“Nice to Meet You” features a series of conversations with inspiring people from all over the world during their daily life to discover their purpose and values.
1. Hi Natalia, it's so nice to have you here! For those who don't know you, would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi, I'm so glad to be here with you! My name is Natalia Criado, I'm an industrial designer and I moved to Milan four years ago. I studied industrial design at the IED in Milan and, after graduation, I returned to Colombia where I started with my own studio to experiment with different materials and collaborate with local artisans. Afterward, I wondered why I didn't continue my profession in Italy and so I returned to Milan after almost eight years. I decided to come back with the project I was working on, which is called "Joyas en Casa". The name literally means "jewelry for the table" and includes a selection of metal objects created using techniques typical of jewelry making.
2. If you had to sum it up in a few words, what is your philosophy in life and work?
My philosophy in life has always been based on doing what makes me truly happy, doing what I can to follow and achieve my dreams. I have chosen to live my life taking it lightly and calmly to avoid complicating something that, in itself, is already quite complicated.
The philosophy I follow in my work is the creation of a handmade product that is unique and tells a story. In every object, you should also be able to catch a glimpse of the dialogue between the designer and the craftsman, the time it takes to produce it and the values that led to its creation. In short, what I want to offer my clients is a portrait of an emotion and a certain kind of energy. In every object I create, I put my soul, my head and my heart into it.
3. Now let's talk about your spaces. As someone who lives between two continents, how important is it to feel like your home is truly yours? What is your approach to designing spaces and what role do they play in your life?
I think my apartment totally captures my philosophy of life.
I like to start my day with daily rituals, such as having my coffee in the morning in a cup that makes me happy and stirring the sugar with a nice spoon.
Designing my home is a long process and it's something I'm slowly working on, so that I can create more objects to introduce into my daily routines and create little rituals that make me feel good.
Each object in my collections is part of my daily experience, from when we get up in the morning to drink coffee, to dinner time when we share a moment with others. They are objects for the table made specifically to experience a moment of sharing with other people or to take time alone and make our habits rituals. For example, in the afternoon I like to light a scented candle that warms the room and pour some perfume, they are small details that make my daily life more beautiful and mark the passing of time.
All the research, the creation of moodboards and sketches, when I have to develop and design a collection, is always done here in my studio, as it is the place where I feel most relaxed and inspired.
4. Tell us a little bit about the "Joyas en Casa" collection. Where does it come from and where does it get its inspiration?
The "Joyas en Casa" collection was born with cutlery and the first version was the so-called "hand" cutlery. To create them I used different techniques, including lost wax and also a 3D technology, with the aim of strengthening the craftsmanship of an object with the help of technology to achieve a new result. Each piece is individually made by hand and it takes about 3 hours of work for each one.
As for the choice of the hand, I was inspired by the Etruscan population, who used it as a symbol of fraternity: the idea is that, when you take the cutlery in your hand, you have the feeling of being in contact with someone else and taking their own hand.
My work is highly influenced by pre-Columbian shapes: I create shapes inspired by the past of my land and South America, so in each of my creations there is often a lot of research and work on the geometries of the object.
5. What do you feel you have in common with Artknit in your projects?
My projects definitely have many things in common with Artknit, such as the fact that they are all handcrafted productions, to support a know-how that is likely to be lost over time and create a unique product, different from any other industrial product.
In addition, the choice of high-quality materials that have a low impact on the environment, in fact, I decided to select only materials that have been produced responsibly or recycled. The brass is recycled and a very important part of my work is that we don't use chemicals in the workshop when we work with metals, which is very common in the traditional market.
Like Artknit, my collections are made-to-order, so that each item is produced only after the customer purchases it. In this way, I avoid wasting resources and I can customize the items, for example by changing the stones or a specific shape.
Last but not least, the philosophy behind my projects: the slow living one. In my work, I want that the products I create become an important part of the life of the person who will keep them in their house, that they become part of their routine, that they make their life a little bit more beautiful and allow them to take some time for themselves.
6. If you had to define yourself, would you feel more like a designer or an entrepreneur?
I feel like a creative entrepreneur, in the sense that I was born as a creative, but over time I had to become an entrepreneur because I follow all of the production phases and the sales, starting from the raw materials to the finished product, up to the management of relationships with customers and with the artisans with whom I work.
7. Which are the values behind your project?
One of the things I care most about in my work is definitely the creation of high-quality products with a low impact on the environment, and this is where my decision to use recycled and reclaimed materials comes from.
Secondly, the importance of craftsmanship, of the contact of the material with the hands of those who are working it. The techniques we use are very old and the idea behind my work is to be able to redeem these techniques that are being lost with industrialization, such as the art of goldsmith or glass.
The relationship with the craftsmen I think is the most important part of this work because it would be a dream for me to be a craftsman but, not being born with that skill, my work also deals with creating a dialogue with the craftsman, where we both communicate: I am responsible for visualizing and proposing the objective of the project, while the craftsman. with his knowledge, manual and technical skills can give light to these ideas, creating a team that works for the same purpose, albeit in a different way.
8. We were amazed by the "Alone Together" project that you carried out in Colombia. Would you like to tell us something more about it?
"Alone Together" is a project that I carried out in 2020. At that time, I was in Colombia in an inland town called Raquira, which is famous for terracotta, and we asked our designer and artist friends to send us a drawing of a vase and, together with a group of local artisans, we created the vases portrayed in those drawings. So, the project was mainly based on the dynamic of dialogue between the designer and the artisan through technology, in order to transform an imagined object into reality.
9. In your opinion, what is the future of craftsmanship? How should it evolve or change in order to still play a relevant role in today's society?
I think that people today do not give the same value to craftsmanship as they used to, but slowly they are realizing the value that actually lies behind it. I believe that helping craftsmanship to survive and to redeem techniques that would otherwise be lost is the responsibility of designers, making it clear that behind a product there is a great story of passion, values and technique.
With Paolo (the goldsmith with whom she collaborates, ed.) we often talk about the future of craftsmanship and of his workshop. His sons would like to become goldsmiths, but most of the other artisans' sons don't want to do manual jobs because they are jobs for which you have to have a strong passion and that is seen as something lower than intellectual work in our society.
From industrialization, they also wanted to industrialize metalworking and that's when the ancient techniques were lost.
Metalworking, however, cannot be industrialized because you can make molds, but then you have to work the product with your hands and, moreover, you can't do that with materials like silver and brass. It's an area where technology can't compete, precisely because you can't - and shouldn't - industrialize.
In Colombia, artisan techniques are being redeemed, but since the sons don't want to do the same job as their parents, designers are educating new people with the help of artisans. The idea is to introduce new materials and techniques to make craftsmanship more appealing to new generations. Tradition, but with a bit of innovation.