Sicis founder Maurizio Placuzzi keeps his eye on the small as well as the big picture. “We consider ourselves mosaic makers, not tile makers,” says the former professional soccer player, who in 1987 opened a factory in his hometown of Ravenna, Italy, part of a region renowned for its mosaics since the Byzantine era. He and his staff of artists and mosaic masters concentrate on the nitty-gritty details of producing tiles—oval, domed, and cubed—in traditional glass, and in a range of other materials that include metal, stone, leather, wood, and resin-backed fabric and paper. “For glass, we use silica, but to make the colors more vibrant we add minerals,” says Placuzzi, who counts amber, zinc, kelp, root beer, spring violet, and ice water among the 500-plus colors of Sicis’ mosaic tiles.
“In the ’90s, our style was very close to Versace’s,” he adds, “but, like fashion, we are always evolving.” The baroque Flower Power collection that Sicis (pronounced SEE-chiss) released last year recalls the hothouse fashion of Roberto Cavalli. The Night-and-Day iand Mirror collections, both of which debuted earlier this year, evoke the sleekness of Gucci designs. Night-and-Day features floral patterns in black, white, platinum, and 24-karat gold tiles, and it includes a cast-iron bathtub ornamented with traces of gold and platinum. The Mirror collection comprises reflective tiles made from clear Plexiglas and stainless steel. Wood and leather accents add elements of earthiness to the tiles’ appearance.
While the bathroom is the obvious showcase for the mosaics in Sicis’ 20 collections, they also can grace a foyer, kitchen, or pool. Sicis’ in-house artists sketch the motifs on paper and later transfer them onto computers. The mosaic masters use the digital images as guides for assembling sections of the work on lightweight, 12-by-12-inch mesh-backed panels. These panels allow the mosaic, which often contains thousands of delicate pieces, to travel safely to such destinations as the Burj Al Arab in Dubai or the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where it will be mortared in place.
Sicis operates showrooms in the fashion districts of Milan, Dubai, Moscow, and Korea, but its New York facility, which opened in July 2006, is the company’s most impressive. The three-story, 13,000-square-foot flagship in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood features more than 25,000 square feet of mosaics. The floor of the lobby is made from backlit translucent tiles, and displayed throughout the gallery are dozens of wall panels, floor mosaics that resemble Middle Eastern rugs, and three-dimensional installations of tessera-encrusted mannequins, trees, and wild animals.
Unlike fashionable clothes, which disappear from shops at the end of the season, none of the Sicis collections are ever discontinued. Which of Sicis’ 20 collections is Placuzzi’s favorite? “The 21st,” he muses. “And as soon as it comes out, I’ll like the 22nd better.”
Sicis, 212.965.4100, www.sicis.it