With March 8 a day dedicated to celebrating women, we herald the arrival of a new all-female artisans’ collective in Florence: FAF, an acronym for Female Artisans in Florence.
Having met at various fairs, events and markets, the fab four were drawn together by a shared respect for each other’s work and a belief in strength in numbers, underlying the decision to unite and conquer the artisan world. While the four craftswomen all work in different mediums, a contemporary style links the lot. The colourful vibes of Giulia Castagnoli of INK-P design, the woodcraft wonders of Jane Harman of Jane H., the timeless and translucent porcelain of Jacqueline Harberink (JHA Porcelain) and the stoic strength of Ayako Nakamori’s bags and accessories (AyaDesignLab): the four combine to create an intriguing multicultural and multi-talented group.
Meeting every two weeks, the passion for this project is FAF’s biggest strength and will surely be its driving force going forward. Managing their various roles as mothers, craftswomen, workshop teachers and the multitude of other responsibilities that life brings, the time carved out for crafts is what’s precious in their lives. As Jane Harman succinctly says, “A creative can’t just sit still and not innovate, it would be like clipping their wings”.
With a sustainable thread throughout their works, the women share ethical values regarding recycling and reusing materials: “Slow design – slow fashion – slow living – storytelling” being the motto proudly brandished on their recently launched Facebook page. Their unique pieces are adamantly “Made in Italy” and one of their main ambitions is to share the message that specialized handcrafted products are essentially worth preserving. The collective also serves as a way for each member to widen her nets creatively by sharing contacts, expertise and experience.
The initial idea came from Giulia, a designer and printmaker from northern Italy. Her love for people and firm belief that collaboration is growth prompted her to seek out like-minded individuals to launch this brave new world. Gathering Jacqueline, a Dutch ceramicist specializing in porcelain, Ayako, a Japanese designer producing bags and accessories, and Jane, from Great Britain, the “Wood Whisperer” as termed by The Florentine’s Mary Gray, FAF was formed. Their aim is to connect other women, encouraging their styles and empowering women who work with their hands in the crafts industry and to promote their skills. There are four principles to which all future FAF-ers need adhere: they must be female, artisans, contemporary and producing products made in Florence.
Giulia is synonymous with one word: energy, both in her effervescent enthusiasm for the project and in the colours she uses for her clothing and other design products to which she applies stamping techniques. Jacqueline, a former lawyer in Amsterdam, works with the angelic whiteness of porcelain, a material that remains eternally elegant. Her creed is that “surrounding yourself with beautiful things makes you happier”. Jane, formerly an antiques restorer, produces works that vary from playful wooden letters to hand-cut jigsaw puzzles, active in her workshop for an incredible 32 years and therefore witnessing the cosmic shift from the rich and lively artisanal communality of San Frediano of the past to its somewhat grimmer present. Ayako’s bags “mix Japanese simplicity and beautiful Italian colours”, resulting in something that automatically uplifts. Made from natural fabrics like cotton and linen, the bags and accessories are entirely handcrafted with not even a millimetre left to waste. The collaborative sense that is so key in this collective is also exhibited in their joint endeavours, like porcelain cups created by Jacqueline displayed on a wooden tray carved by Jane. Their works can be found displayed alongside each other in Giulia’s workshop on via di Camaldoli 18/R, which functions as a shared exhibition space.
It’s early days, as the collective officially only launched in mid-January, but there is already a fervour and excitement surrounding the initiative and an enthusiasm to get on board, indicative of the absolute need for a collective of this kind. With fewer and fewer people (particularly women) choosing to pick up tools to work in the crafting community, FAF shows us that they are out there and that they deserve a loud voice and support. The real tragedy would be for Florence to lose its artisanal heritage, so intrinsic to the Renaissance city. Thankfully, here we find innovation, energy and hope that Florence can retain something so fundamental to its very essence. Determined, courageous and full of fire for this idea, the future of craftswomanship in Florence is safe in the hands of these four founders; these girls have got grinta.