Driven by a desire to give new life to discarded material from her family’s stone and marble business, Antonella Azzollini recently returned to Puglia to launch 8 e Mezzo – an innovative sustainability project, produces unique and meaningful home accessories from otherwise forgotten waste.
Antonella Azzollini has been in the stone and marble industry quite literally since she was born. Her family’s business, Azzollini Nicola Marmi, was founded by her grandfather over 50 years ago. And today, the legacy continues through the next generations. “My dad is still working now at 81 years old – rock and roll!” she says with a laugh.
But Antonella is resolute that she never felt forced to join the family trade. In fact, until 2019, she was happily living in London, working as a communications specialist for an architecture studio. When the pandemic suddenly made her redundant, this passionate entrepreneur made the conscious choice to follow her heart back home to Puglia, to reconnect with her roots, and finally launch the sustainability project she had been dreaming of for years.
“I had this project in my mind for quite a few years, but never had the proper time to put my mind to it because I was in London,” Antonella explains. “But then we were stuck for work, and it was the perfect time to start developing the idea, so I thought just do it! And that is how 8 e Mezzo started!”
Sustainable Home Accessories Made in Puglia, with a Kick
Now, exactly one year since the official launch, 8 e Mezzo is slowly growing a tribe of loyal customers for its beautiful, one-of-a-kind home accessories. And at the very heart of the operation is a strong sustainability message: Giving new purpose and life back to castaway stone and marble. Recollecting the spark that ignited the idea, Antonella says: “We had so much waste and so did other factories and I found it such a pity because marble is such a beautiful and noble material that takes so long to be created. So, it was really important for me to create something out of that waste.”
8 e Mezzo reuses waste stone and marble to create unique minimal accessories that are both useful and meaningful. These simple yet elegant pieces – which include the brand’s signature cutlery or chopstick holders, as well as trays, bookends, tumblers, and coasters – are precisely cut according to the ideal, tried, and tested measurement of 8.5cm.
Explaining the meaning behind the company name, Antonella says: “The project is called 8 e Mezzo because I found that the ideal measurement to give marble a second life and get something minimal but meaningful, with a clean design and that funky kick, was 8 and a half cm – which is 8 e Mezzo in Italian.”
Antonella describes sustainability as the “driver of the project”. But it also directly influences what products are added to the collection. “It all starts from the wasted material,” she explains. “This is the driving force that influences our choice of what accessory to produce. We take inspiration from what we have in the factory.”
And 8 e Mezzo has big plans for the future. Including an expanded product line and designer collaborations, as Antonella says: “We will be producing new pieces and there is a lot going on, but we will always do it using just waste material because that is the way we want to approach the planet.”
Unique Products that Tell a Story
But it’s not just the sustainability element that makes 8 e Mezzo special. As Antonella says: “If you want something really one-off and unique, this is your chance.” Indeed, every single piece produced by 8 e Mezzo is completely one-of-a-kind, as each slab is distinctive to the quarry it comes from, with unique patterns, colors, textures, and veins. And as many of the waste pieces come from disused quarries, they will never be found again. “This is something that I find really fascinating,” Antonella adds.
Each individual 8 e Mezzo piece has a unique and intricate story to tell, starting from the geographical interest of where each piece comes from. But perhaps even more beguiling is the story of what each piece was used for before it became waste and why it was rejected. “This is the whole purpose of the project – continuing the story behind the piece of marble by creating something truly unique that you will never see in the shops,” says Antonella.
Another purpose behind 8 e Mezzo is to try to educate people about the detail that goes into making things by hand. Proudly handcrafted in Italy according to time-honored tricks of the trade, 8 e Mezzo perfectly exemplifies the painstaking process and attention to detail behind products crafted by hand. And as a true, strong female entrepreneur successfully running a business in what is largely a male-dominated industry, Antonella isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her own hands dirty. “It is really important to me to have a hands-on approach because this amplifies the knowledge I have of the craft.”
Clearly bursting with commitment, passion, and focus, Antonella is also driven by a deep-seated love for the material itself. “The material is just really breathtaking,” she says with a smile. “Nothing will have the same wow effect. I like that funkiness of the material and that you can rely on it. It’s a natural material but it lasts forever. And it’s just got that kick – so, it ticks all the boxes for me!”8 e Mezzo
Follow the company on Instagram: @8_emezzo
On the cover: Sushi set, a limited edition featuring “Verde Guatemala” marble
Emily Millett is a freelance writer and editor, specialising in travel and working remotely between her bases in London and Nicosia. Previously the editor of TTG MENA Luxury, Emily now contributes to several print and online publications, while also working with clients across a broad spectrum of industries, managing their communications and creating compelling content for websites, blogs, marketing material and social media. An avid eco-warrior with a passion for ethical, mindful and sustainable travel, Emily is an advocate for travel as a force for good. Some of her favourite things to seek out while travelling includes local craft beers, colourful markets and those elusive off-the-radar spots that make you feel like a travel pioneer.