo then took a wooden stick with nails placed across it in equal distances and slid it from one end to the other, followed by another wooden stick with nails farther apart to create peacock's feather like patterns.
I love to watching artisans create their artwork. Skilled and experienced artisans move their fingers and bodies effortlessly; it's like they don't have to think about each process but their bodies remember what exactly the next movement is.
A large solid color paper, the same size as the metal container was placed over the water and slid to one end....the whole ink pattern over the surface of the water was gone! It was transferred onto the paper beautifully. If the time had been in a different era Riccardo's profession might have been as a wizard or magician.
I purchased a few items including a pack of origami sized marbleized papers and a leather passport case with my name custom imprinted. While waiting for Riccardo to prepare the gold leaf press for my passport case, I overheard one customer saying, "I retired from my teaching job and moved to Florence a year ago to study and enjoy the art and culture of this city." I imagined myself living in Florence as an apprentice making marbleized papers....