“You have to know stone intensely to be able to work with it,” explains Magda Masano, from Catania in Sicily. Luckily her family’s business is the production of marble and stone building materials, so she grew up with this understanding of materials and also techniques. Extending the family business, she now combines digital technology with local traditions and materials through her line of accessories and jewelry in lava stone.

Masano Marmi was founded in the 1950s by Magda’s grandfather, who worked stone for decorative building elements using traditional methods. Her father followed in his footsteps, introducing some technology into the business, and developing the home paving and accessories areas.

Magda grew up in Catania, which she describes as a warm and exciting town with beautiful Baroque architecture and a strong personality. She went away to study architecture first in Reggio Calabria, then in Seville for her masters. Although many Sicilians find it necessary to leave their native land to find work, she opted to return home and keep the family business going. Like her father, she also has a vision of how to develop the business beyond that promoted by the previous generation.

In Catania, lava stone is everywhere. People walk on it. Young people snob their noses at the idea of it as something rather antique. But Magda says “I want to make it possible to LIVE with lava stone – we walk on it and we cover our walls or floors with it, but nobody would think of making a bracelet out of it! I want to stretch the limits of this material.”

Braccialissimo, a lavastone bangle, is for sale on MakeTank

In her work, she follows traditions, but adds her own personal touch and technique in the use of lava stone. “I have the good luck of being about to make just about anything I want, thanks to my studies in architecture, and to the access to machines and materials through the family business. I know stone very well, but also have studied chemistry and architecture, so I can connect design with material in order to make things that function or come out properly when you cut it. Devi fare amicizia con il materiale! You need to make friends with the material!”

Magda designs essential, simple and often geometric elements, first on paper, then in AutoCAD. The digital designs are then uploaded to a CNC water jet cutter that cuts to a precision level of 1mm, where she cuts the thick slabs of lava stone that she’s had specially prepared for the purpose of creating jewelry and home accessories – for a pavement or wall decoration, you would use a much thinner piece of stone.

A cube of lava stone decorated directly with glaze

Once the shapes are ready, she works with white or coloured glazes, always leaving part of the stone visible to create a playful contrast between natural and woman-made. Some also have a layer of hand-painted decoration of a more traditional type, but speaking with Magda one gets the sense that she prefers the more essential, geometric pieces. Like with maiolica, the painted pieces are put in the kiln at 900 degrees. This process took a fair amount of experimentation, requiring time taken away from the daily running of the business, which is Madga’s main “job,” but as she says, this is what she does for fun!

Elephants: the shape is essential, but the decoration is classic Sicilian

Touching the lava stone jewelry, you realize just what a feat it is to work with this heavy material. Madga really has found a way to be it’s friend, both controlling it but also letting it shine through.

 

Leave a reply