I could easily devote a month or more of Tile Addict to the work of Ceramica Bardelli, the Milan-based leader in fashion tiles. But I will restrain myself and concentrate here on the wit and whimsy of Maddalena Sisto; one of the many wonderful designer’s who grace this company’s incredible catalogue.
A cross between a Gerald Scarfe cartoon and the sketches of a haute couture fashionista, Sisto’s designs are humorous, irreverent and deeply engaging.
Maddalena Sisto, a.k.a. Mad, was born in Alessandria in 1951 but moved to Milan in her teens, where she devoted herself to fashion and design within the Condè Nast Group. Having completed a degree in Architecture at Milan Polytechnic, she went on to design a collection of sculpture-teapots in the shape of women’s heads, write articles for Vogue, Glamour, Casa Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle Décor.
Sisto’s designs share a few signature subjects, notably the female form. She is best known for her signorine [young ladies]; delicate and eccentric second selves, extravagant icons set to leave their mark on the history of fashion and communication. Fitted in improbable landscapes, or related to current works of design, Sisto’s characters wear fashion, with which they constantly have a difficult relation. They move lightly and naturally; they make people think and they make people laugh.
Among the many funny, twisted, fascinating, astonished, elegant and elongated figures penned by Sisto, who died in Milan in July 2000, Chef deserves a place of honour. Here knives, forks, spoons and ladles are transformed by festive misuse into stilts, juggling equipment, ski poles and, on closer inspection, spears, recklessly aimed at ovens and hobs.
Fatine Buffe features bewitching fairies that dance unrestrainedly, choosing petals for their stage, climbing agilely and dropping headlong down stems, or swinging gaily from tender stalks. Poppies, roses, bluebottles, lillies and wild peas all take part in the fun, under the eccentric gaze of dragonflies and crickets. As Alice might say “curiouser and curiouser!”
In Fatine Sexy the protagonist has her hair in disarray, as if after a long night of lovemaking. Her eyes are wide open, tints of crimson blush her cheekbones, her lips and nipples are bright red … and she is dressed in nothing but a pair of earrings, a necklace and a silk stockings. Yet Sisto’s sassy model, having slipped off her most intimate items of clothing, retains the triumphant confidence with which she seems to face life. Meanwhile her coy alter ego poses half-length, craftily concealed behind a black mask.
Sisto’s creations are just one of an extremely eclectic range of designer tiles from Ceramica Bardelli, an Altaeco S.p.a. brand. Originally established as a glazing line in the 1960s, the company is a pioneer in applied ceramic research: both cultural and technical. Bardelli achieves greatness by adopting the best and most appropriate method for each design, ranging from freehand drawings to stencils and from pouncing to combined techniques. Sometimes a single tile’s decoration requires up to a dozen or more manufacturing phases to faithfully portray the artist’s creation.
Ceramica Bardelli’s collections have been created by a large number of designers and artists over the years; notably Piero Fornasetti and Robert Dawson. The full roll call is impressive, and includes Giò Ponti, Marcel Wanders, Marcello Chiarenza, Daniele Bedini, Julia Binfield, Annabelle d’Huart, Davide Pizzigoni, Luca Scacchetti, Antonio Annicchiarico, Manuela Corbetta, Michele Tranquillini, Ruben Toledo, Idarica Gazzoni, Roberto Gerosa, Maria Cristina Hamel, Nigel Coates, Tord Boontje, Ronald Van Der Hilst, Marco Ferreri, Riccardo de Alberti, Guido Berger and Annette Stahl
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, May 2017.