Venice Design Week Chapter 5.1: Meet Pieces of Venice, A Modern Love Story
Discover the brands that best interpreted “territorial creativity as engine of a conscious tourism”, the theme launched by Venice Design Week to promote entrepreneurial ideas with big visions: we start with Pieces of Venice.
The new chapter dedicated to Venice Design Week will be split in two parts, a 5.1 and 5.2 and again it takes inspiration from the conferences that enriched the event in Venice last fall.
Given the strong digital commitment due to the limitations of the pandemic back when the event took place, a lot of focus was given to conferences that could be streamed online.
The subject of the conference we highlight in two parts was “territorial creativity as engine of a conscious tourism”, and New York Style Guide decided to introduce two of the companies that stood out for their unique commitment and the creativity of the ideas. But before introducing you to the first of these two brands, Pieces of Venice, let’s explain what territorial creativity and conscious tourism are, shall we?
Territorial creativity and conscious tourism: what are they?
In the easiest of ways, territorial creativity is the skill to interpret the area where you live and use its potential and materials to create something new that can be useful for others. Ever heard of “act with what you have, right where you are?” That’s it: look around and find a way to create and use the resources that your territory is giving you.
Why conscious tourism? Well, we have all been tourists in new places looking for something typical from that place and ending up with a non genuine souvenir that we will easily loose affection for. Conscious tourism is the opposite of it, it’s about picking the right objects that you can cherish, knowing that you did not just buy yet another souvenir, you brought home something authentic, and you contributed to the well being of the place you visited.
Territorial creativity to engine conscious tourism means: do something cool with what you have right where you are, so people who will visit your place, instead of buying products that are totally worthless and easily forgettable, will be able to buy something that is typical of your home, they can be fond of, is made with commitment and supports the territory.
What we are doing now with our articles, is informing you about some of the lovely things that you can find in Venice, that are Venetian in a way you would never expect. Two brands that interpreted territorial creativity and conscious tourism in unique and significant ways. The first of them is Pieces of Venice.
Meet Pieces of Venice
There is a reason why we want this article to appear on Valentine’s Day, and that is: this is a 360’ love story. It’s love and passion everywhere, so when if not Valentine’s Day to introduce you to Pieces of Venice?
Pieces of Venice is founded by Luciano Marson and his wife Karin. It bears a well descriptive name as it finds its materials literally in the very heart of the city, in the lagoon, and it is a declaration of love to the city’s legendary craftsmanship, materials, physical details and beauty. But it does not end here.
Pieces of Venice is a social enterprise that functions on circular economy principals with a short supply chain. It reclaims and recycle discarded materials from Venice and transform them through industrial design into souvenirs and beautiful objects for everyday use.
If we decided to post it on Valentine’s Day, guess there is so much more love to this than you can hold. So, let’s start with the founders of Pieces of Venice, one of Italy’s most adorable couples.
Impossible to sum up the past of Luciano Marson, to say he’s a designer is quite an understatement. Let’s say in the Italian entrepreneurial reality he’s what we would call ‘heavy artillery’. Enough to say that in Italy there’s a very prestigious industrial design award, the “Compasso d’Oro”, [the Golden Compass – ed]. It is the first and most recognised award for Industrial Design, nothing above that, and Luciano did not win it once and did not win it twice: he won it four times. One can say it’s the Oscar of industrial design, except it’s bigger for industrial designers to win this award in Italy, than it is for movie stars to win the Oscar in Hollywood.
That said, he’s also a very down to Earth, friendly and polite person, that together with his wife Karin agreed to be interviewed by yours truly.
Karin Friebel Marson is a real ray of sun, a solid professional and an expert in innovative technology applied to woods, with years of experience and deep knowledges in areas not accessible to just everyone. And exactly as Luciano, she’s energetic, friendly, one of those people who smile with their eyes as they speak and made our interview as lively as it could be.
So, lickety-split, let’s ask them everything there is to know about Pieces of Venice.
NEW YORK STYLE GUIDE interviews Karin and Luciano, founders of Pieces of Venice
Hello Luciano and Karin, so happy to meet you and thanks for agreeing to this interview! My first question for you is how is Pieces of Venice born and how would you describe it?
[Both] Hello Flora, thank you for meeting us. [Luciano] I think I can start with this: Pieces of Venice has a story that can be presented on two levels.
The first one is about the planning idea: it is born out of a rejection for a contribution as a consultant for yet another design company. This company thought about using Venetian wood from the “briccola” which is the pier that people see everywhere in the lagoon, to create furniture.´
I decided not to contribute to yet another copy of an already seen idea, as I started feeling tired of furniture, furniture and more furniture for the sake of doing… some more furniture, can you feel how redundant it is? But the desire to upcycle and recycle is an interest I have since I was a kid, and I applied the thought around the “briccole” [plural of briccola – ed] to what you know as Pieces Of Venice.
I am an entrepreneur, but also a designer, and putting together a team of friends designers, I developed an idea that had Venice as its focus. More than a business to make money, after so many success stories behind me, I felt I wanted to do something different with Pieces of Venice. It is not always money-making that moves projects.
The planning idea was to recycle the pieces of woods. Then we get to the other level: we want to leave something of tangible worth and we decided to create objects that could pass to the younger generations as a small symbol of the city, made with a material that can be found only in Venice: every piece we sell is made with recycled wood from the piers you see in the lagoon. Dock lark is another material we use. It is literally a piece of the city that has become our products.
Pieces of Venice are products made for everyone more as a form of affection, or, a dialogue between generations. We reuse a little fragment of Venice and pass it to our customers, hoping they will remember this fragile city is there to be preserved. Every object stays with them, as an act of love. In a way, we feel like the parents of our works and we pass them as we sell them to a new parent as a token to infuse and share the same love for the city that motivates us, raise the awareness and the feeling of belonging.
Something that I consider of utterly importance, is that every object has an actual address from the city.
As an example, our iconic object, the most loved one, is the miniature of a Vaporetto: its name is Tronchetto 33. Or the taxi boat, whose name is San Pietro di Castello 364: these are actual addresses in Venice.
[Karin] Consider that both Luciano and I are very much in love with the city of Venice, and we wanted to reuse these piers to give them a second life, and make joyful objects. With our project we really allow people to take home a little bit of Venice.
Pieces of Venice puts together our honest love for industrial design, product design, Venice, the environment and people. We sincerely want them to own something beautiful that is Venetian in the deepest of ways.
You are a lovely married couple, that just casts a sense of energy and affection: what came first, your marriage or Pieces Of Venice?
[Luciano] Karin and I have been working together for a long time, she’s a strong professional and a reference in my years as consultant, designer and entrepreneur. We knew each other since ages and at the very beginning we had no intention even to be in a relationship. I had plans…
[Karin] …and I had mines. Until we eventually fell in love and all the things he planned to do on his own, he did them with me, [both laughed] including a trip to Cuba.
[Luciano, showing the pictures of the marriage] we married in the city we both love so dearly, see?
[Karin] We did, and then as our relationship grew stronger, so did the will to put our forces together to build Pieces of Venice. It was a synergy of love, intentions, vision, as we consolidated as a couple, so did the desire to make the vision become reality. The more we spent time together, the more the idea of Pieces of Venice became part of our shared passion.
What a fairy-tale story! But Luciano was saying something interesting: this business does not head to be a money-maker, of course you sell these products, but it is devoted to recycling actual pieces of Venice that people can buy and take home. What more?
[Luciano] As said, I have dedicated much of my life to consultancy, entrepreneurship, now there was one thing I cared more about than cold business. And that thing was doing something good not just for the circular economy, but for the people in Venice too. Social sustainability is as important as circular economy.
Hence Pieces of Venice is a privately-held Benefit Company that entrusts a big part of its production to FUTURA Social Cooperative, that facilitates the reintegration of 60 disadvantaged youth so that they can become active workforce. It’s our way to sustain the city, as the strength of a chain is measured by its weakest ring, consequently, we want to give dignity and support to people who desire to be reintegrated, reinforcing those who are otherwise considered weaker.
[Karin]Pieces of Venice is dedicated to the city, it’s a love declaration: it’s for Venice, for its citizens, for its beauty. Something we want to leave to the new generations: the habit to recycle and a tangible example on how to support the weaker ones.
Well, if you want to see a change, start by putting the first slabs that pave the way that leads to those changes, Pieces of Venice is a solid and in many ways beautiful example of it. After all isn’t it said that beauty will save the world?
[Karin] Exactly, and we strongly believe in that. We also believe that beauty can come from anything, even refuse.
And we give beauty back to the city with part of the profits. Choosing a product from Piece of Venice, tourists are given the opportunity to contribute to the initiative: ‘Save Venice one piece at a time’ [#salvaveneziaunpezzoallavolta is the hashtag to use on social media – ed].
Through the fundings, the Masegni & Nizioleti Association ONLUS is able to do interventions, restore the decor in the historic city centre, and save Venice a piece at a time. In this way the new life of the piers, through part of their profit, translates into an opportunity to embellish Venice, giving it more chances to keep on shining, and returns in even more beauty for the tourists to enjoy when they come back. Knowing that they partially contributed to its preservation, we want to elevate their value too: they do it all -with- us.
Karin, you are an expert in innovation technology and a great connoisseur of wood and all its qualities. Would you like to say something about the material you use?
Briccola is a very precious material, it has its beauty also in the fact that it is immersed in the lagoon. Only after explantation it can be recovered, and it can present holes spotted in scattered areas, as there are small warms that eat the wood in the water, as time goes by. These small creatures are part of the fauna of the lagoon, that is why the part with the holes is precious too, and we are also committed to educate people to understand the value of these sections.
There is really not so much of this wood around to use, we need to wait for the explantation and often 80% of it is beyond recovery. And to add to the difficulties, it is hard to shape.
This makes your products extremely unique, and indeed, a product of passion. Luciano mentioned the miniature of the Vaporetto as the iconic product, which other products from Pieces of Venice would you like to highlight for us?
[Karin] One of the most popular products is the Gondolier’s hat, that now we have in a set, San Paolo 16 and 17: it’s a magnet you can have on your fridge, but if you turn it upside down and place it on your table, it turns into a candle holder.
Then we have seven objects created by Mariapia Bellis [leading landscape architect, expert in Architectural projects, interior, garden, product and exhibit design -ed].
She asked to participate to Pieces of Venice and created so called “companion objects” that can be hidden in a pocket or kept in your hand. There is one for every district of Venice: Giudecca 212, Castello 2835, San Marco 2809 e Cannaregio 3546. These companion objects makes a discreet noise, that is typical of Venice.
The other three districts, Santa Croce 1587, Dossoduro 701 and San Paolo 2272A give instead the name to two teleidoscopes and a kaleidoscope. They can be chosen and bought individually or in sets.
In a more expensive range you can find Santa Marta, the table lamp. Matteo Ragni [Milanese graduated architect, winner with Giulio Iacchetti of the Compasso d’Oro ADI award, and now part of the permanent design collection at MOMA – ed] designed this night light, thinking of children and how to overcome their fear of the dark.
The name comes from the fact that Santa Marta was home to gasworks that fuelled the traditional cast–iron street lamps that lit up Venice in the beginning of the 1900. It’s born thinking of children, but it is not just for children, it’s a small lamp that creates a soft atmosphere and would fit in many environments.
The price of our products can vary depending on the technology, the design, the guest designers of course, and the difficulty to shape them.
I have one question about this whole project. I wrote that Luciano has won 4 Golden compasses: is it true that the latest one is for Pieces of Venice?
[Karin laughs] That is absolutely true. Pieces of Venice was awarded the XXVI Golden Compass for Social Design Enterprise Project in September 2020. The reason for this award, the social design orientation, means for us twice its value.
The evaluation parameters are
- functional and typological innovation
- materials used.
Particular attention is given to products that express respect for the environment, public and social value, the attention to usability, interaction and the “Design for all” value.
The jury’s reasons for awarding our prize were:
“In the abuse and banality of contemporary souvenirs, this is a material and cultural recovery project, which transmits identity, history, irony and authenticity.”
Congratulations! What an achievement, considering that the business is about 4/5 years old. What more are you planning to do? Wood is your field of expertise, will you hold to this or will you expand to other realities?
[Karin] Actually Flora, I must correct you on that: Pieces of Venice is not that old, it’s a 3 years old project.
We know that you are very fond of Murano and its glass, so I am positive that you will be excited to know that we are planning to create new pieces using the fragments of glasses from Murano wastes. It’s our way to expand our love to everything that makes the excellence of this city and contributes to a second life of typically Venetian materials.
It is also a support for the incertitude and difficulties that followed the pandemic period: we need to lend a hand and team with other businesses to support their contribution. Murano has made Venice famous with its glasses, it is a piece of Venice and we want visitors to take home something that has a bit of Murano too.
The pandemic has been a terrible time, but it is also an opportunity to cowork and give back, we like to show that cooperation in business is greatness too.
Well thank you for such a positive contribution and for letting our readers know more about the concept and the vision behind Pieces of Venice: we wish you all the very best for your wonderful project and we will be happy to visit you back later in time to see the news about Pieces of Venice!
Thank you for your time, and thanks to your readers for their attention, we hope we gave some good ideas and some inspirations too!
Chapter 5 does not end here, stay on the scene for the next part, where we will introduce the young Venetians that invented a New Venetian Resilience.
To learn more about Pieces of Venice, here are some useful links
PoV website: Pieces Of Venice
PoV e-shop: PoV eshop
PoV on instagram: pieces.of.venice
PoV on facebook: PiecesOfVenice
The hashtag to share on social media: #salvaveneziaunpezzoallavolta
Our previous articles about Venice Design Week can be found at the following links