This interview was carried out as part of the project for the thesis “If intangible, then…” by Andrea Bergamini and Stefano Mori (Facoltà di Architettura, Milan Polytechnic, 2013),
which involved research, but is more importantly a project that faces today’s problems concerning traditional and artistic crafts conceived as the expression of a country’s non-material cultural heritage. As with past interviews, this one is first of all a cognitive investigation that is useful for understanding individual cases in Lombardy, and secondly a collection of data to identify different spatial and mechanical necessities.
Where did you learn your trade and when did you start your business?
"I attended a professional institute, which is where my interest in mechanics started and where I learned the main notions on materials and how to work with them.
I kept this passion alive by working as an apprentice in a workshop and in 1974, I decided to open my own, which at present has 3 skilled craftsmen.”
In general, I think that to do this job, you need certain notions on working processes, manual ones, too, and a basic knowledge of materials.
What is involved in your work? How do you put your ideas into action?
"First of all, the idea for the initial design comes directly from me, or is agreed upon with the client. Then, after making various sketches, the definitive one is reproduced on a 1:1 scale in sheet metal. In this first phase, I get ideas from any art form, music included. I have always wanted to do more studies in art; unfortunately that hasn’t been possible, but fortunately I have a job that lets me experiment a lot in this direction. Once the model is created in sheet metal, I choose the standard metal pieces to start with, and they are taken to high temperatures with the forge and then beaten in various ways according to how they are supposed to be worked. In some cases, welding is called for in various parts, and they might have to be integrated with mechanical components”.
What kind of spaces do you need to carry out your work? What characteristics does it have to have?
"Space is extremely precious and, of course, the more you have, the more you take up. The main function is the manual work and the machine work, which takes place in three different areas: the forge area, the welding/assembly area, the mechanical pieces shop. The storage areas of standard section bars and small mechanical complements are two necessary spaces where you must organize things, and put the pieces in order. Finally, there is a little office where all the projects are filed, and where administrative and public relations functions are carried out. From the point of view of the quality of the work space, having natural light helps a lot, even if we can’t do without artificial light; the separation of the various functions is another way to isolate noise and keep things in order, and finally, the doubled height of the assembly shop allows us to manoeuvre the big pieces better.”
Do you have apprentices in your shop? How do you see young people who want to approach your trade?
"Right now, we don’t need apprentices in the workshop, because the work that we have lets us manage with the people that already work with me. In general, I think that to do this job, you need certain notions on working processes, manual ones, too, and a basic knowledge of materials. In particular, for a young person, it is more difficult today with respect to the past because each product makes its own history: the shop boy of once upon a time did individual tasks, and that enabled him to learn techniques that were always repeated, whereas today, the techniques themselves are re-invented every day, changing according to the single job required.”