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Industrial/Medieval: A Conversation with Lorenzo Santoni

Summer 2016
Summer 2016
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Roberto Mannino is an Italian-American artist and art educator based in Rome. He studied printmaking (Calcografia Nazionale, Rome, 1982–84) and sculpture (BFA, 1980, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence). Mannino began making paper in 1995. He currently teaches in Rome for US colleges abroad (Cornell University, Temple University, Loyola University Chicago) and occasionally in the States at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Mannino has conducted papermaking workshops at Dieu Donné, Cooper Union, and Pyramid Atlantic in the States, and at art centers in Denmark, Austria, and Italy. In his art practice Mannino privileges paper relief as a format, using flax, hemp, and abaca to achieve parchment-like surfaces and tension around objects embedded in the paper. His work ranges from drawing to watermarks, to printmaking, relief, and installation. With an interdisciplinary approach, Mannino searches for diverse solutions to activate the unique properties of paper and process in defining an art form. ROBERTO MANNINO (RM): Lorenzo, at age 24, you are a young professional in hand papermaking based in the city of Fabriano. How many fellows like you are working in the field?  LORENZO SANTONI (LS): No others really. Hand papermaking has drastically   dropped since the closing of the hand mill section of Cartiere Milani after   it was privatized by Fedrigoni. Students who choose to work in the paper   industry go straight into the mechanized production system where they do   not even see the real process.  RM: How did you develop your interest in papermaking?  LS: I originally studied agronomy, then I worked in the solar-panel mounting   business, but I wanted to do something different. My grandfather was   a traditional papermaker.

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According to the Fedrigoni Foundation Archives, housed in the Istocarta Museum in Fabriano, my grandfather started as a lavorente (vat man) in 1943 in the Miliani Mill, then he worked with the sizing machines. Shortly after my grandfather passed away, I decided to undertake a six-month internship at the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana. At first I thought of it more as an experiment than a possible occupation. I began the internship during a cold January, slowly gaining confidence of the Museum's papermakers Roberto and Bruno, learning the main aspects of the craft under the guidance of master papermaker Luigi Mecella, a very special and generous man. rm: What impressed you most of this experience? ls: Beside the interesting museum-related activities, I enjoyed sheet forming, where both human labor and the machine join together in the effort of perfecting a manual job to achieve high quality and efficiency of means. I love to make sheet after sheet. I also encountered creative projects, like when the young English artist Kate Eve came to the museum to collaborate with master Franco Librari in creating her original chiaroscuro watermark, from the wax original to the shaped copper-mesh screen. rm: After the Museo della Carta internship you participated in a UNESCO seminar. Can you tell me more about that? ls: In September 2013 I took this useful course focused on promoting individual initiatives and marketing paper products. Afterwards I decided to start my Industrial/Medieval: A Conversation with Lorenzo Santoni roberto mannino Lorenzo Santoni Handmade Paper's double-L watermark stands for his name and that of his mentor Luigi Mecella. The watermark was fabricated by Santoni's uncle Claudio Passeri. All photos courtesy of Lorenzo Santoni. Summer own lab and paper production. Also thanks to this course, Fabriano was appointed in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. To continue my studies I followed the suggestions of Lynn Sures and Sue Gosin and applied for an apprenticeship at Dieu Donné in New York City. rm: How did it go there? ls: It was a wonderful experience. It was my first time in New York City. I met new people, learned new techniques and tools, and tried new fibers. Before I only worked with cotton linters, which I still prefer as a fiber for my needs, but these other ones—such as denim, abaca, and linen—are exciting as well. I still believe that cotton is the best for all grades of heavyweight drawing and watercolor paper. rm: What did you like at Dieu Donné? What are the differences between the Dieu Donné world and yours? ls: First of all I enjoyed the creative environment and the spirit there. I appreciated the use of different fibers and their interaction, certain use of coloring, the drying-box system, and particularly the deckle box and the use of formation aid to slow down drainage. Beforehand I only knew how to control drainage time by greasing down the fibers in the Hollander, fibrillating and refining the pulp, although historically in Fabriano this kind of treatment is not needed. In Italy my main concerns are the technical aspects related to optimizing sheet forming and the accuracy of paper thickness and weight. At Dieu Donné, the issues were more related to beating and forming sheets with a large variety of fibers. Since June 2014 I am working in my own studio, equipped with a new 100-ton hydraulic press and a 14-pound Hollander beater. I am making large sheets of 100-percent cotton linters, from 200 to 800 gsm (grams per square meter), for drawing and watercolor. I work with a traditional 56 x 76-centimeter Western mould, with a wove surface (velina), affixed with my own watermark, Lorenzo Santoni Handmade Paper. I work as both vat man and coucher. Usually my posts consist of 70 felts, 40 centimeters high, and I can handle a maximum of 3 posts a day, though this varies according to the specific needs of the order. rm: What kind of felts are you using? ls: I only use woolen felts because they impress a beautiful texture on the surface when dried by loft air drying, a process that does not put any stress on the paper surface. rm: How do you size your papers? ls: For watercolor papers I tub size with AKD emulsion and surface size with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). rm: Tell me about your concept of Industrial/Medieval? ls: It is what I do, who I am. I strive for pureness of technical exactitude; it is the way I am trying to grow artistically. After my broadening experience at Dieu Donné, I returned to the Fabriano sheet-forming tradition that I originally learned at the museum. rm: What plans do you have for your future? ls: Right now I am experimenting with large size moulds (90 x 66 centimeters). In the future I look forward to possible collaborations, more creative experiences, and an increase in my production of custom-made paper products.