From clothing to shoes, from table lamps to wooden furniture, there is something special about products that are made in Italy. While many people immediately think of the latest styles emerging from the studios of Italian designers, you would be amazed at the Italian artisan products and the unique stories that often serve as a backdrop to the creation of these fabulous creations. They are made by the hands of talented craftsmen and craftswomen, using techniques that are often passed down from generation to generation, making these objects not only aesthetically appealing, but also tell a story. From the north to the south of Italy, follow us as we visit some of the country’s most talented artisans.
In a previous series, The Italian Tribune featured the country’s shoe designers. With Italian fashion revered worldwide, it is no surprise that when dressing to the nines from head to toe, that shoes make a statement that few can ignore. If you travel to the wonderful city of Turin in the north, you might look into the shop of Beppe Rondinella, a passionate leather craftsman who specializes in shoes. His love for the trade began twenty five years ago as a young boy, repairing heels and beginning to get his hands on the materials that are needed to create footwear. It seemed even from a young age that his future in the art of shoemaking was assured.
Beppe’s process to create a shoe consists of four steps: the cut, which includes the preparation of the upper shoe and the lining (with the customer’s leather of choice), followed by the stitching and assembly of the upper part of the shoe. The third step is mounting it to the rest of the form of the shoe and the process concludes with adding the sole and finishing the leather.
His shoes are now sold in renowned stores throughout the world, but even with such success, Beppe remains true to his roots. He produces his high-quality product entirely by hand at his workshop and also has a store called Calzolaio Carlo Alberto. His work with leather has also inspired him to branch out with a collection of belts of unique materials including crocodile, python and ostrich.
From the north of Italy, travel east to the Veneto, where goldsmiths have plied their trade for untold generations. The ancient craft finds a very modern place in today’s Italian craftsmanship. Tucked away in the heart of Veneto is the goldsmith shop of Daniela Vettori. Her pieces are without doubt eye catching. These exquisite jewelry pieces may be created with simple and classic lines for everyday wear, while others have an unmistakably bold presence and sit majestically around the neck for an elegant evening look.
There is something quite different about a Daniela Vettori piece. All are made by the hands of not only a talented woman, but a pioneer in her field. She employs a rather innovative and original goldsmithing technique, developed and refined by Daniela herself in the 1970s. This technique applies fire to the metals until it obtains a unique texture, giving the yellow gold an opaque and natural element.
But while her technique may be modern and cutting edge, she brings in a bit of ancient tradition, using lost wax casting that was seen not only in the time of the Roman Empire, but even back to the time of the Etruscans. Mix her uniquely textured gold with settings in amber, pearls, coral and opals and you then have a unique statement and a wearable work of art.
The ceramics trade in Italy stretches from the north to the south and when one thinks of beautiful works of ceramic art, the Amalfi Coast is usually the first place that comes to mind. In Positano, colorful works to grace your home fill your eye at every turn. Unquestionably, there is something about the south of Italy that emanates warmth.
If you travel further south to the glorious island of Sicily, you will find the vibrant works of ceramic sculptor Alessandro Iudici. Alessandro is the ninth generation in his family to carry on the business and may be the longest running in the Sicilian ceramics trade. The workshop is located in the town of Caltagirone, for hundreds of years the center of the artisanal ceramics trade in Sicily. As a young boy, Alessandro grew up around individuals who were passionate about making ceramics and he lent his hand to the creations, working on the lathe and to this day, still uses his family’s kilns.
Iudici’s masterpieces consist of a collection of colorful and unique vases that embody a very traditional sense of style that speaks to its roots. The blues, greens and oranges that are so popular in everyday Sicilian and Mediterranean life come alive in these one-of-a-kind vases. Even the colors for the ceramics are prepared by hand in a laboratory-like setting, while for the glaze, sand is collected and used from the surrounding countryside.
For the Italian culture, there is a strong sense of pride that comes with the artisan trade. It has a long history of hard work, family traditions and a passion to create something that is not only special, but of the highest quality. That is why we treasure the products that are made in Italy.