We interviewed Alessandro Rametta, who, together with Christian Casati, founded La Fucina di Efesto, a wrought iron workshop that belongs to the DOC circuit (Dergano Officina Creativa) in Milan.
Alessandro, tell us how your workshop began.
It began 16 years ago, with my passion for iron: I fell in love immediately with this material the first time I welded something. An aspect of the material that fascinated me was the possibility of rapidly assembling the different elements in a stable way, creating the most varied harmonies. We started in this space because Christian's grandfather, one of the partners, was already using it and then we took over. We were young and that period was dedicated to creating pieces of sculpture that then went into clubs and shops, like our lion that was shown in Gianfranco Ferré's shop windows for a long time.
And then how did your business evolve?
We started out with pure sculpture, then over the years, with experience and a greater knowledge of materials, we were able to consolidate our profession with a more well-equipped workshop and a recognizable identity. In 2006 we came to an agreement with the owners and completely remodelled the workshop, doing all the work by hand and trying not to change anything in the original structure of this rare time-honoured hayloft. Since 2006, we have been collaborating with different architects and other private clients, always trying to create pieces that are unique and always developing new forms and research.
We started out with pure sculpture, then over the years, with experience and a greater knowledge of materials, we were able to consolidate our profession with a more well-equipped workshop and a recognizable identity.
Let's say that we started out from a more underground type of context like local hangouts and shops, then with time we became more professional.
What can you tell us about the Dergano district?
The district was born two years ago, when Licia Martelli, our chairman, went to the trouble to go out and learn about all of the workshops in the area, and so 11 workshops joined together, on the one hand to try to share their know-how and experience with materials, and on the other to try to create a strong network that could come to terms with the professional difficulties that have really weighed down on the economy of small workshops like ours.
And what type of activities have you developed with the District?
First of all, the Milan Polytechnic contacted us to collaborate both with them as well as with other workshops; we also did exhibits with our own productions, trying to be carried along more by the desire to "make and do" than by the logic of the market, and so we also engaged in activities within the neighbourhood that would enable us to make space for the young people who live in our area. We exhibited at the Triennale, and that was where I met architect La Pietra, with whom we have recently collaborated on a project for the Creative Academy, together with Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cologni Foundation.
What kind of project?
This project is concerned with the work of the artisan and the designer, let's say that it was the first time that masters' students of the Creative Academy were called upon to directly follow the phases of work of one of their projects, working not only on the design phases, but also in close contact with the ceramist, the carpenter or, in my case, the smith who carried out their idea. In the projects that I followed, we worked on different materials and different finishes, trying to highly refine the object, almost as if it were a work of jewellery.
Have you had apprentices in your workshop?
Yes, here there has always been continuous training, I am very willing to hand my knowledge down to everyone I meet, because I think that it is useful to me as well as to those around me.
Some young people are fascinated by the "romantic" idea of the smith as an archaic profession, others instead, like Nicolò Mulazzani, who came to us here in the workshop in 2007, are interested in the professional and practical aspects. Mulazzani was recently hired by Ansaldo as a "structurist", but as soon as he can, he comes back to here to work with us.
How has your clientele changed?
Let's say that we started out from a more underground type of context like local hangouts and shops, then with time we became more professional, and now we work with architects and in the private sector and even in historical conservation in some of the most extraordinary pieces in the area around Milan.
Could you indicate some examples of the historical use of wrought iron in Milan?
The most beautiful pieces are almost certainly Alessandro Mazzuccotelli's: behind the Duomo there are various streets where some incredible works by him can be found, including balconies in Via Spadari, which were carried out with the bas relief technique.
Among the friezes are the ones worked by hand in the schools of the Umanitaria at the beginning of the twentieth century.