It's always nice to stumble upon a designer or design studio whose work you appreciate but who you haven't previously been aware of. So it was with the Italian studio Gum Design, founded by architect Gabriele Pardi and designer and graphic designer, Laura Fiaschi. Based in Viareggio, on the west coast of Italy, mid-way between Milan and Rome, near the cities of Pisa and Lucca, Gum Design was founded on the cusp of a new millennium, in 1999. With clients that range from glassware manufacturer Bormiolo Rocco, to fashion house Max & Co and wallpaper specialist Janelli & Volpi, the work of Gum Design crosses all types of fashion, architecture, furniture and homewares categories.
The duo are involved with universities such as the Free University of Bolzano, the IED of Florence & Rome, Pisa University and the Faculty of Architecture in Genoa - along with many others. In recent years they have worked with a wide variety of companies in the marble industry and are the creative directors of Cambiovaso - a part of the Upgroup - who are major stakeholders in the Italian marble industry. By constantly collaborating with a diverse range of manufacturers they have become sought after as designers of stands and installations and due to Fiaschi's background in graphic design and Pardi's in architecture, are able to deliver projects across a variety of mediums.
While their work in the late 90's and early 2000's exhibited a playful irony and was of frequently full of colour, the studio's later work has settled into a far more restrained aesthetic focusing on natural materials - predominantly glass, stone, steel and timber.
While the materials have reduced so have the shapes - often to a common shape that is extrapolated in some way to offer a variety of forms while being based on one which is simply cut to several heights or in ways that offer different shapes and uses.
The studio have designed many beautiful interior objects such as vases and bowls over the years but have also produced some award winning furniture pieces such as the 'Mastro' range for De Castelli from 2013, which was runner up in the international Young & Design Award and was selected for the ADI Design Award in 2013. The fir wood end pieces of the bench and table, slide out from the steel top and can be slid horizontally back into the top to create a flat packed item for reduced shipping. De Castelli specialise in metal treatments and offer the furniture in numerous aged finishes. The shelving is also flat pack.
It is true to say that much of the studio's work involves massive materials like stone and wood but they also like to work in glass often contrasting the solid earthy qualities of stone and the light, ethereal properties of glass. Inspired by tourist snow cones, their 'Souvenir' pieces for De Castelli from 2013 are a range of Pyrex cloches in which symbolic house shapes are enclosed. These houses are laser cut from fine sheets of brass, copper and steel and are extraodinarily delicate.
Based around the ancient amphora vessel 'Expressioni Quotidiane' is another earlier example of Gum Design's interest in using one shape to make several objects - each of the wheel-thrown ceramic vessels are simply cut from the same form to produce 6 staggeringly different shapes, then glazed with a unifying grey slip. The vessels are made by porcelain company Este Ceramiche
The studio works on a large number of installations for large scale exhibitions and fairs such as the Biennale di Venezia, the Fiera Milano and Fiera Verona. In Florence in September 2015, they presented an installation called La Casa di Pietra, (which translates as The House of Stone), displaying 14 collections manufactured by marble specialist, AlfaTerna Marmi.
'Cumuli' (shown above) is a recent project by Gum Design for Studio Formart and IVV952 in 2015. The three standard basalt stone 'bases' have a mouth blown glass bowl blown on to them to create a unique shape each and every time. Like the work of the well known Italian glass artist Emmanuelle Babled, these pieces have a real energy partly due to their off-kilter, organic shape but also because of their material juxtaposition.
An interest in simple geometric shapes has been a focus for the studio for many years. In their 2005 design 'Bricioli' - a bird feeder made from terracotta and timber with a unique eye-catching shape based on interconnecting cones. The idea is that crumbs are fed into the funnel at the top and collect at the base to feed visiting birds.