Italian designer Rossella Tornquist is coming to town next February, to teach a workshop on Italian jewellery to Cambodian students. The workshop is part of the The Knot, a project started by the Italian writer Luciana Damiani and her husband, the architect Alberto Cannetta, to train Khmer adolescents in how to craft metals into jewellery.
Rossella Tornquist was born in Italy in 1954, and has been working as a jewellery designer since the early 1980s.
“Together with fashion, design is an Italian skill, rooted in the artistic tradition of our country,” Luciana said. “The Khmer population also has an important artistic tradition, but local handicraft is repetitive and always produces the same objects without any sort of innovation.
“We thought that with our experience we could help people here to make a step forward.”
The project, led with the assistance of Father Mario Grezzi, involves planning a two year silverware course with local teachers.
In addition to learning how to work silver, the students receive a lunch and a small stipend, to compensate for money they could have been earning elsewhere.
“We also bring them to museums and exhibitions to meet local artists,” Luciana said.
The aim of the course is to diversify the Khmer silverware trinkets market, and help people to forge more sophisticated objects.
“Not the common ethnic items, lovely but all identical,” Luciana said. “These objects have saturated the markets of the entire world. We aim to give these young people self-esteem through the pride of producing something beautiful.”
Due to the obstacle of language however, choosing the teachers is always a difficult task.
“It is not enough to be an artist or a designer. The designer does not only have to design, he/she also needs to be able to work with his/her hands and communicate beyond words.”
So far however, the experience has been successful. The workshop taught last year by the sculptor Renzo Biaghetti was very satisfying for both the artist and the students.
“The kids only spoke Khmer and Renzo only few words of English. Father Mario translated at the beginning and then Renzo kept going with gestures, and with drawing,” Luciana said.
“They spoke different languages but Renzo was somehow able to connect with them, to make them to understand him. And it worked. In a short time the students were all able to reproduce Renzo’s artworks with their same light and shape. Renzo spent his 60th birthday with them. It was the best birthday of his life, sitting at that table, where people could understand eachother through art, without having to use words.”