Elisa Radice appears twice on MakeTank's store with her wall clocks under the brand name Design185 and her funky jewelry at Casa94. You will never guess the origin of the names - they come from the catasto (city planning) office map number of her home (casa) and design laboratory! Both product lines have their material and production technique in common, since Elisa works with water jet cut aluminum. This is not a very common technique amongst makers, and in fact she first came into contact with this in another creative context: "I can into contact with this technique about a year ago through a friend who uses water jet cutting for entirely different purposes," explains Elisa, "and I understood that, compared to other methods of cutting, this can cut thicker and different material without altering its properties."

Amongst the best materials for water jet cutting is aluminum, which is what Elisa has chosen to work with at the moment, which she has judged appropriate to make the modern and attractive pieces that were her goal. The ideal thickness, she found, of this material is 4mm. Her first prototypes were satisfying, with a result in line with her expectations, "both in terms of ease of carrying out the work and in the materiality of the pieces. In fact, the thickness, applied to my wall clocks, create a nice light and shadow effect on the wall that I find very interesting. I ended up with products that, beyond functionality, decorate the wall in an ironic manner... so, goal acheived!" The choice of a brushed finish is also connected to a sensibility for this material, as Elisa explains: "the brushing creates a material effect that you just want to touch to understand what it feels like. I also tried to colour the metal with various kinds of sprays and paints, but they lost plasticity and looked to flat, an effect that I don't think gives any value to the aluminum as a material. If I want colour I will work with something already coloured, like plexiglass."

Elisa is, in fact, interested in exploring cutting other materials, not just plexiglass: "I will soon be picking up some things made in cork that I ordered from a laser cutting service, products intended for kitchen use. I am also designing some other small accessories that range from home to fashion. I was thinking that, upon request, the kitchen or home accessories can be personalized for a special event like a wedding shower or baby shower, instead of the boring and traditional bomboniere."

The world clock in water jet cut aluminum has dots to represent the continents

One best understands the products Elisa designs if one looks at the path she took to get here. She attended an artistic high school in Monza, then got a degree in fashion design at the Politecnico di Milano, then continued her studies to become a graphic artist for advertising, and worked in this field. All these experiences contributed to the development of skills that she now applies to the perfect production of her objects. "To make these products, you have to know how to use vectorial programs since the cutting machines read these digital files. Plus you have to look for the right comproise between form and production, because the more lines the machine has to cut, the more it costs. You learn from your mistakes, though I try to get it right the first time by doing some sample pieces and analyzing the vectorial lines one by one to see how each project could best be optimized without sacrificing the form I have in mind."

Where does she get her inspirations? "From photos taken around town, often of street art and stencils; flipping through a magazine or thinking of how to apply a form to a different function, like the Lampadina wall Clock which is in the shape of a lightbulb. Sometimes ideas come while I am doodling while talking on the phone. Others come from feelings, like the World wall clock [pictured above], meant to help remember your travels. Right now it's only available in aluminum but soon you will be able to choose from other bases."

Necklace available on MakeTank

Casa94 is a sub-product line of Design185, not in a reductive sense (if anything, the contrary) but for their synergistic relationship with one another. The Casa94 line at the moment contains designer necklaces that combine brushed aluminum with textiles. Elisa explains that the idea came "while making the first prototypes for the wall clocks: I noticed that the process created waste material between the vectorial lines for these products, and I didn't want to throw these pieces out. So I cut then with a hand saw and made holes with a drill to make a pendant, and of course I brushed the metal. At the same time I was making bags out of flat knit yarn so I used some of this to invent a unique pendant."

Here, too, Elisa notes that any other material you can cut could be used to make products in this line. "I find it really interesting to take on the challenge of not throwing anything out from a single sheet of material. Now that I am designing for laser cut I will do the same thing, trying to make something with the negative space. It is an unusual approach because every time you end up with different shapes, so you create a very unique item that is even more appreciated. You've got to have an eye for salvaging material that would otherwise be thrown out."
Inspired? Buy Elisa's creations at Design185 and Casa94.


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