An eye drop factory in Milan, constructed in the 1930s, hosts the atelier of Gianluca Pacchioni, a master in the art of forging metals. Pacchioni is one of the 75 talented Italian artisans who have recently received the prestigious MAM-Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere award.

Tell us about your history.

I moved to Paris after graduating in economics and business at the Bocconi University in Milan. During the 1990s, I plunged into the Paris art world and discovered my passion for metal sculpting, with which I started to experiment, self-taught, in a studio I shared with other artists on the Quai de la Gare. These explorations led to my very first collection of sculpture furniture in iron, presented by the Vivendi Gallery in Place des Vosges.

These were intense years, during which I absorbed beauty and creativity while taking part in the artistic life of the city, attending the ateliers and the underground squats. Paris is very open to young artists: there is a culture of sharing and easy access to education and public subsidies. But in terms of artisanal execution, it is much more difficult to make small projects come true.

I returned to Milan in order to work closely with Italian artisans, sharing their flexibility, experience and creativity. The transition from designer to “homo faber”, which characterises my history, is the result of the relationship with the material and with the artisans.

What training have you followed? How did your education influence the choice of your profession?

I am a self-taught artist. I invented my technique and my style. My professional growth is the result of an infinite series of encounters, of attending wonderful workshops with craftsmen and artists who have inspired me and have sometimes given me their tools and machines. Most of all, they have been a continuous source of inspiration.

I personally follow every aspect of the creative and productive process in my Milanese atelier, where I installed my forge and workshop in 1998.

Tell us how your works come to life. Where do you find your inspiration?

I love metal. I love its imperfections, its scars. I love contrasts and I try to highlight them. I spend my days “abusing” these metals, but I end up touching them, caressing them.

Formally, I am inspired by the natural world, but my aesthetic research is never ending. At present I am exploring the porous surfaces of stone: at the Salone del Mobile in Milan I presented “Cremino”, a sculptured table in Persian red travertine, partially covered with liquefied brass, which required accurate formal research. The experimentation continues in “Fossile”, large decorative panels with bas-reliefs of palm leaves made with brushed liquefied brass. In this case, my aim is to transform the vegetable imprint in an immutable, fossilized decoration.

What materials and techniques do you use?

I like to explore and investigate in many directions: from iron and all its patinas, to stainless steel, bronze, brass, aluminium, to the experimental techniques of cold liquid metals. In my workshop I employ innovative procedures and techniques, mixing them with traditional methods of fusion and forging or with goldsmithing techniques.

For example, the liquefied metal technique becomes a new filter with which I can revisit and rework some of the historical pieces of my collection, like the “Cut” lighting sculptures or the “Pupil” sculptural mirror. With these techniques, I can obtain endless variations. A very important part of the process is polishing the patinas with waxes created ad hoc.

Who are your clients?

I mostly work with international clients, who seek the quality of the Italian excellence and respect the production times required for unique pieces.

Do you think that your profession could be appealing to the younger generations?

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the younger generations are really interested in “getting their hands dirty”, although during my last exhibition in Milan I met many smart students who were interested in understanding my techniques. Their questions were really focused. It could be a positive sign!