images Michael Breschi
words Caitlin Tobiasz
As a boy, designer Michael Breschi of the studio Gentle Giants would visit his father at work in Prato in Tuscany and he became fascinated with giant structures and industrial landscapes. Then, at university, he was introduced to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s photographs of industrial structures in Europe and the US: “It was just an epiphany – their work brought me back to childhood,” Breschi says. “From there was born the desire to transpose these memories into reality.”
His Industry Porcelain collection of white vases with gold-coloured metal bases draws on the forms of the storage towers the Bechers photographed for over four decades. These structures were viewed as eyesores but the Bechers’ images transformed them into cultural artefacts. Breschi has taken them even further from their origins by turning them into domestic objects.
Breschi began the series a year ago when, after meeting the owner of a porcelain company, he was invited to learn the techniques of ceramic-making first hand. He spent eight months using the company’s facilities to perfect his craft. “After several mistakes and discarded moulds, I completed my vases,” he says. While the industrial towers and vases share similar water-storing properties, the decision to create vases actually came from Breschi’s experiments with porcelain: “At the beginning I wanted to do some sculptures, art objects; then when I began to understand the work techniques of china, and the propensity of this material to make hollow objects, I decided to make vases.”
Breschi sees the collection as “research on the aesthetic of industrial archaeology”. Like the Bechers, he seeks to “draw attention to the cultural dimensions of industrial architecture, highlighting the need for preservation of these buildings”. Unlike the mass-produced structures that inspired him, Breschi’s pieces are, of course, unique and handcrafted. He is, however, looking for a manufacturer, hoping to reproduce the forms of monumental industrial architecture on a smaller, interior scale.