The head of the eponymous mosaic brand explains how it has brought the ancient art into the digital age – with a little help from some star designers
Creative partnerships with big names such as Alessandro Mendini, Marcel Wanders and India Mahdavi have ensured that the Italian tiling and mosaic brand Bisazza now possesses a robust reputation in the design world. At Salone, the 60-year-old company will add to its collection a pattern by Studio Job based on Britain’s industrial revolution, incorporating steam engines, locomotive wheels and factories, all in a warm shade of amber. Rossella Bisazza, who runs the company with her brother Piero, told us more about its work.
ICON Over the past 15 years, you have consciously sought to collaborate with designers. What prompted this?
ROSSELLA BISAZZA When my brother became chief executive in 2000, that was the turning point: we decided that, if we wanted survive and be different from competitors, we had to become a design company. Our work with designers has since become vital – with their ideas and creativity, they push the boundaries of our product. Mosaic is an ancient, noble tradition, but a contemporary eye brings it into the 21st century. We give our designers complete freedom to express themselves.
ICON Have your methods changed over time, too?
RB Most of our patterns are now created digitally, which means any image can be translated into mosaic. But we also continue the ancient tradition of cutting by hand. Recently, we’ve started mixing old and new – for example, by making the background digitally and the foreground by hand.
ICON What have your most significant collaborations been?
RB Our first art director Alessandro Mendini broadened our colour palette and created our first patterns. Fabio Novembre first used mosaic as a skin, to cover rounded surfaces. We’ve worked with Marcel Wanders for more than ten years, and he has used mosaic to cover products such as coffee tables, as well as a Cadillac, which is on display at the Bisazza Foundation, our museum and headquarters in Veneto, where there is also a small jet designed by Jaime Hayon.
At the end of last year, we launched a collection of cement tiles by Tom Dixon inspired by his home town, London – details like the bricks, the walls, the cracked pavement, the pebbles. Personally, I like to work with women – design is a male-dominated field, and when you see the work of people like India Mahdavi and Paola Navone, you can tell a woman was behind it.
ICON Could you tell me more about the Bisazza Foundation?
RB In 2012 we brought together the installations and art pieces we have around the world to create a proper collection. We opened the Foundation with an exhibition by John Pawson. He’s the father of minimalism and we’re known for decoration and colour, but we liked that contrast – he designed a beautiful pavilion for meditation in a mix of delicate and natural colours. Richard Meier did an installation of 14 pillars covered in white mosaic, very pure and sensual. Mosaic can be very minimal, but it’s not like simply painting a pillar white – it has soul and texture and can be very expressive.
Every year we develop new projects and host exhibitions relating to design, architecture and photography. So it’s a mix of culture, design, inspiration and, in the end, also business. My brother and I, we don’t have children, so in a way the foundation is like a child to us.