Criteria for excellence


What makes a master

It is useful to have a way to define ‘excellence’ in craftsmanship and the métiers d’art. Creating a shared definition of excellence allows us to recognise and honour mastery and set a standard to which artisans of every age, specialty and country can aspire. It helps advance work in these fields, to highlight and reaffirm their place within our societies. It also allows us to initiate a vibrant dialogue across disciplines and cultures. By looking carefully at the meaning of excellence and its expression in craftsmanship from diverse points of view, we hope to forge a strong, common language and, through this, a renewed understanding and appreciation for the values embodied in lasting objects of beauty.

Our Criteria

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

©FondazioneCologni/S. Pozzoli

The Master’s Touch

The criteria for excellence in craftsmanship were first described in The Master’s Touch, authored by Alberto Cavalli and researchers Giuditta Comerci and Giovanna Marchello. This groundbreaking study lays a foundation for a common language to describe the distinguished work of master artisans everywhere, and suggests a framework for its assessment that can be refined over time. The criteria evolved through systematic research and analysis of terminology, legislation and public opinion, and interviews with master artisans that root the criteria in lived experience, affirming and enhancing their relevance.

About the authors

Alberto Cavalli

Alberto Cavalli is an Executive Director of the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship and Director of the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte. He is also a lecturer at the Politecnico University in Milan and a visiting professor at the Creative Academy where, in addition to teaching, he runs seminars on the artistic crafts. Cavalli is a member of the jury of the prestigious Prix Liliane Bettencourt pour l’Intelligence de la main, an award granted by the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller in France, and he has also contributed his expertise to the activities of the Paris-based Centre du luxe et de la création.

Giuditta Comerci

Giuditta Comerci is a researcher, cultural events curator and a subject expert for the Bellezza Italiana Chair at the Politecnico University in Milan. She is also the president of the Associazione Noema, dedicated to the study and promotion of musical culture.

Giovanna Marchello

Giovanna Marchello is a business development and licensing specialist in the fashion and luxury goods industry. She has written extensively about luxury goods for the Russian monthly Kak potratit and oversees cultural projects related to the artistic crafts.

Master’s touch panel discussion

The Michelangelo Foundation is hosting panel discussions across key European countries to mark the publication of The Master’s Touch. As well as celebrating the publication of the book, these events will begin an engagement with the Criteria for Craft Excellence among the wider arts, design and craft sector, opening a conversation around a common language for excellence in craftsmanship.

This discussion took place in London, United Kingdom, 7th September 2017 with panelists Anita Sethi Journalist and Broadcaster, Gregory Parsons Freelance Curator and Consultant, Judith Clark Professor of Fashion and Museology University of the Arts London Co-Director Centre for Fashion Curation, Mia Sabel Sabel Saddlery, Keith Levett Henry Poole & Co Savile Row and Alberto Cavalli Executive Director of the Michelangelo Foundation and co-author of The Masters Touch.