Alessandro Zambelli is a man passionate about design. He never thinks of his work as merely an exercise in style. Rather, Alessandro believes that an ‘inner soul’ should make every object more interesting, adding colour and vitality.
Living and working in Mantua, Italy, Alessandro founded his eponymous studio in 2003. Today, having a slew of novel designs to his name and collaborating with a range of clients, Alessandro has tested various conventions on design. His work is intuitive, inventive and experimental, often informed by history, nostalgia, symbolism and culture. Using a miscellany of materials, shapes, colours and compositions, Alessandro designs furniture, lighting, objects and tableware. His final pieces are typically offbeat, playful and practical, even art-like. It is thus plausible that Alessandro’s works will appeal especially to individuals possessing a somewhat carefree manner, quirky temperament and intuitive mind.
Gessato gets behind the design with Alessandro Zambelli.
What are five words that best describe you?
Well, they could be: why, how, now, yesterday and tomorrow.
As a designer, what are your indispensable qualities?
I think the most important feature for a designer should be an open curiosity. This is how I try to pick up as many details and insights as possible. Moreover, a designer should feel a need to communicate his/her personal [design] language via the style of their objects.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in Italy’s richness of “bellezza”: it’s something about the history that you can sense in every corner of the entire country. I live in Mantua, a small city in the north of Italy. Here, the local traditions are my biggest influence and my first source of inspiration. For me, living in Italy means a continuous and personal investigation of its beauty and how this is presented in the contemporary.
What is the quintessence of good design?
It’s the credibility. From my perspective, it is the perfect union between an object’s functionality and the expressive quality of its symbolic component.
Are you more concerned about doing things right or doing the right things?
Every piece of my work stems from the need to communicate something. Finding my own message is, for me, the first step in doing things right while I’m doing the right thing.
What excites you most about your work?
It has to be transforming a concept into a concrete form, in a such way that the everyday, ordinary person can appreciate it. This is one of the most exiting (and indeed satisfying) aspects of my work. Additionally, there is of course the personal pleasure I gain by giving shape to my ideas.
Conversely, what do you worry most about?
Each new project that I approach has an inner tension and the variables are always multiple. Such difficulties awake a positive sense of anxiety within me and the desire to seek new findings/ways. It’s the reason why I find this work so interesting—and funny—despite the common problems. In other words, I don’t get bored!
What does being successful mean to you?
I would like people to recognise something familiar in my vision and in my objects. I’d like my creativity to connect with a person’s soul, to find a place that touches them. This would mean they get the real essence of my work: to create objects with the ability to excite, and to communicate with, people different from me.
What are your thoughts on the current state of design?
I wish designers would go back to being designers and that companies would forget the idea of mass production, instead focusing more on their uniqueness and craftsmanship.
What do you feel most proud of?
Usually I answer this question with a joke: I’m most proud of the project I’ll do tomorrow! But across my works, I would like to mention Estetico Quotidiano, a collection of dinnerware I designed for Italian brand Seletti. This collection has been the most widespread and successful of all my products. Then there is Afillia, a special 3D printed lighting collection for Italian manufacturer .exnovo. I’m also attached to two recent projects: firstly, the Ixorb sofa and Surande light for eclectic furniture brand JCP, both of which were exhibited at the Fuorisalone 2016; and secondly, my Marqué furniture collection (a dry bar, console cabinet and coffe table) for London-based art and design gallery Matter of Stuff, officially presented at London Design Festival 2016. These products gave me the opportunity to rethink the boundaries between art and design, by using experimental craftsmanship to create a change of perspective within the discipline of design.