Watching artisans work is very impressive. But the discoveries begin once you have their creation in your possession for a while.
It usually happens at an unexpected time: something catches your attention and you investigate it. The last time it happened to me was when we had pulled out the Still Wet wall clock to take better pictures of it just a few days ago. After we took the pictures we set the clock down and moved on to something else. The next day, I stopped to look at the tag to make sure that it was made of resin like the rest of the clock and that it was not a strip of leather attached to the clock.
As I looked closely at the tag I noticed that the small cloth label (again, it looks like cloth but it is resin) to the side of the pocket has individually painted threads holding it in place that are beginning to show signs of wear and tear.
If the devil is in the details, we sell a lot of devil.
As I look at the picture of that detail right now, I ask: “am I looking at a pair of jeans? Or am I looking at something that looks like a pair of jeans?” I am very impressed with this clock, I have to admit it. I think it will end up at home somewhere near our laundry room.
Antartidee is not the only artisan that impresses me. This happens to me just about every time I let a product sit by me long enough. Some of the other most memorable moments that I have had and quickly come to mind include: inadvertently touching my Campomaggi bag and think that the leather is so alive; gazing into a piece of Paua jewelry a see the blue fade in and out; grabbing my Murano glass tumbler; watching Marco rejoice when I played our music boxes; and many more. The quality of exceptional handmade products keeps on giving over time. It is simply a pleasure.
Is there a Marcopoloni product that gives you joy? I, of course, would like to know. Also, if you are not signed up already, do so to find out more about our surprising details.
I recently talked about how our music boxes stir up your past but at the time we did not have the songs available for you to listen. When we sent out our latest newsletter we introduced our new artisan, Sabatino e Catia, and we made sure to record all the songs that accompany our music boxes so far.
A very cute rotating ceramic music box with a boy piloting a race car.
Below I have grouped the music boxes by song so that you can see, as of the date of this post, all the music boxes available that play each song. Follow the links provided to listen to the song.
It’s a Small World
Ninna Nanna/Lullaby (Brahms)
O Sole Mio
- FARO (temporarily sold out)
- ISOLA (temporarily sold out)
Magic Flute/Flauto Magico
Vie en Rose
Walzer dei Fiori
Lover’s Concerto – Bach (Minuetto)
Unfortunately we did not record “O Sole Mio” before we sold out of the products, but we will make sure to record it at the next opportunity. I am also sure that we will get more music boxes as time goes by. If you are interested in our music boxes make sure to stay up-to-date by signing up for our newsletter below.
Another year has passed and it is fun to think about how much things have changed. A year ago Marco was still coming to the office three days a week, we hadn’t begun redesigning our Web site, and we hadn’t yet conceived our Campomaggi report that is so fun to read.
Now our home page begins to tell our story and that of our artisans, we communicate with our customers about the developments that interest them the most, and we are making progress on some significant projects. At present, we are transitioning our accounting system to QuickBooks Online and are integrating it with our website through their API.
Streamlining our accounting processes is expected to free up time that we can devote to our artisans–something that is sorely needed. In the last twelve months, in fact, we have added three artisans, but could not devote enough time to tell you all about them. I wonder if anyone out there could even name all three of them. That is one of the things I hope to be able to change this year.
Over the next twelve months there are lots of things that I want to do. I want to figure out ways to make the excellence of our artisans more palpable. To achieve that I plan on sharing more pages that include videos of our artisans and their products. I want to also show bigger pictures and answer more questions. Behind the scenes I will develop systems for better serving you. The list of ideas is so long that it almost feels daunting. But we know that by chipping away at these lists things actually improve and that is what you should expect.
Finally, we plan on being as responsive to you as ever and encourage you to contact us. Also, to stay up to date with our progress, sign up to our newsletter. We only send out up to 6 every year and do not sell e-mail addresses.
I have to hand it to Marco. Getting a new collection to explore every six months is very exciting and stimulating. Talking to our customers, you are also very excited about the new arrivals. What we have found over the years is that our initial impressions favor bags and accessories that our customers are only going to discover later on–meaning that we tend to pick the wrong products. There are exceptions of course. Sometimes we bet on a bag and it proves popular: so popular, in fact, that we quickly run out and then have to scramble to reorder.
While we will continue to refine our forecasting skills forever, this fall Campomaggi’s new products have been met with considerable success. The most popular and most awaited products have been the new leather or canvas backpacks, which have greatly expanded our offering. Before this season, we had the Zavatti, the Perotto and little else. They were nice options but the new bags show that they try to improve on many little details.
One of The New Campomaggi Leather Backpack for Fall 2015.
The new backpacks are either in leather, or canvas, or both (canvas with big leather pockets). Each model seems to answer at least a specific question. If you need a spacious backpack: there is one that is really spacious; if you are looking for more comfortable straps: multiple bags have very wide straps that are less likely to cut into your shoulders after a while; if you are looking for more pockets where to quickly store stuff: he has you covered. One of my favorite features is the zippered pocket that fills toward the back and is accessible from the side (see the Verrazano).
VOLTA Distressed Canvas backpack with lots of pockets and padded, large straps.
In our recent newsletter, we offered $75 off orders of $500 or more (offer code: MP500). The offer expires this week, so hurry!
In yesterday’s newsletter Emi announced: “Thanks to the sustained, favorable Dollar-to-Yen exchange rates, we were able to lower the prices of all products from our Japanese artisans. What this means to you is a savings of up to 25%!”
Over the last year or so the Yen lost 38% of its value going right back to the exchange rate that we were used to about a decade ago of 120 Yen to a Dollar. When the Yen reached its peak near 75 Yen to a Dollar, it was impossible for us to buy from our Japanese artisans. This was disheartening but we could no longer keep on raising prices as sales were plummeting. Now the Dollar looks stronger and with an interest rate hike on the horizon we are somewhat confident that it is not going to dive again. That’s why we felt it was time to take out the ax and slash prices.
Wonderful detail of the Hagi noren tapestry by Yoshioka-san.
Which product saw the biggest price drop? It was the HAGI Noren Curtain that went from $375 to $280.
On Dai’s side the FUUFU Japanese Yunomi Tea Cup Set price dropped 24% from $145 to $110.
Yunomi Tea Cup set in irabo glaze by Dai.
With the lower prices at hand, welcoming new Japanese crafts into your world will help you take more time to appreciate the moment.
How do you explain skilled artisanship to people who have never seen a skilled artisan at work, let alone a group of artisans cooperate seamlessly in perfect synchronization? I found that it is really tough and in most cases better to leave the word handmade out of the discussion.
A moment in the creation process. Skilled artisans go from nothing to completed product quickly.
I do what I do because I grew up frequently admiring skilled artisans at work all around Italy. Because of that experience, I have witnessed what can happen before a product reaches the store shelves and in some cases that is close to magic. To get the point across we have redesigned our home page to show a video of Imperio Rossi, Mario Costantini, and a serventino (Mauro) work together to produce a tumbler. The way they can work on multiple products at the same time and separate the task of performing different aspects of the production process is like clock work–clearly the result of years of experience. Not too surprising if you consider that Imperio got started at age 13 in 1964. Fifty-one years of experience must mean something!
Even the smallest detail matters when you strive for perfection.
When Imperio started working on something more complicated, like a carafe, I could not believe the motions that he had mastered and memorized to attach a handle in the perfect shape. The awe grew when they had me try to pick out a blob of glass from the furnace for them. I tried but I got too little and it immediately fell off my canna because I wasn’t spinning it fast enough.
When your shop is the only one that is able to produce something you are a really skilled artisan.
All of our artisans know something that sets them apart from everybody else. This is the value of know-how and to you it means that their products are unique and the best expression of their kind in the world. To me, that’s a creation worth having.
As they were completing their university studies, Sabatino and Catia, decided to spend time creating something they were passionate about: carousel music boxes. The passion grew and after they graduated they continued pursuing it–for life.
Thirty years later Sabatino and Catia have lived through many stages in life and those experiences are reflected in their creations. Today we have music boxes that capture moments with infinite sweetness. The way the baby hugs the goose, for example, reminds me exactly of how our baby Marco (at about the age of one) used to hug our old dog Rigatoni.
Small baby hugging a goose rotating music box.
Similarly, our other music boxes tell the story of our discoveries, fantasies, and happy moments. For us older folks, there are plenty of memories like that. Memories that we cherish revisiting. For babies and young children those memories are fast being created. We gave our daughter Chiara a Horsey Carousel (she is very fond of horses to say the least) and she loves playing with it from time to time and when she does our little Marco is immediately drawn to it. Sometimes, when we play it around bed-time, he lays down on his bed, puts his head on his pillow and listens intently.
We have started giving these to celebrate new births and Chiara gave one to her close friend. I wonder if that carousel will become as dear as a music box that my wife received from her best friend when she was a child. When Chiara was two she discovered it and from time to time asked us to wind it. She was not the only one to love it. Now that I have been thinking about it, I know that, next time I open the display case that houses it, I will give it a spin.
What is particularly special about these rotating music boxes is that they are completely handmade and painted, thus each item is pretty unique. Just like us.
When I was a teenager I found that the most effective way to get my homework done was to set a definitive time slot within which to get it done. Having deadlines of this kind of frees up a lot of space on your schedule because you do not allow time for distractions or entertainment.
The technology in smartphones and computers is great, but there is no need to set alarms or use reminders when you know that right now you have to work on the task at hand and that you only have until 10:38 to get it done. You just need to keep an eye on the clock.
So you must have a clock. My computer of course has one, but I prefer using a desk clock, one whose time is subjective and that forces me to say: “when the minute hand gets to somewhere around 35 I have to be done.”
I use a Slipping Time desk clock. Telling time is a bit approximate and the hand with time slipping through it does tend to make me philosophize. Here is the kicker: because I work so hard telling time, I work even harder on my project. It totally builds character.
One of my favorite things: the Slipping Time which, apparently, makes me work harder, not smarter.
Ok, my humor-attempt is lame, but the clock is beautiful and incredibly unique. I love the way the clock melts through the fingers and even begins to collect on the table. There are a ton of beautiful and intricate details that also show how the clock was very carefully hand-painted.
I feel that a little bit of beauty on my desk elevates my work-environment and injects a little bit of fun. And that is something I appreciate a lot.
Volkswagen was recently exposed for having its cake and eating it too.
In Italy we say: “occhio non vede, cuore non duole”, which, loosely translated, means: “what you don’t know won’t hurt your feelings”.
It often seems to me that this is the road-map that business follows to profits. Some say: “that is the way the world works,” but I believe that there are plenty of people in business who do not sell their soul to profits and are still able to “make” it. In some cases, they do extremely well because they have figured out how to provide something that people really want.
Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) said the Romans, so this must have been a problem for some time. With globalization came an opportunity to operate under a cloak of mystery. So how is the buyer going to be able to beware? How do we know whether the label is true or not? Should I not buy the $3 t-shirt because it was probably made by kids who sleep on the factory floor? Does the Mazda in my garage that gets good gas mileage have software installed that achieves good gas mileage by blowing past emissions standards? The answer is common: “we don’t know! And we can’t possibly know.”
Thankfully someone exposed Volkswagen.
In my line of business cheaper imitations abound. We try to warn and educate customers by posting on our web site about cheaper imitations:
- Hidden cost resulting from lack of durability not included.
- Hidden cost of using lower quality materials not included.
- Hidden cost of poorer craftsmanship not included.
- Hidden cost of using underpaid workers not included.
- Hidden cost of the environmental impact of manufacturing products in less-regulated countries not included.
- Hidden cost of using production methods that are harmful to humans and the environment not included.
- Hidden cost of losing generations-old traditions in craftsmanship not included.
- Hidden cost of contributing to the use-and-dispose culture not included.
We really try to vet our artisans. I found that the best method is to ask the right questions and let time verify the answers. There is a lot you can learn from people over the years. That’s why we now take a long time before adding a new artisan. There has been a situation where we later realized that what appeared authentic actually was not, and we dropped those products. So we learn from our mistakes.
My question to you is: where do you stand on this issue? Are we crazy to want to tell our customers exactly who it is that made what we offer and how?
As the years go by and we realize that Gianni has been making his leather keychains for 30 years by now, it is not surprising to see them in shops everywhere around the world. It is also not surprising that they invariably seem to be better than the “other” key chains, especially the blatant imitations.
Gianni’s three most classic Italian leather key chains are the Snaplink, the Giamaicano, and the Classico.
That long experience coupled with Gianni’s love for the products is what makes the difference and ultimately sets them apart. The Tuscan vacchetta leather he uses has become really expensive and Gianni’s keychains, although not dirt cheap, are priced low for the quality. I see keychains by Bottega Veneta advertised for $300 and I scratch my head because those keychains are really boring compared to Gianni’s. Clearly there are people willing to pay for a brand name. What we offer is the highest quality for the right price: a value proposition that appeals to me a lot.
There are three keychains that I would describe as classic: the Snaplink, the Giamaicano, and the Classico. Each has compelling features, what they share in common is that they all can clip onto either your belt or belt buckle.
The Snaplink is the most popular and also my favorite. I clip it to my belt buckle, it is designed to look like a belt with buckle and the buckle actually works–making it easy to add and remove rings. So it is very convenient at a valet or when dropping your car off for service. I had to replace mine after exactly 10 years because the clip slipped off. The leather was still in great shape.
The Giamaicano is what I consider the most stylish because the braid is awesome to the touch. It might be nicer than the Snaplink but it doesn’t have the valet feature. The clip is the easiest to use inside a bag with a keychain d-ring.
The Classico comes in a wider array of colors including my favorite, blue. It is the only one that can clip around a belt. This is great when your pockets and belt buckles are not in close proximity. Because you are able to choose exactly where the Classico will hang you usually can tuck your keys away.