DZ: In a negative economic situation, the greatest problems that artisans have to face are above all those regarding credit, tax pressure and competitiveness, not least given tough international competition (which is sometimes also anticompetitive). The Lombardy Regional Authorities have always worked in three main directions: increasing the system of guarantees, encouraging investments and, last but not least, research, innovation and internationalisation. For craftsmanship in particular we should remember there are credit guarantees (around 3 billion Euro), refinancing with 48 million Euro of the regional Fund for financial incentives for artisans, and the “Made in Lombardy” fund which has access to 400 million Euro in loans. Two specific projects have been launched to stimulate internationalisation and technological innovations respectively. Spring has been formed to offer a permanent form of support to Lombard companies on international markets, research into new openings and new opportunities. Another project named Spriint offers businesses the consultancy services of a Temporary Innovation Mediator (MTI), a professional figure trained specially to be able to work alongside and support entrepreneurs in the choices made for managing their innovation projects. Last but by no means least is the tangible support given for employment: this takes the form of profound, continuative measures that encourage artisan businesses hiring staff on a permanent contract in the “weaker” categories. What evolution do you see occurring in the metiers d’art, from a production standpoint? In other words, how is the figure of the maitre d’art evolving today? Do they tend to be metropolitan artisans, designers with manual skills or up-
and-coming experts in know-how? DZ: The word “evolution” might seem like a contradiction in terms when we are talking about the artisan sector: it is a sphere founded on tradition, on ancient techniques and secrets, handed down from father to son, or from teacher to pupil. Yet the approach that artisans have adopted today does actually embrace technology and exploits it to its own advantages; not to replace the artisan, mind, but on the contrary, innovation is placed at the service of the “human factor”. In effect, today we are witnessing an “artistic” revaluation of craftsmanship in a trend that is increasingly linking it with contemporary art and design, with creativity in the most noble sense of the word. In practice there is a return to the time-honoured principles of craftsmanship: in the Renaissance, the workshop was the centre of artistic creation, where the various Michelangelos and Raffaellos taught and trained their pupils. What, in your opinion, are the main obstacles preventing the metiers d’art from entering the hearts of young people? DZ: Let’s be honest, the work of the artisan is tough. Hours and hours of work, the difficulties involved in learning the work, tiredness from manual work, the concentration needed in each phase of creation. These are by no means the most popular models in our contemporary society, which is dominated by speed, mass production and often by superficiality at the cost of quality. Undoubtedly there is also a lack of knowledge regarding work that can be incredibly rewarding and which risked disappearing. The Councillor’s office for Artisans and Services has provided a great deal of commitment in this sense, attempting to “publicise” this fascinating world and acquaint young people with it. By way of example, there is the
Artigianato&Scuola (Craftsmanship & School) project, the main scope of which over the last few years has been to promote craftsmanship in many schools throughout Lombardy. Then there is the Decò (Design and Competitiveness) project, which puts young designers into direct contact with companies with an end to producing something. What prospects do the metiers d’art and craftsmanship in general offer young people starting out in the world of work? DZ: In a period of crisis, craftsmanship can doubtless provide a solution. As I mentioned before, artisan businesses account for around one third of Lombardy’s companies. It is a dynamic field, made up of men and women with new and highly valid ideas. In this sense, two important initiatives have been staged by Lombardy’s Regional Authorities and Unioncamere Lombardy, in conjunction with Lombardy’s artisan Associations (Casartigiani, CLAAI, CNA and Confartigianato), which have now reached the third edition: Artis is an excellence award which to date has been given to 230 artisan businesses, based on rules of excellence drafted by the Lombardy Regional Authorities, whilst Benchart is a project which aims to support artisan businesses and small-tomedium size companies attempting to improve their performance. In practice it provides companies an opportunity to compare notes constructively, allowing them to grow with the people that comprise them. I personally have seen many examples of young people who have embarked on artisan careers and small or micro-businesses, and who with their own determination have now written their own chapters of personal success and professional excellence.
brand new number of Artigianato tra arte e deisgn