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unSELFIE with Caracol

Which are the three "minds" behind Caracol Studio?                                    

Caracol Studio is Giovanni Avallone, Paolo Cassis, and Jacopo Gervasini. We are a young startup based inside the Innovation Hub Como Next.

Caracol Studio, founded in March 2015, is the meeting point among three different worlds: Design, Engineering and Digital Fabrication.

You are digital artisans: What is digital artisanship? 

We are digital artisans but we prefer to call ourselves as post-industrial designers. Through 3D printing technology, we shape ideas into reality. As post-industrial designers we follow the development of a product at 360 degrees, starting with the idealization of a concept up until its realization. We propose customizable creations - from products to interior installations - that run on the permeable line between digital and traditional craftsmanship. We don’t assume a mass production approach but rather an individualized one. The 3D printer is our medium just like a sewing machine for a carpenter. Similar to an artisan who needs to create the required tools for the execution needs of a given artisan project, we develop ad hoc specific technical instruments for each project’s requirements. This allows us to grant our products with traits that would be otherwise difficult or even impossible to realize while providing them with exclusive, original, and unique qualities. Our purpose remains to emphasize the “machine aesthetic,” rather than hide it while dialoguing with traditional materials.

How do technological innovation and traditional craftsmanship coexist harmoniously at Caracol Studio? 

Technological innovation and traditional craftsmanship walk hand in hand at Caracol Studio; we take something technological, and with that, we realize something artisan. We use technology to create something that otherwise would be impossible if we were to use traditional approaches.  The end goal is a product that reflects the know-how, skillfulness and thorough technique of a true artisan. For example, our robot is our paintbrush; a paintbrush can be used to paint a wall or create a piece of art. So it’s not the medium per se that is the question but is more about the way this medium is used to create something unique and distant from the mass media notion.

What prompted you to this atypical but unique synergy of the heritage and knowledge behind the mastering of Italian craftsmen and the otherworldly traits of 3D printing?

It was not intentional. The two of us met in 2011 in Milan as we were both attending the Design Faculty at Politecnico di Milano. We always admired the job of a carpenter, and we began reflecting upon how could we develop the essence and the core of what a carpenter is and does through a contemporary filter, and how could it be also projected in the future. This led us, to taking up the challenge and eventually prototyping our first 3D printer. We have always been fascinated by the unlimited potential of the 3D printers. Within the span of a day, they allow you to start from a quick sketch and to end with an amazingly accurate prototype. We realized that practicing, exploring and understanding, were critical steps to optimize our products. The 3D printer became in a way the hand, the robotic arm that we were looking for. The vehicle to add the soul to our ambition. 

Does technology make mistakes? 

Yes, of course; just like any other technological or non-technological; it all depends who uses it, how one uses it, and what is the desired purpose. The point lies in exploring better the characteristics of any technological medium, understand them, learn from them, and come up with a “language” to relate to it, in a way that allows for fewer errors and mishaps. The designer grows along with the instrument. It’s a reciprocal Vs. an alienating process seeking for balance, compromise, and common ground, sort of speak. Not everything produced by a 3D printer is perfect. It is a trial and error process, where even when errors are detected, technology provides a quick and easy way to amend them. The aim is progress, not perfection. Working with a 3D printer is an empirical, collaborative and interactive process. There are times you get angry or frustrated with the 3D printer and other times that we find ourselves to be in utter bliss with it. 

What’s your definition of today's Made In Italy? 

The definition of Made in Italy has always been a strong knowledge of the artisan and sensitive manufacturing processes composed by this strong ability to interpret the world, the needs, and the materials. For us, today’s Made in Italy is: Mind, Hand, and Vision!‘Mind, intended as the ability to envision a project/concept; Hand, as the ability and capacity to execute it; Vision in terms of all the previous work that we Italians have in hand, granting us with an extra gear not just for doing something very well but also for creating something that is visionary. However, more than today’s definition of Made in Italy, the question at stake is: What should be done to start remaking that Made In Italy of yesterday? 

Which aspects of the past inspire you?

The Made In Italy is revolving around the work dating thirty to forty years ago. When we were at university studying these designers who “created” the Made In Italy, the thing that was always emerging was that these designers were coming up with a concept, and they were going to the artisan to understand together how a given project could be realized. And this is fascinating and an inspiring approach, in the sense of the design that joins the workshop and the designer who can understand directly how a material works, how an instrument performs and so on. Because if one is equipped with an understanding of how an instrument works, then he can design better as one sort of designs for that particular instrument. The instrument in a way becomes the muse of the designer and vice versa. From the head to the hand; “Dalla testa alla mano”. We find ourselves face to face with a new production technique, with materials processed in a new way, and this makes us realize that we are approaching a small design revolution, where the potential is redefined, and the creative limits are extended. What inspires us the most, from the overall design dialect is the idea of growth that defines this technology, which resembles what nature does. The idea is that a complex object is made of various materials that take on different properties. For us, we like to think of our materials as our vehicle to manufacture, following nature’s logic, a logic based on organisms versus an assembly of various pieces. 

Which is the digital synopsis of beauty? 

We call ourselves Caracol, because the snail creates its shell through a process of material addition, done in a way that one can perceive the layers of material that this animal creates to build its house and to build it in this way, generates a spiral that has a proportion, a form defined by precision, almost perfection. This is, in our opinion, the synopsis of digital beauty. We have in our hands an instrument that can get closer to how nature has always done things, and in our opinion, it is there that we have to invest because nature does everything, it does it in the best way, it does it sustainably. Knowing how to read nature, one is enriched with the perfect mathematical rules' which can be used, for example in our case, to program a robot. In other words, the digital synopsis of beauty lies in the reinterpretation of the lessons that nature grants us.

What constitutes the soul of 3D Printing? 

The intrinsic peculiarity that characterizes the 3D Printer, that allows for a fascinating growth. An enigmatic, mystic ability to keep us involved and stimulated to continue investing in it and discovering its potentials while simultaneously exploring our own limits.

Innovation is…

On a theoretical level, innovation should be something that makes us live in a calmer, slower and a more sustainable way. Technology today helps us to simplify things so we can have more time to live, to travel, to read, to cook ... Innovation is looking for ways to better ourselves and what we do, allowing the mistakes and imperfections to be our teachers. Returning to the conversation about nature: Nature has its rhythm, so, innovation would require the rhythm of the past with the instruments of the present; technological innovation must be defined through a process, an object, a space that is closer to a human-centric notion. We don’t create a bond with the product, but we are more connected and more bonded with the overall process. So it’s not the final product but the journey and the various stages until we get there, that matters the most. It’s a way to keep moving forward and looking ahead. We produce when there is a need to produce; otherwise, the machine is turned off with zero waste. There is a strong focus on the product cycle. 

Do you think of yourselves as conscious or abstract creatives?

We start from an abstract and visionary idea, but our purpose is to create something practical and with which one can relate. As digital artisans, we are defined by a virtual world, a real vision and concrete experimentation.

Personal Success is? Professional Success is?

Our profession sort of trespasses into our personal realm. There is not a clear distinction, at least not for the time being. But being a profession that we love, it coexists with us, emotionally and mentally also when we are not working. Of course, work is only part of life that can make one happy, but for us, it is a personal part.

Which work of yours best captures the essence of Caracol Studio?

More than anything else, looking at our path, we are discovering a process, therefore, even for our products, we let ourselves to be guided by technology; we rely on this human-machine relationship to push and benefit both, starting thus to become from abstract to conscious. For example, we clearly know that innovation does not lie in a produced chair itself, but it is instead in the process involved that gives life to products of this kind. A work that could capture this message is our rocking horse because the rocking horse is both a crafty and a design piece. So, in our own small world, we attempted to redefine an icon by presenting a universal symbol that everyone recognizes, through a new “attire.”  


Interview/Content Editor by Annie Markitanis

Video Directed by Giovanni Aponte

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