Workshop with European artists: Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella

Workshop with European artists: Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella

Today I chat with interior designer Emma Evans, a member of the MSID team, about her experience at the workshop of Sicilian artists Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella.

Recently on the blog, I featured some of my favourite design collaborations, so I was thrilled to learn about Emma having attended a workshop with Sicilian artists Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella; known for their collaborations with SMEG and Dolce & Gabbana, during her recent trip to Sicily. I hope you enjoy below a conversation I had with Emma about the experience.

Workshop with Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotell

Could you please share with us what you discovered at the workshop?

I was lucky enough to stumble across this incredible workshop. I was on a wine and food tour in Ragusa and there was an iconic Sicilian cart painted with decorative motifs in vivid colours sitting outside this quaint shopfront. I was immediately drawn into the workshop. As soon as I walked in I felt like I had stepped back in time. The two artists Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella were dressed in traditional clothing, similar to what their ancestors would have worn. I then watched Biagio Castilletti for probably about thirty minutes while he painted intricate motifs on a Fiat. 

Sicilian artists Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella
Biagio Castilletti painting at the workshop.

The work of these artists is traditional and iconic, how do you think that translated when matched with Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana for their collaborative collection?

I was in awe of this collaboration. Three parties with Italian origins, changing the way a consumer thinks about their use of everyday appliances such as a fridge, toaster or kettle. The result is a considered and clever mixture of Smeg and D&G’s passion for technology, art, design, fashion and good food. They commissioned artists that still use traditional methods of painting whilst combining that with the latest technology for a fridge. What I also liked about this collection is that Domenico Dolce’s homeland of Sicily was also showcased.

Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana collaboration with Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella
Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana Runaway-Ready Small Appliances

What drew you to visit the workshop, are you an admirer of Italian art, or Dolce & Gabbana?

I actually stumbled across this special space. I spent two weeks in Sicily and Ragusa was a town I did not want to miss. However, it wasn’t until I saw a traditional Sicilian cart on the street that I realised what I was looking at. I had remembered reading and seeing photographs of the unveiling of the Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana collaboration at Salone del Mobile in 2016 and thought it was very clever and beautiful. Dolce and Gabbana screams Sicily to me and when I saw these motifs painted with vibrant colours I was instantly drawn in.

Cart by Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella
Cart on the street outside the workshop. As a teenager, Biagio spent much of his time in the workshops of artisans creating carts. You can read more about it here.

Our team cherishes your international experience and you bring a different perspective to MSID that we all love. How much have your travels influenced your interior architecture work back here in Australia?

I really feel so lucky to have been able to travel and see so much. Each new country or town brings a new perspective. I think it really has ensured that I don’t fall into the trap of being stuck to a certain style, rather it forces me to think about the foundations of the design and the meaning behind something. This narrative has become very important to me and it guides my design approach today. 

Do you have any further takeaways from your time in the presence of these famous Italian artists? We would love to hear what you have to share.

They are understated artisans using vivid colours and bold motifs. When you walk into their workshop they continue working, silently demonstrating their craft. They are iconic yet have a quiet confidence which is considerate of their heritage. They use traditional paint and solvents of the past and paint every minuscule detail by hand to ensure their true craft is preserved. They want visitors to see quality and art that is so intrinsic to Sicilian culture and therefore transcends fads or trends.

Artwork by Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella
Artwork by Biagio Castilletti and Damiano Rotella.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog on two incredible Sicilian artists that have been very influential to the art, design and culture of the region. A massive thank you to Emma for sharing her experience.

I would love to hear any other design collaborations that have captured your eye, drop a comment below and let’s chat.
Best, Marylou x

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