Craftsman and industrial designer Marco Ripa was born in Porto San Giorgio, Italy in 1977. At the age of fifteen, Ripa apprenticed as a blacksmith under his uncle in his hometown, learning firsthand how to exploit different metals. In 1988, he earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the State Industrial Technical Institute (ITIS) Montani in Fermo, Italy.
In 2010, Ripa established his first design studio, Officina Art & Craft, in Porto San Giorgio. In 2015, the studio moved to a new, larger location in the same city and was renamed, simply, Marco Ripa—a change the designer believes illustrated his investment in both his Italian heritage and in himself as a designer. Ripa’s choice material is iron—“because it’s dirty, noisy, and rejects repetition”—and he uses it to create unique, bespoke pieces. He elegantly manipulates heavy metal into objects with smooth, geometric lines that exude balance; ultimately he transforms abstract art into functional design. Ripa draws inspiration from renowned American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) as well as historian and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). Building on Ruskin’s philosophy from the Arts and Crafts Movement, Ripa believes that “a man is as unique and unrepeatable as the objects he makes.”
One of Ripa’s larger goals is to refute the cumbersome stereotypes assigned to iron and other metals—such as heaviness and immobility—by illustrating the antithesis through his work, showcasing the imperfections of a material and its intrinsic beauty. In other words, he wishes to change perceptions of common, everyday objects through design.The materials and techniques Ripa utilizes in his designs include: hot rolled iron plates, which reveal certain imperfections and shadows; corten steel, which has been waxed and oxidized and lends a rust-like appearance; burnished steel, which is a treatment obtained by exposing metal to blackening acids in order to obtain an irregularly dark finish; and, of course, stainless steel.
Standout projects to date include, among others: Who’s Next (2011) magazine rack, which combines the outline of two geometric shapes to create different intersecting zones; the similarly designed Who Are You (2011) umbrella stand, which also celebrates positive and negative space; the modular Fun House (2013) collection of footstools and coffee tables that can be realized into a shelving unit; Dentro (2016) nesting tables; and a series of sculptures, including Tre torri e la luna, Tribute to Calder (2011) from torn metal, and Ecografia 03 – Spazio e Tempo, Sonorous sculpture (2015). Ripa also collaborated with Italian designer Domenico Mori to create the collection Metal meets Clay for Milan’s Design Week in 2015.