Duccio Maria Gambi, to sleep in a bed of lavender

The language of cement fascinates him. And city landscapes offer plenty of inspiration. Yet nothing is quite as emotional to him as a night out camping, perhaps under the rain. Designer and artist from Tuscany Duccio Maria Gambi, who divides his time between Paris and Florence, seems to have a thousand eyes: always observing what surrounds him, translating each stimulus into sculptural pieces. Halfway between art and design.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm putting the finishing touches on works we'll present at Miart, with Nero Gallery Arezzo, and during Salone del Mobile, with Plusdesign.

Is there a design object you particularly admire?
Probably the architect lamp, in its many variations: it's an easily positionable light source, I love it because of its extreme flexibility. From a wider perspective, I'd say the pen cap: an intimate and essential micro-architecture. I'm quite influenced by Italian radicals of the 70s.

If you could live a day in the life of another creative person, who would you choose?
A musician, perhaps a jazz double bass or trombone player, because of the intensity and feeling with which they play, and because it's something I don't think I could ever do.

What are your professional objectives?
The main one is towards myself: to be able to bring to fruition the millions of ideas that inhabit my mind. And in some way to possess what moves me. To create a movement form the world to myself and from myself to the world. In commissioned projects, to solve my clients' problems and create spatial and relational dynamics through the furniture I create.

Have you noticed any major changes in the fields of design and art?
Projects are increasingly being freed from functionality. I enjoy seeing how, released from the bond of usability, one can still talk about objects. Apart from this, there's a proliferation of materials entering design from other neighboring fields. And there's a noticeable increase in the value given to manual labor, together with widespread research on the manipulation of matter. The concept of craftsman has developed into something akin to that of sculptor. However it's important to be able to broaden horizons without being phagocytized by the concept of art: to be able to still talk about design even when moving away from its basic definition.

Were there important turning points in your career?
Various. The lessons of Gianni Pettena in Florence and Pierluigi Nicolin in Milan. And a year-long experience at Atelier Van Lieshout: it opened up a world to me. On how to design, how to manufacture, how to work in a team, on the idea of scale in a project. Then my first exhibition, at Luisa delle Piane: it pushed me to believe in this. The first Miart with Nero and the first solo show at Plusdesign. Also sharing an atelier with sculptor Nicola Martini and the work in the home of fashion designer Gherardo Felloni in Paris.

Of your many projects, which are you most proud of and why?
I'd say my graduate thesis at Politecnico in Milan. I translated two types of architecture into furniture. It was an incredible creative process, with thousands of interesting leads. And then Chapitre 0, the project of guerilla furniture we founded in Paris: we'd go out at 8 in the evening and come back at 5 am. In that span of time we recovered materials, built with a handsaw and a battery-charged screwdriver, installed, and then went to bed. It was a real creative group effort: working with given materials, with few ways of modifying them and in such limited time. The reward was to see many people enjoy our silent and nocturnal work in the following months. I'm also proud of the book container/stand at gallery Jocelyn Wolff, because of the precise relationship between form and function.

Did you always dream of this job?
Yes, every since I started studying design I've always been attracted to this world and have worked my way in this direction. I like using so many tools, from watercolors to the cement mixer.

Can you tell us about an exhibition or art event you particularly enjoyed this year?
An exhibition I probably wouldn't have chosen to go to but that surprised me was the one dedicated to Louis Vuitton at the Grand Palais. I discovered the chest in its infinite customizations, that turn it into a unique transportable furnishing. And through it a way of traveling or even a definition of traveling itself, which we are no longer familiar with.

What are your primary sources of inspiration?
The city, and all its details. I think it's an infinite universe from which to draw inspiration. There's everything: relationships between forms, colors, materials, transparencies, fullness and emptiness, masses, finishes, eras and people. That's why I enjoy walking around without a set destination. It's like my laboratory, with pieces that came out wrong, pieces that are unfinished, mistakes and chance results, fragments of materials.

Can you describe a typical day for you?
I always start my day in the same way: I wake up at 7:03 and have breakfast. Once at the atelier, I have a nice cup of coffee, walk and meditate on the work in progress. Then every day takes its own direction, with a mix of variables including time in the lab, where I produce, and the studio, where I draw. And then inspections, transportation, installations.

How would you define your style?
I wouldn't really know... Brutal, sculptural, tactile?

What do you consider your greatest talent?
The people I surround myself with. And my dedication.

What are the main challenges in your line of work?
Sometimes it's hard to accept the fact that you'll never be able to do everything you wish you could. Also to technically understand there's a fundamental stage that occurs after an object is complete. Not to mention compromising with the client.

Can you reveal some of your favorite places?
I'm not familiar with many hotels. I know that outside of home I've spent the most enjoyable nights on a beach, on the grass, in front of a fire or in a van next to a lavender field. I also love camping, especially when it rains. The same goes for restaurants. The only exception is Rinuccio 1180, the bistro of Antinori in Bargino: my brother is the chef.

What is your home like?
It's a small and welcoming house, with many light sources, books, small objects collected here and there, some works by artist friends. It's not special per se, but because of my three flat mates: my son, my partner, my cat.

Is there a motto you live by?
I'm definitely a fatalist. I think what counts is your attitude and choosing the right perspective with which to look at things.

Interview by Marzia Nicolini
© ducciomariagambi.com

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