Gianfranco Zavalloni

School principal; creative talent; nature lover; poet of illustration. With a flair for simple, somehow childish traits

His drawings arouse emotions that take us to fantastic, joyful worlds. His signature is GFZ.

Gianfranco’s sketches are simple, with primitive lines that quickly get to the heart of viewers. His suns put a smile on your face; his moons are never full, they look right at you, and with their elegant attire they arouse your curiosity, while perusing you like some mysterious night dreams. Gianfranco gave his best with dip pen and Indian ink. When he sketched in black on white, his creativity would flow in total freedom, perhaps thanks to the contact of his hand with his own personally carved bamboo reeds. Crooked houses with faint billowing smoke. Wind vanes, often pointing to the left. Pets. Curious flowers releasing intense scent to attract hungry bees and merry birds. Cars with huge faces observing unrealistic landscapes made of leaves of all shapes and striped trees casting their shadow. Worlds in the shape of circles, often made of snakes, where the images joyfully springing from the artist’s childlike heart stand one next to the other.

When our craftsmen met Gianfranco and recognized the value of his artwork, they decided to translate those lines and the dreams they enshrined into prints. As an artisan, I met Gianfranco in 2002, when I was enthusiastically experimenting natural colours for the Bottega: for instance, oak galls used in conjunction with our traditional rust yielded a darker colour, to embellish old designs with shadows.

That encounter led to the creation, in 2003, of the first beach shades set featuring his drawings and charming colours, the same colours that vigorously revamped our Bottega’s age-old history.

During the production of the shades Gianfranco would drop by the Bottega every day, in his moss-coloured Panda car, to leave us some drawings or to perfect them. His cardboard and coloured chalk were already in our old workshop: as soon as he came in, he would start sketching his ideas as if out of a compelling need. I jealously kept all those precious sheets and magnified his drawings for the beach shades that would be displayed on the crowded beach of Cervia in August that year. The exhibition title was “Teneramente” (Tenderly): just the perfect title for a combination of art and craftsmanship, accompanied by Fabio Molari’s poems. Gianfranco’s “childish” drawings printed on the shades would vibrate in the summer breeze, joyously taking everyone back to their childhood. It was a true success made of love, poetry and peace.

After then, we collaborated with Gianfranco and his cheerful creativity many times to create new designs for our Bottega: sure of the past that gave us a legend to tell since 1826, we had become ready to open our doors to the future.

From “Segni sognanti di un bambino” (Dreamy signs of a child) by Riccardo Pascucci, based on “Disegnare la vita. I mondi di Gianfranco Zavalloni” (Drawing life. Gianfranco Zavalloni’s worlds), published in 2013