We'd heard only good things about Giovanni Re - they say he has a fruitful, teacherly approach to helping people with the goal of transforming DIY into a real job. Since we appreciate those values, we figured it was time to find out more about him through an interview in which we asked him how he sees the role of Italy in the Maker movement, what's missing from European SME's, and more.

MT: So you work for Roland ... What is their core business and what is your role within it?

GR: Roland is a Japanese multinational that conceives of, develops and commercializes devices and machines that allow us to transform ideas into reality. By this we mean printers, plotters, cutters, scanners, 3D modelers and many other peripheral devices that help artisans and makers. My business card says "community manager" but I prefer to be considered a "Wow! pusher." My role is like that of a gardener for Roland's online community (link to website in Italian). Water regularly, weed out the bad stuff, cultivate little seeds. At Roland we've been doing our work successfully for the past ten years because we love our work and believe in people - it's the only way.

MT: Let's start from the name of your forum: Forum Artigiano Tecnologico (Digital artisans' forum). What is a digital artisan to you? What abilities should one have, and what technologies are most relevant to produce objects with success?

GR: Digital artisans are those who best use new technologies by integrating them with extant manual ability. Hardware, software, and especially Artware  are the most important elements that allow traditional artisanship (so strongly present in Italy) to move towards new and more global horizons. Sharing these competancies and comparing with others is one of the elements that characterizes people who are ready to face the future in a global market. On our forum, our greatest goal is to encourage this kind of exchange of ability and creative stimuli.

MT: “We've heard you talk about a trade show called Viscom - what and when is it, and what does one learn there?

GR: Viscom is a meeting place for people who deal with the personalization of visual comunication. Nowadays, no business can ignore this sector. Mass personalization is here to stay. Whatever one's field, this is something about which awareness is required, and this fair is the place to meet people involved in the sector. [Editor's note: it is in Milan every October]


MT: Can you give us two examples of successful creative ideas carried out with a large-scale plotter, and one object, preferably replicable, made by a young designer?

GR: I could mention hundreds of big industry names, like Ferrari, Ferrero and others, who use these technologies but I always prefer to talk about some very small companies who, with a Roland milling machine or plotter have created some amazing things. All you have to do is look at the website www.farestampare.it to see ideas in interior decoration, decorated cars, clothing lines and thousands of extraordinary applications. At Roland, we've collected about 500 of these things in what we call our "creative center," a unique place in Italy where artisan creativity is on exhibit and also explained to the public in a way that encourages more production. You can see some examples in this video.

MT:  About the Maker phenomenon and the third industrial revolution: what are the Europe-wide tendencies and opportunities that you, from your unique position at Roland? Which country is top? How is Italy doing?

GR: The third industrial revolution, as Chris Anderson calls it, will have Italy at its head. Because luckily we have a long tradition of being Makers in our DNA. As I said when I spoke at World Wide Rome Maker edition, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi were all Makers. Design, creativity and know-how are elements that have always distinguished Italy in the world. The new Makers will demonstrate that Italy is still at the head of this phenomenon.

MT: What strikes us about you is your desire to create contacts with passion and entrepreneurial spirit. What do you think that SME's in Europe, and particularly in Italy, are missing to break into a global market?

GR: As a matter of fact, just today in a seminar I received further confirmation that many digital artisans, although they make amazing things, do nothing at all to tell the world about them. Many don't know that a blog or facebook page, if well curated, provies public relations with potential clients who were looking for exactly that product. They have so much traditional manual culture but very little in marketing and web ability, which today are really necessary to get on the positive side of the economic balance.

MT: What do you do, or where do you go, when you are looking for new innovative ideas?

GR: I recharge by following the RSS feeds of over 200 blogs, the group "quelli del wow" on Facebook, and most of all, I listen to people in random encounters. The most beautiful things come out of trade shows in fields outside of my direct experience. For example, I was a fish out of water at a recent show called "Womens' Weekend," but I found a ton of creative ideas, innovate materials and marketing stimuli that I was pleased to be able to later share with my community.

At this point all we can do is thank Giovanni Re for his time (he says our questions were very thorough, but he's just being modest). We see many synergies between his community role and that of MakeTank, which intends to help young creatives and old artisans find out how it's easy and inexpensive to use new technologies (like those offered by Roland) and promote their creations through the web and social media.

Photo Credits: All photos are creative commons or used by permission by Giovanni Re and Roland from the following sources (1) and (2).


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