Saturday, March 19, 2016


These wooden puppets on a string tell the tale

executive summary by darmansjah

ITALY’S CAPITAL for fashion and design, Milan is always in a hurry, devouring the present as it bets on the future. This city in Italy’s industrial north weds imagination with precision, beauty with utility, and emotion with technique – a drive for excellence fueled by an ongoing dialogue between Milan’s many creative minds and skilled craftspeople.

This dynamic has played out for more than a century at the Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla & Figli, one of the oldest marionette companies in the world. It dates to the 1800s, when the Colla family, wealthy traders in wood and coal, crated a family theatre-and began fashioning marionettes and scenery. Their shows entertained Milan society. Two hundreds years later, marionettes still take shape by hand here, the bodies sculpted from pinewood, then outfitted with clothing, wigs, and accessories, all by artisans such as Mariapia Lanino, who scours local markets ad collections for antique fabrics. She restores what she finds in a little room ruled by two cats. Other artisans create the scenery and lighting under the supervision of artistic director Eugenio Monti Colla.

Marionette performances produced by the Colla family-sleeping Beauty, The Pied Pier-provide an alternative realm for children growing up with Playstations and other video distractions.

“After so many computer buttons and keys,” one child says, “here I feel free.”

Compagnia Marionettistic Carlo Colla & Figli, Via Montegani 35/1. Group visits by appointment. Puppets, which generally are special ordered, cost $800 each and require one to four months to complete.

Racing Bicyles – Le Bici del Drali – Mechanic of champions, 86-year-old Beppino Drali has been taking orders for his custom bicycles for decades. Via Agilulfo 16

Embroidery – Pino Grasso, Ricami Alta Moda – The art of embroidery is both honored and updated at this studio that works with many fashion houses. Via S. D’Orsenigo 25

Woodwork – Pierluigi Ghianda – Everyday wares-forks, bookshelves, trays-morph into object d’art in the workshop of Milan’s “poet of wood.” Via Desio 53

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