Milan 2021 – Gentle creatures, quirky volumes, vibrant patterns and human-driven design stories. Welcome to the world of Elena Salmistraro, one of the most acclaimed Italian designers known for furniture, interiors and decors defined by bold yet delicate splashes of colour, smooth geometries and witty functionality.
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“Finally, Milan Design Week kicked off again. I confess I felt excited, as if it was my first one. Milan needed to re-start, especially from design. During the pandemic, we had the chance to discover what really matters: family, friendships and respect for our planet. It is great to restart, as long as we don’t go back to before the pandemic. We all must be more united, aware and strive to get on the sustainable path. We faced the harshest reality and now we have no alibi.”
Collaboration is a fil rouge in Elena’s latest projects. For DoppiaFirma, the Michelangelo Foundation’s platform and exhibition bringing together European designers and skilled artisans, she teamed up with Carraro Chabarik to create the Metamorfosi bench. The organic-shaped, multi-colour seat is studded with Venetian varnishes and recycled materials inspired by caterpillars’ metamorphosis.
For the Orografie project, she teamed up with artisans from Modica, Sicily, to create Efesto, a coffee table combining a bent-wood structure with round glass table tops that pays tribute to the Etna volcano and Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and forge.
Women in design was a prominent theme at Milan Design Week. Elena responded to curator Silvana Annicchiarico to join the Donne & Design exhibition at Superstudio. “With Silvana, we thought it was quite intriguing to showcase a series of handmade vases I presented at Superstudio a few years ago. A sort of Deja Vu and a big Thank You to those who allowed me to break the ice and introduce my work. There I also presented a painting of a wolf in sheep clothing.”
For the Sono Tazza di Te exhibition curated by Anty Pansera and Patrizia Sacchi, Elena joined 100 smashing women designers who reinterpreted the ceramic teacup. Tazza, cup in English, rhymes with Pazza, crazy in Italian. I am crazy/cup for you celebrates the passion, curiosity and genius of creative women.
What would you advise young female professionals wanting to make a carrier in design? “Be perseverant, coherent and grow your identity strong and unique. Actually, this advice is for all, guys and girls, without distinction. I believe that exhibitions highlighting women in design help to remind that we have always been there not to create a distinction.”
Elena creates meaningful design matching story-making with story-telling. For Cappellini, she teamed up with Cooperativa Alice employing marginalised women with the motto “behind every object there is a human” to create the AXO IN FABULA installation investigating the theme of socio-cultural regeneration.
The display was inspired by the Axolotl, a sweet and quirky salamander, shifting in appearance and with an extraordinary ability to regenerate itself. From here, she filled the company’s showroom with rag dolls, such as those of the past, which were sewn by grandmothers reusing, re-assembling and regenerating pieces of fabric, giving life to unique pieces.
Elena’s Chimera installation for CEDIT featured 80 different Italian ceramic pieces, which will be sold to support “Doppio Senso. Tactile paths at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.”
Among the new designs is the Sangaku coffee table for Driade. In Japanese culture, sangaku are geometric problems engraved on wooden tablets, which in most cases illustrate problems involving circles and ellipses inscribed one inside the other. From here, Elena created a fun game of intersections, rotations and dimensional changes.
For Natuzzi, Elena Salmistraro designed the Posidonia furniture collection inspired by the playful aesthetics of the Mediterranean Sea that frames Puglia. “My work draws on graphic elements, which are broken down, reworked and reformed to create original, conscious, expressive objects,” explains Elena Salmistraro. “The seabed has become the canvas that inspires the colours; corals, sponges, seaweed and shells have become the elements for investigating form and for highlighting that the first type of coral reef was discovered in Puglia.”
Fear and hope, primitivism and futurism blend in the New Atomic Age collection for SCAPIN Collezioni. The collection is inspired by design shaped by the Nuclear threat back in the 40s and 60s. It reflects our times of insecurity and desire for a new beginning. Other product launches include Urban Minerva, a limited edition statue of Minnie Mouse created in collaboration with Bosa for Disney and Spire, a vortex-inspired basin for Ceramica Flaminia.