Massimo Orsini, CEO of innovative ceramics marker Mutina, discusses the brand’s new collection with Barber & Osgerby
It seems that 2016 is an important year for Mutina. The Italian ceramics brand had already existed for 30 years when, in 2006, it was bought by Massimo Orsini – the current CEO – and three other investors, with a clear and simple plan: to elevate the humble tile to an important object of design.
Now 10 years on and celebrating a decade since Orsini came to the helm, Mutina has built a core group of prestigious designers – Patricia Urquiola, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Rodolfo Dordoni, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Tokujin Yoshioka, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay of Raw Edges, Inga Sempè and Konstantin Grcic. Working as a tight-knit team, these designers have successfully managed to push the standard and standing of ceramic tiles within the design world.
“It was very important for me to try and bring high-end design into ceramics,” Orsini tells me at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, where Mutina exhibited ‘Puzzle’, a new collection by the English designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. “Ceramic is a fantastic material and we came to Mutina to try to convince other designers to use it to its full potential,” he adds. “We are the only ones in the design world to have a product like this.”
This latest addition to the Mutina collection came about after Patricia Urquiola, the first designer to work with the brand, introduced Barber & Osgerby to Orsini in Milan. “We immediately got on very well,” Orsini says. “I love to work with the people I like, and Edward and Jay’s passion and savoir faire is fantastic.”
Almost three years in the making, ‘Puzzle’ is described as a “game with infinite possibilities”. Based upon simple geometric shapes, the set of six graphic patterned tiles, three plain tiles and two symmetrical tiles, can be arranged in a variety of configurations. Each permutation forms a pattern that ebbs and flows with every new tile – sometimes abstract, sometimes growing into figuration.
The collection’s eight colourways take inspiration from European islands; the neutral colours of northern European islands of Faroe, Gotland, Aland, Anglesey and Skye and the warmer tones of the Crete, Milos and Murano in the Mediterranean add to the playful, endlessly customisable nature of this collection.
Perhaps it’s because it is breaking new ground, without the restrictions of convention or a long tradition of high-end ceramics design, that Mutina’s collections have been so innovative in the first decade since the brand embarked on a new creative direction. And, as Orsini tells me, he and his team will continue to try to push the potential of this ostensibly simple medium. “In the future we have a strange idea – we want to work with a contemporary artist,” he says. “We want to continue to explore new ways.”