Sustainable Italian design company Mattiazzi have become known for their unique approach to industrialised wood production.
Mattiazzi factory in Udine, Italy.
From a small Italian workshop to one of contemporary furniture designs' leading manufacturers, Mattiazzi have become known for their unique approach to industrialised wood production. While their commitment to the latest technology has played a key role in their success, it is the human touch that ultimately brings each design to life.
Mattiazzi build long lasting relationsships with designers such as Jasper Morrison (left), Sam Hecht and Kim Colin (Top Right) and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec (Bottom right)
Mattiazzi began as a family-run wood workshop, started in 1979 by brothers Nevio and Fabiano Mattiazzi. Back then, however, they were behind the scenes of modern design, lending their talents to the production of top quality wooden chairs for large-scale manufacturers.
Mattiazzi are based in Udine, Northern Italy an area of exceptional beauty renowned for it's chair production.
Yet Mattiazzi are still known for their dedication to the craft. Their factory, which Nevio and Fabiano run to this day, is situated in San Giovanni, an unassuming village in the region of Udine. At the heart of the Italian Chair District, the municipality is affectionately known along with two others as ‘The Chair Triangle’. For centuries, these villages have been renowned for their woodworkers and artisans, collectively producing more than 40 million chairs from that region alone.
From turning small parts for traditional wooden chairs, Mattiazzi has evolved their methods, yet their commitment to woodcraft has never wavered. It is perhaps these humble beginnings that have allowed them to develop and grow over time, while never straying too far from their artisanal roots.
With no wholly plastic or metal designs in sight, woodwork has remained at the heart of Mattiazzi’s design philosophy. Wood furniture has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, and the brand’s smart investment in CNC manufacturing equipment has ensured that they remain ahead of the curve.
To see Mattiazzi’s robotic milling machines in action is an impressive feat. The eight axis robot meticulously sculpts every piece, twisting and turning through the air with a graceful sense of ease. They are used not only to achieve a specific radius but also to shape and curve, creating designs that simply wouldn’t be possible without the kind of innovative machinery that Mattiazzi has invested in.
But it is not the machines alone that create the brand’s distinctive designs. Behind Mattiazzi’s sophisticated robots, there is a team of expert craftsmen; both man and machine together manipulating the wood in the most complex of ways. The resulting designs are comprised of shapes usually reserved for the manufacture of injection-moulded plastic.
As industrial designer Jonathan Olivares once wrote in their catalogue:
“Operating such a machine is an art, and Mattiazzi disproves the modern myth that mechanized manufacturing is not a craft”
The precision of the machine and the skills of the craftsmen work perfectly in sync, the process for each chair a meticulously calculated series of steps. The final finesse, that gives each product their unique tactility, can be achieved only by hand.
The Branca Chair and Stool in production at the Mattiazzi factory.
In fact, many of their designs would not be possible were it not for the talents of their team. Made up of a series of elegant lines, the Branca Chair is inspired by the branches of a tree. To sit in it, or even touch it, you don’t get the sense that it was crafted by a computer. For the chair to work, the creation of each element must follow a specific order of execution, from the careful wood selection through to the final hand-sanding. The hands-on element of its construction is retained throughout Branca’s final form, resulting in comfort to the eye, body and hand.
With such a strong sense of identity, some designs, it seems, are destined to be created in the Mattiazzi factory. Speaking of his new Zampa Stool, Jasper Morrison said:
“Quite often when designing, one’s sense of a brand takes over and you do something that feels right for who you’re designing it for. That’s the case here. It just suggested itself as a Mattiazzi product”
Likewise, it was Mattiazzi’s dedication to wood that drew the Bouroullecs towards them, a partnership that began with their Osso Chair and since evolved to a multitude of other designs. Speaking of their decision to work with them, Ronan Bouroullec said:
“While they do use machines, they also invest a lot of time in hand-crafting and hand-finishing their pieces and for me, this passion for exceptional skills expressed perfectly what Mattiazzi wants to achieve. There are not a lot of companies that can do this, and that really is the basic point to the range – we wanted to reveal their amazing skills.”
And it is those unique skills that make Mattiazzi extraordinary to this day; a fine example for furniture production of handcraft in the technology age.
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