PLASTIC LANDSCAPESince the Middle Ages Prato has shaped most of its urban and social identity through the textile industry. This... Read More
Since the Middle Ages Prato has shaped most of its urban and social identity through the textile industry. This entrepreneurial sentiment dates back traditionally to Francesco Datini, one of the most influent merchants of the late 14th century, whose statue stands in front of Palazzo del Comune in the heart of the historic city centre. Thanks to his forethinking ideas the textile manufacture and trade kicked off, setting down the foundations of Prato's development, and contributing to create a series of stereotypical characters such as the 'Impannatore', that still nowadays recalls the rootsof Prato's textile economy and fortune.
In fact, throughout history, but especially since the Second World War, the people of Prato have done business in their likeness, by creating a very personal system to represent something unique in the industrial world. The production model that has always characterised Prato does not rely on large factories, but it’s based on a dense network of small and very small companies that play a specific role toward a bigger picture, as a small gear in a large machine. The fabric production cycle rarely takes place within a single company. In contradiction to the entrepreneurial trend to merge separate industrial activities into a single body in order to reduce cost in Prato each phase of the production(spinning, warping, weaving, dyeing and finishing) is the speciality of a single company, totally independent from the others, and in close competition.
The figure of the 'Impannatore' working on behalf of third parties, entrusts the individual phases of the production cycle to the various companies, moving the wheels of the complex industrial machine of Prato. He is a truly unique professional, playing a role somewhere between the entrepreneur and the trader. After having prepared a sample of fabrics, the impannatore strives to find a buyer for his products. Once the order has been placed, the impannatore manages the production steps in the network: first the supply of raw materials, followed by spinning and dyeing, then warping, and finally weaving. Once the raw fabric is ready, the impannatore consignes it to the factory specialised in finishing, and then subsequently packages it and he delivers the final product to the customer.
Loyal to its eccentricity Prato's industry is therefore moving in the opposite direction to the usual model: dispersion rather than centralisation, and plurality rather than uniformity. This formula has proved to be successful over time, not only to stimulate efficiency and competitiveness, but also to allow the development and the maintenance of independent companies in the area. Still today the city is considered one of the largest centres in Europe for the production of yarns and fabrics, especially wool, that is still largely preserving the division of the manufacturing cycle between companies.
The manufacturing heritage is also directly reflected in the city's appearance. The production is mostly carried out by small companies, often family run, in sheds built next to the house known in slang as "stanzoni". Travelling through the city neighbourhoods and suburbs it is easy to read in the architecture and street fronts a unique osmosis between inhabited area and industry, between home and factory, where the entrepreneurial tradition goes alongside the history that crosses the streets from the central areas to its outskirts. It is therefore easy to bump into evocative objects that tell of Prato's industrial heritage. One of these is the 'Rocchetto' (textile spool), an element that has always been used in spinning machinery, consisting of a cylindrical core onto which the textile thread is wound. Its hollow shape allows the spool to be placed on a support of the sewing machines, where it can spin and unwind constantly in an orderly manner. Always used inweaving, the spools are one of the very symbols of yarn and therefore of Prato's history. Over the ages different types of materials have been used such as metal, wood or cardboard. In recent decades, plastic has become the most commonly used material due to its practicality, economy and efficiency.
Mariplast Spa is one of the leading manufacturers and innovators in the field of textile bobbins, specialised in a rich variety of plastic models for winding all yarns from natural fibres to the latest synthetic materials. The plastic of the spools are potentially recyclable, as they can be taken back by the company where they are subsequently used to make new elements, through a process with a lower environmental impact than a production from raw material, by keeping the temperatures below 200°C.
The spool is for us the element that best portraits Prato's industrial identity. Its modularity and chromatic richness and reversibility of the plastic material, together with the object's strong iconographic value, are the basis for the work for the art Biennale Countless Cities 2021 in Favara (https://www.countlesscities.com) promoted by Farm Cultural Park, whose theme focussed on the city as the playground where our present and future is played out. We focussed on the aspect of good business looking for companies committed to find innovative solutions to contemporary social, environmental, economic and cultural challenges. We have identified Mariplast and their products as the pivotal point of our installation. The work therefore aims to investigate the possibilities of a material like plastic, capable of interfacing with both the tradition and the modern needs of the production chain. We have picked a common and familiar element and exploited its potential of chromatic combination, modularity and flexibility, revealing a brand new wide expressive potential.
The installation in the rooms of Carrozzeria in the historical Cafisi building is a rectangular carpet measuring 6x2m, made up of the spools joined together to create a chromatic pattern that characterises the narrative of the work.
The geometry of the pattern is the result of a work of research and synthesis, that traces back its inspiration in the ornamental textile motifs of Prato's traditional industry, as well as in the dichromatic typical decorations of Tuscan Romanesque architecture, that can be seen on the entrance to the medieval cathedral of Santo Stefano, the city's cathedral. The work developed further to explore a series of chromatic patterns and geometric shapess, using the modularity of the spools and their potential for assembly.
The result is a work bridging between traditions and contemporary production technologies, capable of narrating with sharp simplicity the story of a city and its territory. From a technical perspective, the carpet is held together by the outer spools connected with a threaded bar to form a rigid; profile where the inner spools can be placed and kept in position by a light mesh. This solution ensures the stability of the system as well as providing a straightforward assembly process.
The spools, from everyday industrial objects are raised to the level of an iconic module, capable of telling the real soul of the city, conserved in its industrial heritage and preserved in the histories of its industrious generations of workers.