Cover Elena Salmistraro

She creates playful designs and has a distinctive aesthetic that allows her to stand out

A visit to Elena Salmistraro’s colourful studio feels akin to travelling into a parallel world full of wonder and whimsy—from anthropomorphic figures to vases in the shapes of fantastic beasts, her oeuvre encompasses a vibrant array of ceramics, furniture and accessories.

Her distinctive aesthetic has made her highly sought-after, given her work as an artist, a curator and as a product designer. During our visit to her studio in Milan, she talked us through her two biggest passions: drawing and ceramics.

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What sparked your interest in ceramics?
Elena Salmistraro (ES)
After some brief stints with design studios, I felt the need to challenge myself with a more solid material. I took ceramic courses at the Cova school in Milan, and I started modelling vases and an infinite number of useless objects that helped me to understand the secrets and potential of this material. I also bought a small oven that I still have in the studio.

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How did you turn your passion for ceramics into a career?
ES
My formal experiments allowed me to be selected to be part of an exhibition at Superstudio during Milan Design Week in 2012. I presented conceptual objects made with the materials I knew best, and above all, are completely handmade. These caught the attention of Andrea Branzi and Silvana Annicchiarico who selected me for The New Italian Design exhibition.

After that, I started collaborating with companies like Bosa Ceramiche. It has been a dream come true—with these brands, I can bring my knowledge of ceramics to a higher level while having fun and trying to create something new and fascinating.

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Tell us more about how your drawings shape your design process.
ES
I draw continuously; I’ve always done it and I couldn’t do without it. I know how to tell a story with a drawing and to load it with positivity and joy. The dialogue between two-dimensional design and the three-dimensional object is something that fascinates me very much.

Recently, I realised that I have been drawing a character that looks like me, and I confess that it has been a kind of a shock, as I would never want my ego to take over my alter ego. Another recurrent element in my drawings is a big eye—it represents my grandfather, perhaps the person I love the most in my life.

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