"Italian craftsmanship, an asset that we must defend, aware of its value for our entire Italian system" "Craftsmanship as a paradigm of our economic system. A value to defend"
Let's try to do an experiment. If I say Italy what comes to your mind? What (positive) characteristic do you immediately associate with?
I am convinced that in most cases, especially from the point of view of an external observer, perhaps not an Italian one, the first answer will be our art, our Renaissance, our paintings or our statues. And this of course can only please us and make us proud.
Despite this, it shouldn't be the first association. Because in the artistic field we have been record holders, leader for many years but not forever. In research and science the same. In medicine, in the automotive industry and in many other sectors, we have had a primacy, or a partial primacy for limited periods, which, however, often went to dissolve covered by our own inefficiencies, bureaucratic and political. But there is a sector that, fighting against all this, has maintained its uniqueness and its unique strength is vital: craftsmanship.
Let's take an example. The painting of a great artist lives on his own rightful reputation, but the latter was only possible thanks to a system of artisans who worked for the master. From the framer to the carver, from the marble worker to the blacksmith, from the construction worker to the glazier ... a wonderful world that has always been enriched with new faces of the same wonderful coin.
Let's do another: the great industries of our history, from cars to mechanics, are based and live on small and medium-sized enterprises that are able to support them and create that know-how that can only compete with the economy of foreign competitors. As well as for our wonderful fashion and leather goods fabric. All united by history, yes, but also by a present that cannot be overshadowed.
Our economy, always in crisis and always fighting primarily against itself, is based and has always been based on our craftsmanship, made up of its small and medium-sized enterprises, its difficulties, its realities, its unique facets. Uniqueness and rarity that allow to emerge even in the world of quantity rather than quality. Why do we still have entire sectors that invest in Italy and not simply where the cost is lower, for example in the Chinese market? Because even today the know-how of Italian craftsmanship is such as to justify a higher cost for those who want that type of quality (let's think once again of leather goods in Tuscany, where the big names rely on our tertiary sector or on the mechanical industry of precision that does the same). It is not a foregone conclusion, and it is not something that we can believe we will have forever, unless we ourselves, with institutional choices and political vision, choose to defend it strenuously.
We, as an Italian system, are this. We learn to love ourselves but above all to defend ourselves! Without the contribution of craftsmanship, of the shop, we would not be there. Everyone, including our site, can and must somehow support this world. The risk of seeing all this lost is there, but we have the tools to reverse this dangerous trend.
An Etruscan jewel made me reflect on the concept of eternity and how we relate to the most precious objects we have.
Etruscan artifacts show us how skilled goldsmiths were at the time, able to use a wide variety of techniques and tools, wisely chosen from: embossing, printing, engraving and filigree techniques based on the desired decorative effect.
The most common jewels were buckles, brooches, bracelets, rings and necklaces but also defense items such as daggers, shields and swords.
It is impressive to look closely at a jewel that is over two thousand years old but is so elaborate that it dwarfs the most skilled contemporary artisans.
I felt this feeling some time ago: it was Saturday, a gray day, a bit humid, of those in which if you don't give a move you end up spending hours motionless on the sofa, so I decided to take refuge in the Archaeological Museum of Florence and it was there that I came across the Corsini Fibula: decorated with the granulation technique in silver and laminated gold it was there, so beautiful, at the same time so ancient and so modern. Beautiful.
The Corsini Fibula is of a beauty that leaves you speechless, small ducks and lions are sculpted along the arch and on the scabbard and is completely decorated with motifs formed of tiny gold spheres.
The granulation technique used in this product consists in the welding of small golden spheres or grains to a base generally of foil, following predetermined motifs or designs.
While I was looking at it, this question rang in my head: how much effort will it have cost the goldsmith how much sweat will he have poured on those tiny gold balls? A lot I guess.
The brooch comes from a funeral kit and was found in the necropolis of Banditella in Marsiliana d’Albenga buried near the remains of a war chariot and bronze vases and this indicates that it certainly belonged to a high-ranking figure of the Etruscan aristocracy.
The Fibula belongs to the kind of jewelry that was used by the rich to fasten clothes to the waist or close a cloak worn over the shoulder and was a real symbol of power and wealth.
It fascinates me to think that these objects, jewels, were considered eternally linked to a person even beyond death and this is the reason why they have come down to us and now we can admire them in all their splendor.
Somehow they are what remains of the people who owned them and tell us something about them.
Here, now every time I look at my favorite ring or that bracelet they gave me I find myself thinking “well, you will live longer than me” and you will tell a piece of my story.
Unfortunately, even today jewels have been dragged into the logic of fashion and have progressively lost that aura of mystery linked to the concept of eternity.
So I ask myself: maybe we should learn or rather re-learn from our ancestors and look with different eyes at the most precious objects that belong to us and that one day when we are no longer there they will still be able to tell something about us?
ABOUT GOLDEN ART, ARTIOPIA'S SUGGESTIONS:
Speaking of jewelry, we invite you to look at the fragments collection of Microfficina: small jewels that are never dull, unique and refined pieces, a gift idea for an occasion to remember.
Today we meet Massimiliano Benvenuti, silversmith craftsman, son of art and owner of Osvaldo Benvenuti. From the very first meeting, Massimiliano manages to convey knowledge of his profession but also the desire and awareness that innovation, even in his sector, is the only way to a future as protagonists.
«To break the ice Massimiliano let's talk about your company, how was it born? What story does it bring with it in the making of these splendid objects?»
«The company was born with my grandfather, Osvaldo Benvenuti. A man who worked in a completely different world from ours. Just imagine that he was from 1916 and that as a child he started working in the various Florentine workshops to learn the trade without any documentary trace of this first phase. Before 1947, in fact, there was no artisans register! Since the first establishment of the register, however, we find the name of my grandfather as a silversmith craftsman and therefore as the official starting date of our company, now in its third generation of silversmiths. Our history can therefore be enclosed in a few periods: the first unrecorded phase from 1930 to 1947, unfortunately spaced out by the war, a second with Osvaldo at the head of the company, a third with my father Gianni and the current one in which Alessandro and I , Osvaldo's grandchildren, we are carrying out his dream».
«A long history that carries within it the best Florentine craftsmanship tradition. From a guy who learns a trade in an evolving world to your company, modern and looking to the future. In this regard, instead for you, Massimiliano, when did the decision and passion to carry on this family tradition come about?»
«My story is inextricably linked to that of Alessandro, my cousin and my partner. He was a son of art but as a goldsmith. In 1998 he brought his experience as a goldsmith into the company, creating an unexpected and excellent collaboration. My story, on the other hand, is that of a boy who at 25, after many other experiences, decided to make my organizational experience available to my father's company and to, pass me the term, frontman of the company. From this combination, in which I try to bring new ideas and new customers, a unique and exciting path was born. We are a duo that works and unites different souls, all necessary to be able to renew a company so important and rooted in its roots».
«A look to the future then. What will your future be? What are the challenges you will face?»
«The challenge, as Artiopia itself knows well, for artistic craftsmanship is primarily a digital challenge! We must do beautiful and high-value things, but we must also be able to expand the stage compared to the city stage, the highest regional one, which the craftsman had always had over the years. The challenge is enormous because to do this you need money, time and ideas. Things that the craftsman has not always had. To do this, we have to rely on trade associations, calls for tenders and the encounter with realities like yours in order to be able to bring our message and our work where it had never arrived before.»
«How does 2020 fit into this context? What can a craftsman do to overcome this moment?»
«First of all we try to survive. For example, I had started 2020 very well with important customers but then it was a question of being able to continue communicating, to be seen. The theme is always the same, collaborate, open your eyes, raise your eyes from the laboratory alone in order to resist and even grow despite everything. An example? Don't be limited to your own world and product. I did this by establishing relationships with bronze workers and also changing and adapting my ad hoc products for the new relationships we have developed as a company».
«Very clear and on this point Artiopia can only try to support you and encourage these paths. But back for a romantic moment. What can be the object you are most attached to, the one that represents you the most?»
«It is a very difficult question to answer but in our case perhaps I have to think of an object that for years has been our flagship: the ivy perforated frame. A more representative decoration which is however a reminder of an important past but which, for example, is now somehow outdated and has left room for jewels and crystals that represent us and differentiate us from other competitors».
«Here is the differentiation. Fundamental theme to be able to emerge. What can be the most unique and representative technique of Osvaldo Benvenuti?»
«First of all. We do everything by hand and internally from the model to the realization. Then the most representative technique, as you can also see on Artiopia, is the lost wax casting. We are therefore essentially unique for these two main reasons: models all made internally with a unique flexibility and the casting technique».