Criteria for
excellence


A
shared
understanding

It is useful to have a way to define ‘excellence’ in craftsmanship and the métiers d’art. It provides a standard to aim for, and helps to create a shared understanding between people from different crafts and different parts of the world.

©FondazioneCologni/S. Pozzoli

The eleven
criteria

Our eleven criteria are adapted from ‘The Value of Craftsmanship’, a book featuring original research into the meaning of excellence in the métiers d’art, from author Alberto Cavalli, and researchers Giuditta Comerci and Giovanna Marchello.

Authenticity

Authenticity is ultimately about people. At the root of the term lies the idea of authorship and independence, and determining authenticity often means connecting a work with an author and a specific context. Something is authentic if it is true and genuine, if it can be connected to a particular person, place and time each of which reflect historic, artistic and social values.

©D.Garofalo for Italia Su Misura

Competence

Competence is defined as the capacity to orient oneself in any given situation to carry out a specific activity. In the realm of fine craftsmanship, competence requires practical and theoretical knowledge of: materials, techniques, accepted norms and rules of the trade and of their application. It also implies preparation, a deep understanding of the craft and ease when doing it.

T. Bertelsen ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016

Craftmanship

For an object to truly be the result of fine craftsmanship, it must have been created according to acknowledged rules of the art with a prevalence of manual workmanship that relies on a constant dialogue between the artisan’s mind and hands. The role of any machinery used in the process is strictly one of service to the manual and mental intelligence of the artisan.

S. Pozzoli ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016

Creativity

Creativity, the capacity to invent new ideas or objects, is what distinguishes an artisan from a master artisan, an object from a masterpiece, a simple task or job from embodied know how. In fine craftsmanship, it’s a dynamic force, a blend of personal vision, passion and perfect skill, able to balance functional and material limitations with invention, stretching the rules of the art to meet the imagination and respond to contemporary needs and tastes.

T. Bertelsen ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016

Innovation

Innovation, the capacity to change something pre-existing by adding new elements, is often associated with new technologies and just as often positioned in contrast to tradition. Yet, it is innovation that keeps tradition alive and shepherds it into the future. The crucial dialogue between innovation and fine craftsmanship yields new and original materials, tools, forms, styles, functions and aesthetics to respond to the evolution of changing tastes, markets, costs and values.

©D.Garofalo for Italia Su Misura

Interpretation

Always personal, always original, interpretation is the art of transforming an idea into matter. In the process, the one who interprets is much like a translator, a negotiator, or a mediator, drawing on an extensive base of knowledge, sensitivity and understanding to shape one reality into another. As interpreter, the master artisan harvests and makes sense of things to allow the beautiful, the original, the personal and the useful to emerge harmoniously.

©D.Garofalo for Italia Su Misura

Originality

Originality is a delicate balance of old and new, demanding innovative ways of applying centuries-old techniques to create something fresh and unique. An object is original if it’s distinct from what has come before it, if it uses materials or methods in different ways, if it expresses the creativity of the artisan or of a designer, or if it is an individual interpretation of a tradition tied to a specific place.

T. Bertelsen ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016

Talent

A predisposition to easily do things well, talent is a natural, innate ability and an intangible gift which, like a muscle, comes with a requirement to be developed or lost. Talented artisans have a remarkable sensitivity with regard to material and its possibilities and a propensity towards perfection. Recognising their gift as responsibility, they cultivate it with discipline, practice and patience so that it may come into its own in successful mastery and liberty of expression.

©D.Garofalo for Italia Su Misura

Territory

The word territory encompasses a rich mixture of ideas linking an object to its maker and to the geophysical and social environment that shapes them both. Territory is important because it is the source of raw materials and home to a community of people who transform local natural resources into beautiful objects. In doing so, they build meaningful businesses that rely on collective knowledge and exchange and reflect the specific taste, style, identity and heritage of a place.

S. Pozzoli ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016

Tradition

Although at first the word tradition often invokes ideas of the past, it actually describes the dynamic, constant renewal of cumulative knowledge. Handed down from generation to generation, closely guarded and developed in the intimacy of workshops, families or small businesses, communicated but never standardised, tradition in craftsmanship describes the transmission and evolution of complex know how and the continuity of professional legacy.

©FondazoineCologni/S. Pozzoli

Transmission

Transmission goes beyond the strict confines of training to the very human art of teaching, inspiring and building future artisans. Mastery implies not only the knowledge of a particular trade, but also the ability to recognise potential in aspiring artisans and to plant and nurture this knowledge. Among other things, it requires: knowledge of a trade, its history and context; knowledge of all the traditional tools and brand new technologies associated with it; maturity for collaboration and teamwork; access to a workshop for practical application; and continuous learning and updating of knowledge bases.

S. Pozzoli ©Michelangelo Foundation 2016