Last September one of our Makers, Elisa Radice, won the MiBAC Special Prize of the DAB (Design for Artshop and Bookshop) contest, with her City Stencil project: a collection of round stencils customized with iconic images of different Italian art cities. Elisa’s project was selected because it can evoke the symbols of the most famous Italian art cities using a system which is easy to implement, replicable at low cost and simple to use every day.

MiBAC (the Italian Culture Ministry) and GAI (Circuito dei Giovani Artisti Italiani, or Young Artists’ Circuit) will now fund the production of a batch of City Stencils, to be sold in numerous museum bookshops and art-shops, after being customized for the specific city or museum where they will be distributed.

Elisa Radice with her City Stencils at Museo Ferrari, Modena

Elisa has already told us about her products but we decided to interview her again, to talk about this new experience and the products she designs for the kitchen, a place so simple for us but with very specific needs from a Maker’s point of view. But, first of all, the DAB contest: "Having my ideas selected by a panel of MiBAC and GAI experts has been a big pleasure. We were asked to design objects to be sold in special places like museum bookshops, and I had been thinking for a long time about customizing my stencils with something that can remind people of our country. Mixing this idea with low production costs and ease of manufacturing, it was possible to create City Stencils. I’m very happy that my idea is the winning one."

Design entered the kitchen a long time ago, but not so many independent Makers specialize in creating objects for this part of our home. For Elisa everything comes from the idea of keeping this space in touch with all the emotions of everyday life. "I think that a modern, and above all ironic, kitchen must take inspiration from our times. Social networks are an integral part of our lives, I can’t see why they can’t be with us also in the kitchen. The best part of design is exactly taking inspiration from modernity and the world around us to create products with an undeniable practical utility."

The Facebook "like" stencil, ready for a social-cappuccino

For the kitchen, Elisa created a cork potholder and a collection of cappuccino stencils, both inspired by social networks, but also a spaghetti-portioner in the shape of a Vespa and a line of Zodiac cappuccino stencils. Many of these products share the same philosophy: start from a simple design and then customize it in different versions. "They were created to be personalized - says Elisa - even in small runs for a specific need, like a modern and useful gadget".

Elisa is offering her own themes, of course, "But if a customer wants something different, maybe for a special place or event, I can customize almost everything: design, dimensions, shape, color, material. I’m using techniques and materials that let me experiment without limits. It’s possibile to personalize an existing object changing, for example, its logo, but also to create something from scratch following buyer’s specifications."

City Stencil first samples: Venice, Pisa and, behind them, Rome

Motivating the MiBac Special Prize, the jury underlined a key winning factor in Elisa’s products: their low cost. This, says Elisa, "It’s exactly one of the benefits of new production technologies: being able to manufacture at low cost even in small runs, without having to turn to big companies. I use laser-cut plexiglass, wood and cork sheets. Laser cutting lets me test different materials and make low cost prototypes to verify a product’s real potentiality. In theory, there is no limit to the materials you can use."

When you design products that will be used in specific environments, of course, your choices aren’t so wide. In a kitchen, for example, "you have to consider some very practical issues. Your products will be cleaned in running water or in a dishwasher, that’s why plastic and plexiglass are the most appropriate materials. Luckily, I can choose from infinite shades of colors!"


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