In Collaboration

Fresh Eyes

Wava Carpenter

Andrea Mancuso of Analogia Project on the role of collaboration in his practice

“Collaborations are catalysts for new stories,” explains Milan-based designer Andrea Mancuso when asked about the relationships that have most influenced his practice. “I start with research and then connect with partners to take projects even farther.” Since his debut on the international design scene in 2011, onward through his many joint ventures with traditional artisans, and right up through his most recent commissioned project with champagne brand Perrier-Jouët, Mancuso has welcomed the unexpected opportunities that arise when creative minds come together.

Andrea Mancuso and Emilia Serra of Analogia Project found international acclaim with ANALOGIA #001, their early experiment in 3D wool “sketches” that debuted at London Design Festival in 2011. Photo © Analogia Project

Mancuso’s career began with the formation of Analogia Project together with Emilia Serra, an architect and researcher whom he met in London through designer Nigel Coates. Harnessing their complementary skill sets, they created a series of trompe-l’oeil installations, also dubbed Anologia, which employed 3D design software to manifest sketches-on-paper into real life. “There’s a freedom that comes from collaboration,” Mancuso explains. “You’re not limited by what you don’t already know.”

Analogia Projects’s Booming Vases were created in collaboration with master ceramist Alessio Sarri in 2014. The experimental process entails detonating gunpowder-filled wet-clay forms and then firing the unpredictable results. Photo © Analogia Project

When Mancuso had ideas that he wanted to explore in clay, he sought out long-time friend Alessio Sarri, a Florence-based ceramics master who since the 1980s has worked with numerous design luminaries like Ettore Sottsass, Nathalie du Pasquier, and Jasper Morrison. “He’s very choosy about the projects he takes on,” Mancuso says. “But when we asked him if we could make explosions in the clay, he just laughed.” After some trials, they shaped simple rectangular prisms in colored porcelain and then lit the little fuses. “Material leaked from the ceiling for hours,” Mancuso adds.

Analogia Project’s Goldfish Table for Nilufar Gallery (2018) features marble goldfish-shaped inlays atop a brass base that mimics the movement of swimming fish. Photo © Daniele Iodice

Mancuso considers his relationship with Nilufar to be another important and meaningful collaborative relationship, and he clearly has a special fondness for gallery owner Nina Yashar. “Nina’s personal vision uniquely mixes past and present; historical and contemporary,” Mancuso says. “She always encourages experimentation and new material exploration, all while partnering on production with the most highly skilled artisans in Italy. There’s a distinct beauty in the variety she brings together. It all fits because her curation puts design pieces in dialogue with each other.”

Andrea Mancuso’s Metamorphosis (2019) for Perrier-Jouët was inspired by descriptions of the brand’s six types of champagne cuvées. Photo © Perrier-Jouët

Mancuso’s innate collaborative spirit also shines through in the commissions he’s received from major brands. Take for example his multifaceted project with Perrier-Jouët, Metamorphosis, launched at Design Miami/ last December. For one component—a set of six champagne flutes—Mancuso was inspired by a conversation he had with Hervé Deschamps, Maison Perrier-Jouët’s cellar master, about the art of blending cuvées. 

According to Mancuso, “Perrier-Jouët’s story of reinvented nature allowed me to explore certain intricacies of nature, grapes, taste, glassblowing, and ceramics, which I would not have done otherwise. It has been very special—their human approach, the inspiring discussions, the incredible synergy.”

Andrea Mancuso’s Metamorphosis for Perrier-Jouët, an immersive environment installed at Design Miami/ 2019, featuring 11,000 ceramic discs inspired by the bottles in storage and maturing in the Perrier-Jouët cellars. Axelle de Buffévent pictured next to Mancuso. Photo © Perrier-Jouët

Axelle de Buffévent, Style Director for Perrier-Jouët, played the role of shepherding Mancuso’s Metamorphosis from start to finish. “What’s important for us is that the creative talents with whom we collaborate share our desire to re-enchant the everyday,” explains de Buffévent. “We ask our chosen artists and designers to interpret the Art Nouveau heritage of Maison Perrier-Jouët through a 21st-century lens, while simultaneously enriching it with their own creative viewpoint.”

De Buffévent is quick to acknowledge how Mancuso, in turn, helped her in her ongoing work to promote and preserve the Perrier-Jouët brand: “For us, it is extremely inspiring to collaborate with artists who are constantly pushing the creative boundaries and whose work actually makes us look afresh at the identity of Maison Perrier-Jouët. It’s fascinating to see how different sensibilities can interpret the same philosophy in so very different—yet equally contemporary—ways.”

Andrea Mancuso at work on Metamorphosis for Perrier-Jouët. Photos © Perrier-Jouët

Mancuso loves to test the limits of his own imagination, so for him collaboration multiplies what’s possible by giving him a kind of access to the skills that have been mastered by others. “Every new project is a pretext for me to expand my knowledge and investigate new materials, processes, and technologies,” he says. “Many times people have asked me which materials I prefer to work with most. And I always answer [that I prefer] the one that I have never used before.”

The international community came together for the Design Loves Milano charity action, featuring designs donated by Germans Ermičs + Galleria Rossana Orlandi, Marlene Huissoud, Mancuso + Perrier-Jouët, and Michela Cattai, among many more. Photos © Germans Ermičs, Valentin Russo, Perrier-Jouët, and Andrea Valentini

What’s next for Mancuso? “It is very rare to have so much time at our disposal,” he says of the recent lockdowns. “Our life has changed drastically, forcing us to review our plans while highlighting the fundamentals. I am moving forward with ongoing projects, which has included taking part with Perrier-Jouët in the Design Loves Milan initiative to support the Ospedale Luigi Sacco in Milan along with planning the next collaboration with Perrier-Jouët at West Bund fair in Shanghai. But I’m also working on those projects that I’ve kept on hold in the drawers for years. I think it’s a great moment for all of us to enlarge our vision and interests.” ◆