Ulla Schneeweis and Fabian Wittmann run a design studio Schneeweis Wittmann in Vienna, known for their paper workshops and beautiful unique designs. Past summer, they took part in the Serafina Quota artist-in-residence program in the Italian countryside, in the heart of beautiful Piedmont region. The program run by the Serafine Houses welcomes designers to become part of the unique network of artists, creatives and doers of the local network. The aim of the residency was to imagine and create a design for a wine.
“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“, Schneeweis Wittmann says. During the design process, the duo put everything else on hold and fully concentrated on the unique landscape, people, food, and of course, intoxicating wine. Inspired by the name of the wine “do what you love”, they decided to bring their own love, a 150-year-old letterpress along on the journey from Vienna to Dogliani Castello.
On their way to Italy, the couple made a pit stop at the Favini head offices in Bassano del Grappa, where they had a tour of the mill and learned how the paper used in the wine labels is made. Their chosen paper, eco-friendly Crush Grape is made by replacing up to 15% of virgin tree pulp with the process residues of organic products, in this occasion, grape stalks, making it the perfect choice for wine labels.
When designing the label, Schneeweis Wittmann explains how they struggled to follow the “dolce vita in Bella Italia – comfortably sitting in the sun and only being creative every now and then” – idealism, yet found new paths of creativity and inspiration in their surroundings. Wanting to convey their love and positive energy towards their acquaintances, friends, and family as well as towards themselves in the design, the idea of “the glass is half full” was born.
The final design represents a semicircle, 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, whilethe semicircle overlaps another circle composed of concentric lines, which are in gentle contrast in color. The area of the semicircle is one half of the whole – the other half remaining open, leaving room for interpretation. A sentiment familiar from the iconic “is the glass half full or half empty” debate.
Schneeweis Wittmann does not use prefabricated ink pots but mixes all their colors themselves. For the wine labels, they roamed the streets of Dogliani Castello and its surroundings, looking for the perfect shades. “There is this lighting atmosphere, that depending on the time of day, illuminates the marvelous 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 color and compositions of shades we find in the wood, stones, bricks, grasses, and trees that surround us.”
After adjusting the screws, mixing the colors, they fire up the cast-steel letterpress and get to work. Tediously working with the irregularities and peculiarities of the machine, “clack-zing-click; inserting paper; removing paper; clack-zing-click; monitoring the color; inserting paper; removing paper; clack-zing-click” – the labels are getting made. For the final patch, they open the doors of their temporary studio and host a popup print party, where everyone from Bibi the shoe salesman with a cigar in the corner of his mouth to Cincia the petite wife of the art printer have a go at printing. Resulting in a unique patch of wine labels, full of distinctive character. This was Schneeweis Wittmann’s original aim, to experiment and create something that results from the joint work with the locals.
“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.” – Schneeweis Wittmann.