The collaboration between Aldo Londi, then artistic director at Bitossi Ceramiche, and Ettore Sottsass started in the late '50s and marked the beginning of Sottsass' lifelong passion for ceramics. It also marked the the passage for Bitossi from traditional to contemporary design.
The period coincides with Sottsass' trips to India and America which had a huge impact on his creative process. They collaborated on the well-known black and white ceramics, the multi-coloured "Totems" and the historical production for Memphis.
Sottsass had a positive and important influence on the artistic development of the company and he opened the way for future collaborations with other young designers.
Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) was a grandee of late 20th century Italian design. Best known as the founder of the early 1980s Memphis collective, he also designed iconic electronic products for Olivetti, as well as beautiful glass and ceramics.
Wherever he went, Ettore Sottsass carried a camera to photograph anything that caught his eye. Doors, temples, kitchens, billboards: nothing escaped him. This was a man who took 1,780 photographs on a twelve day trip to South America, who toyed with publishing a book consisting of pictures of walls and for years photographed every hotel room in which he had slept with a woman.
Ettore Sottsass devoted his life and work to dismantling the past in his various roles as artist, architect, industrial designer, glass maker, publisher, theoretician and ceramicist. The past to him was the rationalist doctrine of his father, Ettore Sottsass Sr., a prominent Italian architect. Fond though he was of his parents, Ettore Jr. favoured a different approach. "When I was young, all we ever heard about was functionalism, functionalism, functionalism," he once said. "It’s not enough. Design should also be sensual and exciting."
Born in Innsbruck in his mother’s native Austria in 1917, Ettore Jr. was marked out as an architect from an early age. No sooner had he graduated than he was called up into the Italian army only to spend most of World War II in a Yugoslavian concentration camp.
After the war, he worked on housing projects with his father before moving to Milan in 1946 to curate a craft exhibition at the Triennale.
For the next decade, Sottsass continued to curate as well as pursuing his passion for painting, writing for Domus, the art and architectural magazine, designing stage sets and founding a practice as an architect and industrial designer.
By the late 1970s, Sottsass was working with Studio Alchymia, a group of avant garde furniture designers, on an exhibition at the 1978 Milan Furniture Fair. Two years later, Sottsass, then in his 60s, split with Mendini to form a new collective, Memphis, with Branzi and other 20-something collaborators including Michele De Lucchi, George Sowden, Matteo Thun and Nathalie du Pasquier.
Memphis embodied the themes with which Sottsass had been experimenting since his mid-1960s 'superboxes': bright colours, kitsch suburban motifs and cheap materials like plastic laminates.
But this time they captured the attention of the mass media as well as the design cognoscenti, and Memphis (named after a Bob Dylan song) was billed as the future of design. For the young designers of the era, it was an intellectual lightning rod which liberated them from the dry rationalism they had been taught at college and enabled them to adopt a more fluid, conceptual approach to design.
Revered in Italy as a doyen of late 20th century design, Ettore Sottsass is cited as a role model by young foreign designers, for the breadth - as well as the quality - of his work.
Source: Design Museum London
The identity of Bitossi Ceramiche starts from the beginning of 1900’s and develops upon a productive ceramic tradition that existed in Montelupo Fiorentino starting from 1500.
The activity of the Bitossi family started in 1921 for the will of Guido Bitossi with the establishment of "Manifattura Ceramica Cav. Guido Bitossi & Figli" that combined typical local craft works into a structured productive organisation. The production continues also with the collaboration of leading figures who were able to introduce an innovative cultural artistic sensibility. This attitude in connection with the entrepreneurial skills developed throughout the years with a constant research for the quality of finished products, contributed to create an identity for Bitossi Ceramiche as an example of Italian excellence.
More than 7000 original pieces starting from the 50’s, were collected and filed in the "Bitossi Industrial Archive"; 200 selected pieces among those can be seen at MAIB - Artistic Industrial Bitossi Museum, which was built by the company to showcase its historical path.
Bitossi Ceramiche is still run by the same family and thanks to the historical and cultural heritage that was recovered in these last years, it keeps alive its original craft roots, combined with a constant innovation. A never ending formal research and the skilled hands of ceramicist masters led to the development of the creations of Aldo Londi who was Art Director at Bitossi Ceramiche for more than 40 years, followed by several influential designers, always focusing on style evolution. Bitossi Ceramiche: great artistic ceramic tradition and contemporary design.