There are these lovely, free spirited people, for whom the production of a special wine in a very special region, is a project truly dear to their heart. In their opinion, bringing together people who inspire each other, inevitably also brings out the best results.
“Serafina Quota – do what you love” is a project aimed at welcoming designers to become a part of its close-to-heart artistic endeavour by inviting them to create the design for the wine. In addition to a unique network of artists, creatives and doers, the project also provides exceptional accommodation in the heart of the Piedmont. The Italian joie de vivre, the culinary adventures and the surprise encounters are an inspiration and a challenge all at the same time. But what really shapes the results are the surroundings and the contact with the locals, who live and work here.
From the moment we first heard about Serafina Quota and the “Artist in Residence” project, we were itching to find out more. It sounded so agreeable, so charming, that we just had to go there. We are Ulla Schneeweis and Fabian Wittmann. Together we live for, and of, our design studio and paper workshop in Vienna. It took us four weeks to get fully involved in the project, during which everything else had to wait. Amid this inspiring landscape, surrounded by open-hearted people, nourished by simple yet stunning food, and intoxicated by unbelievably good wine, we only have one goal: to
showcase this wine.
The wine is called “Do what you love” and we do take that literally. Therefore, taking our 150-year-old printing press along on the printing-journey, we wanted to embark on together with the locals, was never up for discussion. How to transport it from Vienna to Piedmont – we had no idea. Eventually, all went well, and now we are settled here, fiddling with form and colour, working on typography and trying material and paper.
And, by our neighbours here in Dogliani Castello, we have been met with increasing curiosity concerning our work and have been shown great willingness to help whenever and wherever needed. At the end there is a visual master plan for this vintage and a limited special edition with hand-printed letterpress labels. And of course, a wonderful story, which we shall recount, over a glass of wine, for a long time to come.
Someone once said, “Choose a profession that you love – and you will never work a day in your life.” It seems that we have come another step closer to achieving this goal.
What do we want to put on the label? What do we want it to look like? What do we want it to display? What do we want the viewer to see, feel, think? How can we do justice to this superior wine? That is what our thoughts revolve around. We presumed we would start as we start all our projects – research, sketch, draft, elaborate on…
Yet, we experience difficulties in collecting our thoughts. We would like to direct them into the right channels, to evaluate and analyse them collectively and move forward in the process. But at times we feel our inspiration having gone astray. Have we been so overwhelmed by all these wonderful impressions, that we find ourselves having reached the point of almost complete lack of creative inspiration? Indeed, that seems to be the case, but it takes days until we realise it. So, we must adjust to a different working style. No dolce vita in Bella Italia – comfortably sitting in the sun and only being creative every now and then. Instead we need to modify our established working practices, fight inner battles, doubt
ourselves, discuss, go beyond our limits, and, eventually, pursue new paths in our work.
We concur. We want to express all the positive energy we have been met with and which we have inside ourselves. We want this project to be based on and to reflect our general attitude towards our acquaintances, friends and family and towards ourselves. When we fill our glass with wine it is half-full – il bicchiere è mezzo pieno (the glass is half-full). That must be written on the bottle.
Let’s discuss this: some will say, the glass is half-empty, others will say that a wine glass half-full lacks nothing, and still others will claim that the glass is too big.
We print a semicircle on the label, which covers exactly half of the bottle. The name of the wine is printed in a semi-loop sentence on the margins of the label: do what you love what you do what you love… The printed semicircle overlaps a circle composed of concentric lines, which are in gentle contrast to the shades. The area of the semicircle is one half of the whole – the other half remains open, leaving room for interpretation.
Eventually, our hand operated printing press is positioned in our temporary Italo-studio patiently waiting to display its range of skills here in Italy. Still, it takes us another couple of weeks to have everything set up. Our neighbour Ivan, the art printer here in Castello, put us in contact with a colleague, who will be able to do the printing form for us. Little do we know about the creativity of this Italian novice in the world of printing. So only when picking up the plate, we notice that he has increased the line width, which has a significant impact on the fine typography. Therefore, last-minute, we decide to order the plates from our customary partners in Vienna.
The paper is delivered: It is not only perfectly suited for the letterpress, but also retains its unique features. Leftovers of the wine production (grape marc) are added to the pulp, giving the material a distinct surface feel and soft reddish warm colouring, on top of providing an ingenious upcycling-factor. On our journey through the Piedmont, we also paid a visit to the traditional Italian paper manufacturer Favini, who is a true pioneer in terms of innovation and sustainability. And, thankfully, together with Avery Dennison, we were able to find a way to acquire the precise small quantities of paper we would need for the wine labels.
We have been breaking new ground too. Many years ago, when we took up letterpress printing, we were looking for alternatives to the traditional oil or rubber–based colours. So, we talked to our printers, who also focus on sustainability, pursue the idea of “Cradle2Cradle”, and use biodegradable colours for their offset machines. Ever since we tested these colours on our letterpress machines, we are absolutely convinced of its colour reproduction and result. Besides, we are conveniently spared toxic fumes. To be honest, we have never even tried the conventional printing colours.
We also do not use prefabricated ink pots, but rather made it a key principle in our work to always start by mixing each colour for each printing pass anew. Hence, we grab our colour guide and start roaming the streets of Dogliani Castello and surroundings: there is this lighting atmosphere, that depending on the time of day, illuminates the marvellous patina of the most miscellaneous materials on the squares, in the alleys and in the gardens! We are inspired by these naturally aligned and finely balanced nuances of colour and compositions of shades we find in the wood, stones, bricks, grasses and trees that surround us. Afterwards, in the backyard of our studio, we look for just the right combination of yellow, magenta, cyan, black and white. If only a little too much of one colour is added the shade will go off in a completely
different direction. It takes time to skilfully go about this delicate work.
And so, we mix colours with spatula and roller, adjust screws to the old machine and strengthen our muscles to apply the required pressure to the lever. Because the perfect printed result is brought about by a combination of colour retention and quantity, and evenly balanced pressure – not too light and not too firm.
The cast-steel monster works, but not without its irregularities and peculiarities. There is no relying on continuity; constant re-adjusting; each sheet unique; very long working hours – often until the late evenings; clack-zing-click; inserting paper; removing paper; clack-zing-click; monitoring the colour; inserting paper; removing paper; listening to the munching sounds of the rollers to understand whether there is enough colour in the machine or not; clack-zing-click; music, wine and always the curious, familiar or unfamiliar face, paying us a visit; if only we could make it last forever.
And then, here they are. Piles of labels hot off the press. With great relish and content, we stroke the paper and coloured surfaces – such joy! One pile remains half finished. That one we shall print later, together with all the other people.
Opening all doors and windows, we are hosting a popup print party in our temporary studio. Wine and music are well taken care of and the printing press is all set to go again. Word has spread that with us working here, everything is a bit out of the ordinary. By early evening, after France has won the Football World Cup, busloads of people from the surroundings, carrying trays of homemade Piedmontese delicacies, show up to join in the celebrations. And here comes a reconstructed bicycle with a sun umbrella and a fully stocked fridge.
Corks are clicking. Everyone has as story to tell and soon a convivial atmosphere pervades our working space, the backyard and the entire alley. The printing press thrums away and captures the attention of more and more passers-by. How does it work and what does it produce? We invite our guests to go ahead and give it a try themselves. And they do – Gabriela and Franco our neighbours, Bibi the shoe salesman with a cigar in the corner of his mouth, Cincia the petite wife of the art printer, and the many children. Each of them pays full attention to our instructions on how to use the printing press and seems genuinely happy about being a part of this project. Some even decide to take their printed work home and keep it as a reminder of their printing experience. We celebrate well into the night.
The labels we finished printing together with our visitors and guests have become an emotionally highly charged product. Owing to the individual touch of each person involved in this printing process, this batch of labels has assumed a distinctive character.
That is exactly what we had in mind. We wanted to start an experiment and create something that results from our joint work with the locals.
Having enjoyed such a pleasant and memorable experience, we are very curious as to where the next printing adventure may take us.
Under the motto “Half full” we invited together with Serafina Quota to the presentation of the “Do what you love” wines in November 2019 in Vienna.
We all drummed together and with the Piedmont winegrowers we celebrated in the wonderful halls of the Dogenhof in the Supersense and enjoyed Pinot Nero and Riesling of the 2017 vintage.
A magical evening and a great final to our journey.
Many thanks to all of you who made this adventure possible!