Introducing the Female Artisans of Florence (FAF)

Jane Harman of Female Artisans of Florence

Since becoming an established art collective, Female Artisans in Florence (FAF) has been embarking on a new endeavor over the last year – a coworking studio/workshop and gallery space located at Borgo San Frediano 131/r.  Their story is being highlighted in the Magenta Florence series highlighting notable women during March, Women’s National History Month.  FAF also host exhibitions including  “Transeo” by Olga Ermol, a young Ukrainian artist, through March 20.  On March 22, there will be a yoga event with live music; info on the FAF Facebook page and Eventbrite.

The new space was brought to life by of the collective’s core four; British woodworker Jane Harman, Dutch ceramicist Jacqueline Harbernik (JHA Porcelain), Japanese textile artist Ayako Nakamori (Aya DesignLab), and Italian screenprinter Giulia Castagnoli (InkP design). Hailing from different cultural backgrounds, the members of the group came together over their shared passion for using traditional techniques to make sustainable, one-of-a-kind products. Everything made by the artisans comes with the guarantee of being ‘Made in Italy’ with careful intention and quality in mind.

Located in a neighborhood once heavily populated with Florence’s artisans, the new FAF hub serves as the perfect cross section between classical and contemporary craftsmanship. Since May, the women of FAF have been pouring their heart and soul into transforming the site of a former restaurant into a place that celebrates the new generation of female artisans residing in Florence. Vibrant colors, geometric shapes, and minimalist decor adorn the otherwise rustic interior, further melding tradition and modernity. “It’s going to be a place filled with creative energy where we can all share our work,” Harman says.

Jane, who is originally from the UK, moved to Florence in the ‘80s to pursue painting but soon after shifted her focus to antique furniture restoration. After 23 years of working under master Enrico Sarti, Harman inherited his workshop and began her own practice as a restorer. Alongside working with antiques, Harman has expanded her craft to conservation of works in wood, restoring villas and hotels, and upcycling wood to use for her own creations, like the ones on display in the FAF gallery. “I got lucky and found someone who would let me apprentice under them. This was at a time when San Frediano was filled with artisans, especially furniture restorers,” Harman explained. The area has changed a lot since then, but Harman is hopeful that this new initiative will bring in a community like the one she immersed herself in when she first got here.

Like Jane, the other members have roots in traditional craft that inspire their creative output. FAF member Giulia, who initially brought the group together, uses the centuries old technique of printmaking to infuse her hand-sewn garments and gifts with lively patterns. Ayako draws inspiration from her Asian roots and current home here in Florence to create limited edition bags and accessories in Japanese style and Italian colors. Jacqueline revives “complex, labor-intensive techniques that have fallen into oblivion over the years” (as stated on her website) with her elegant porcelain pieces such as vases, plates, mugs and items of home decor. Though talented on their own, the new FAF space sheds light on just how powerful collaboration can be; on display are Jane’s wooden letters printed with Giulia’s designs, Jacqueline’s porcelain cups alongside Aya’s “pochette” bags, and table set ups showcasing all four of the women’s work, as seen on their Instagram. “Together we are stronger” says their business card, and there’s no doubt about that.

Though these four women are the founders of FAF, their project is meant to welcome fellow artisans with open arms with the only requirements being that they must be female-identifying and produce contemporary, original craft in Florence. ”We want to host workshops, exhibitions, and pop-up shows for women of all ages to share their work,” Harman says. “Art can be very isolating, so having a space for collaboration is incredibly important, especially in times like these.”

Future initiatives include: “Introduction to Fine Art Portrait,” an online Free Open Day with the photographer, Arianna Signorini (March 13); “Letters matter” an exhibition by Jane Harman from the March 25 – April 17;  a “Wooden Type Workshop “ for families, with Jane Harman on April 10; and an April 17 “Origami workshop “ with Kumi Suzuki di Origamare.  (savannah camastro/additional reporting by rosanna cirigliano)