The story of Lorenzi Milano commenced when Giovanni Lorenzi, having survived the First World War, arrived in Milan in 1919 from the valleys of Trentino and decided to open his knife-grinding and cutlery shop in 1929, drawing on the experience he had gained as a shop boy over long winters spent in Germany. And so G. Lorenzi was born, a small enterprise devoted to the sale of cutlery and the sharpening of knives located in Via Montenapoleone and frequented by a refined and demanding clientele. Today the tradition of the firm is maintained by Mauro Lorenzi who, thanks to the experience acquired over more than thirty years of work in the family business, has decided to write another chapter in its history by opening a new Lorenzi Milano workshop in Piazza Filippo Meda.
How do you choose the natural materials that you use in the production of your works? Where do they come from?
For us celebration of the rituals of our everyday activity is a mission second only to that of respect for the materials that we buy and select for production. Nature has always made precious gifts to humanity that it is only right and proper to use and to respect. The antlers of deer, the horns of antelope or buffalo and the tusks of the warthog come along with the animals to the end of a natural course of life, that in the case of deer coincides with a phase of seasonal rebirth. Every precious piece is the fruit of the harvest of what nature is ready to give, showing respect for the true biological rhythms of animals. Gifts, not trophies, whose collection from nature reserves is a source of jobs for the local population.
A pure and primordial cycle that we are committed to rendering immortal through the hands and the skills of the artisan. Every vein, every colour, every unique detail that nature has imparted to the material is a new starting point for the creation of a product able to give it a second lease of life. The working of the material is done in harmony with its spirit, and following an operation of ‘rediscovery’ of its natural characteristics it is smoothed and polished in order to bring out those unique properties without damaging it in any way.
Found in the raw state in their countries of origin and obtained in full conformity with the veterinary and environmental standards of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), these extraordinary natural appendages reach the end of a first period of life only to become the lifeblood of a new cycle and culture that revalue the riches of the environment and its gifts. We are committed to making our craft ‘submit’ to nature. Not the other way round.
Lorenzi Milano has taken part in the ‘A School, a Job’ project that allows a young artisan of the future to learn the secrets of the craft through a paid apprenticeship. How do you rate this experience?
It was with great pleasure that we got involved in this initiative on the part of Fondazione Cologni and we took on a very young woman (aged 19) in our workshop. Thanks to the help and attentive guidance of our artisans, she has been given the possibility to gain experience in the working of natural materials like deer horn and antler, metals, bamboo and various kinds of wood, learning techniques of engraving, cleaning and polishing. We are honoured to have been involved in this project in so far as it allows young people to put their creative aspirations into practice and to have a first taste of the realities of work that are hard to appreciate nowadays. Very often, when we encounter a finished article, we are not aware of the effort and the hours or days of work that have gone into making it. This project helps the young to understand this aspect and not take other people’s work for granted.
What is the smallest thing you’ve ever made? And the biggest?
One of the smallest things we ever made was a pair of solid 18-carat gold dice. Each face was milled to permit the insertion of pieces of Australian mother-of-pearl of a white colour with iridescent shades of green, silver or gold: legendary for its beauty and perfection, it is still a material much in demand for the decoration of valuable objects. The dark dots that indicate the numbering on each side were made with inlays of Indian ebony. One of the largest in size is the picnic hamper, a perfect container for transporting tasty gourmet delights on special holiday occasions or moments of relaxation. Lined with leather on the inside and outside, the hamper, once closed, can be carried by means of two handles of palladium-plated brass set flush in the sides. Inside the hamper there is a complete service of elegant crockery for four people and a set of cutlery and accessories for the table, ranging from a cruet set to jugs for serving tea that can be made out of a variety of natural materials, from bamboo to antler or ?oryx horn?, customizable to suit the tastes of the client.
What is the most bizarre object you’ve made?
Uno degli oggetti più ‘stravaganti’ che abbiamo realizzato è lo spremidentifricio.
One of the most ‘bizarre’ objects we’ve ever made is a toothpaste squeezer. This mysterious object made of chrome-plated brass, which stands on a refined base decorated with ?the natural material?, hides its surprising function under an enigmatic aesthetic; the rotation of the tube squeezer allows you to obtain just the right amount of toothpaste without wasting any of the product. Always present in our collection, it is still one of the objects most in demand and most utilized today, despite being one of the most curious and original articles we have produced.
Lorenzi Milano will be represented in the exhibition Mirabilia at Triennale Milano by a precious chess set. What material did you use to make it? And how long did it take?
The chessboard and pieces are unique artefacts whose light-coloured components are made from zebu horn and dark ones from buffalo horn, while the board is embellished with an ebony frame and brass edging. Horn has constituted an important source of raw material since prehistoric times. Very hard-wearing, every part of the horn is used to make a vast range of functional tools or simple ornaments. We select horn from a variety of animal species, harvested at the end of their natural life cycle. Each type has different organic characteristics that are made the most of through successive processes of rough-hewing and polishing. Every precious fragment is fruit of the harvest of what nature is disposed to give us, respecting the authentic biological rhythms of the animals. As the production entails numerous phases of working it takes several weeks to finish the object. The material in the raw state is first cut into sections and then, after careful selection of the pieces that will go to make up the set, each element is subjected to processes of smoothing and a first stage of polishing that will be completed once the assembly is finished.
During this complicated period what steps have you taken to stay in touch with your customers now that they are unable to visit the workshop?
We have thought a great deal about being close to things, about the emotion that an object can stir as a result of how it is perceived by our senses. Evoking all five of them is not always possible, especially when distances have been increased. This is why we have decided to introduce a new initiative dedicated to all those who do not have the possibility of coming in person to our workshop: the new Lorenzi Live Experience service allows us to show our creations to visitors and customers, who will be accompanied and guided on a virtual tour of the shop through the eyes of our collaborators, in order to provide as realistic an experience as possible. It is a way of reducing the distance that separates us and helping people interested in finding out about what we do by letting them see our objects from close up even if they are physically far away.