<< Previous page

Vintage Piero Fornasetti Telephone Insulator Paper Weight 1956


Vintage Piero Fornasetti Telephone Insulator Paper Weight


Dimensions: 3 1/2 inches tall x 2 1/2 inches wide.



Fornasetti Decorated Insulators

What designs did they come in?

According to Mauriès (1991, p. 280), Piero Fornasetti made paperweights with electrical insulators in 16 designs.    Unfortunately, no pictures of these could be found in the comprehensive and illustrated work by Mauriès but Fornasetti marked many of his insulators and used the same theme and illustrations for many of his designs, so his works are easy to spot.

Listed below, then, are the known designs. 

There are variations to these designs but I am assuming that these variations would not be counted as separate designs.  These designs can be labeled as 1). Calendars,  2). Alphabet,  3). The New Key to Dreams,  4). Clocks,   5). Fishing,  6). Pipe smoking,  7) Musical Instruments and  8) Butterflies.

What insulators were used?
    It's likely that the insulators Fornasetti used were made by Richard Ginori and may have never been used on a line.  In the foreword to Mauriès book (1991, p. 5), Wilk writes that "Fornasetti ceramics are, in fact, blank forms designed and made by the firms of Eschenback or Richard Ginori, among others, with Fornasetti decoration applied." Since Eschenback did not make insulators and Richard Ginori did, Ginori seems a likely source.  The insulators used are U-1668 and U-1714 

How were they made?
    To make decorated insulators like Fornasetti did, low temperature glazes and ceramic decals are applied to insulators that have previously been fired at high temperatures.  Also while gas or oil kilns are used to reach the high temperatures needed to make electrical porcelain, electric kilns are generally used for this low temperature work because the temperature can be controlled better and there are fewer contaminants from the fuel (Peters, p. 15).  The decals are fired to between cone 020-014 (Peters, p. 69).  Previously glazed and fired porcelain is used so because the decal needs a smooth surface in order to adhere (Peters, p. 68).
    To make the decal, a screen of the desired image is created.  This is a process much like making a photograph from a negative (Healey, p. 27).  The screen is then used to print the image on a special piece of paper, which, once dry is applied to the ceramic object and fired.

Who was Fornasetti?
    Piero Fornasetti was born in 1913 and from the time he was twenty-two until his death in 1988, he lived and worked in Milan applying his designs to a range of decorative objects that he thought never went out of fashion including hats, waistcoats, pipes, ashtrays, chairs, cabinets, pianos, shops, racing cars and ocean liners.  His style was based on "illusionism, architectural perspectives and a host of personal leitmotifs, such as the sun, playing cards, fish, and flowers from which he spun seemingly endless variations."  (Mauriès 1991, front jacket)
    In applying gold trim and decals to an industrial object, Fornasetti was challenging the notion that form follows function but, instead, form or, in this case, a decoration can be added to an object to create "varying degrees of irony, wit and tension" making people rethink the way they looked at the world (Wilk in Mauriès 1991, p. 5).