When Melbourne-based Nicci Green isn’t both admiring and inspecting the handiwork of her glass employees in Murano, Italy, or the Czech Republic, she’s likely at her 3D printer, mulling over lighting striations and shadows. It’s the unification of these dichotomous elements that Nicci hones in her made-to-order lighting range, masterfully disguising the hidden workings of electronics within elegant, seamlessly constructed fixtures.
The idea for Articolo was sparked somewhat flippantly, the result of tipping a glass upside down in contemplation of what would happen if it was drilled and wired up. Although Green had no formal design training, more than two decades of lived professional experience in the creative industries including magazine editorial, interior design and homewares design at Country Road was enough to inform the aesthetic direction of Articolo, which she launched in 2012.
Each sconce and pendant is brought to life in a process that passes through the skilled hands of Australian and European metalworkers, silversmiths and ceramicists. “The imperfection of the handmade is something I celebrate — the soul and art I strive for in every product,” Green says. “But at the same time it’s not just about decoration. Lighting needs to be functional, which means a process of extremely sophisticated mechanisms.”
Disguising practicality within Articolo’s graceful forms is challenging, especially when each piece is unique. “It’s a complex process,” Green says. “An enormous amount of work goes into simplifying the metal components so they are beautiful and don’t appear mechanical, industrial or detract from the essence of the design.” The resulting aesthetic pairs solid, masculine metals with sculptural, feminine glass luminaires.
Articolo’s approach is both timeless and evolutionary. While a commitment to the humanistic aspect of design is inherent in the brand’s DNA, 2021 has seen a collaboration with the contemporary artist Yandell Walton exploring light in the form of an immersive digital installation that will have a permanent home in the Melbourne showroom.
No business has been immune to the challenges of the past year, yet Green is grateful for the relatively minimal impact it has had on her business and remains optimistic. “Of course, there were setbacks and challenges. We had to delay the opening of showrooms and adapt to virtual showings, but we have an amazing team and have continued to receive incredible, pinch-yourself commissions,” she says. “Most people have hard knocks in life, you just have to get up and keep going. There’s so much to look forward to.”
Of all the materials you use, what is the key component?
“Mouth-blown glass is at the heart of Articolo. I love the nuances and slightly flawed fluidity from one piece to the next when it’s been touched by hand. The unique patterns and shadow play reflects movement on the walls. It’s like art.”
Articolo pushes the boundaries of mixing materials. What’s your creative process like?
“I try not to spend time looking at what anybody else is doing because I don’t want to be informed by anything, even cerebrally. Design is an intuitive process for me. I start with an idea and don’t worry too much about the engineering at the early stages. I also use the 3D printer to see whether the components are right and how it could be less clunky. I always consider the art of reduction — putting everything in and then taking two thirds out.”
How have you managed to minimise the financial effects of the past year?
“I used to own a successful wholesale glassware business, which was hit during the GFC, making our high volume, low margin model redundant. I never wanted to take that risk again. So I built Articolo on the foundations of a robust accounting and business model. We evolved cautiously and carefully with made-to-order products and our own standalone showrooms where Articolo people would be selling Articolo products. I think this has enabled us to be nimble and adaptable, switching to virtual appointments and nurturing personal connections. I also think that because people are spending a lot more time at home, the interiors industry has been a bit more fortunate.”
You’ve worked on commissions everywhere from Iceland to Budapest. What are some of your favourite environments to see Articolo in?
“Each product is specified, so we’ve been everywhere from residential to restaurants, resorts and retail. I get a kick out of seeing Articolo in the Tiffany’s NY flagship, Nobu restaurants and Soho House’s Little Beach House Malibu. We’ve also customised pieces for Robert Downey Jr.’s houses and recently got an email from a movie producer to have some pieces in the US series Billions. I’m just a little Aussie girl from Down Under! I pinch myself every day.”
Is Articolo inherently an Australian brand or do you see it more in a global context?
“We are an international brand appealing to a broad audience and we don’t define ourselves as exclusively Australian. But having said that, I am committed to Australian manufacturing where possible. We have a showroom in Melbourne and New York, but the plan is to open more in the UK and Europe. Our designs are timeless, with a European sophistication.”