Artisan Simona Casadio's firm's headquarters are in Faenza, in the province of Ravenna: she specializes in gilding, lacquering and restoration. She started in 1930 with Mario, Simona's grandfather, to whom this interview is dedicated.
When did you start working in the workshop? What type of training did you have?
In the 1960s, my grandfather Mario was replaced by his son Franco, my father, who is connected with some important commissions: the Cathedral in Ferrara, for example, or the Cathedral in Faenza. Franco took their field of action beyond sacred art, to include antiques and conservative restoration.
In the 1980s, he became involved in the restoration of the antiques of some important old Italian families, from Emilia Romagna to Lombardy, from Tuscany to the Veneto, not to mention his collaboration with acknowledged architects, interior designers and – really a curiosity – even shipyards. The most sensational case is presumably the yacht done for the Sultan of Brunei.
I started helping my father Franco in the family studio early, attracted by his passion for and interest in the art.
At the end of the 1990s, after getting my diploma at the Istituto D'Arte per la Ceramica in Faenza and attending gilding and restoration courses in Forlì, I took over from my father Franco, becoming owner of the family firm.
Every object contains the art, mastery and love of a master who may be unknown to most people, but in reality had a very ancient origin, going all the way back to ancient Egypt.
How do you deal with the relationship between the hand's technique and the mind's creativity? Do you use new technology to create your products, or has the technique remained unchanged?
Gilding techniques have not changed: the oldest system is water or gouache gilding, suitable for ancient objects like small armchairs, candlesticks, frames, headboards and pieces of furniture. The Casadio firm, with over 70 years of experience, has set the goal of valorising and spreading knowledge of the art of Italian gilding, not only in the area of ancient or sacred objects, but also with objects for everyday use. Every object contains the art, mastery and love of a master who may be unknown to most people, but in reality had a very ancient origin, going all the way back to ancient Egypt.
The gouache gilding technique is used on exclusive crafts objects like accessories for the office and home, and lamps, which we carry out with the maximum care and quality.
How has your clientele evolved?
The clientele that seeks my work is very selective: they know about art and love to surround themselves with exclusive, sophisticated objects. They come to us because they recognize our quality and experience.
How do you see the role of institutions in the management, promotion and protection of art professions?
The institutions are not concerned about the world of artistic craftsmanship. Lately, there has been talk about the new job opportunities for young people that this sector can offer. But it actually requires training and promotional support and only a few people realize this.
What is the passion that moves, inspires or motivates you?
At the centre of my profession is the passion that in my case was born of tradition handed down over time. I am very happy to bring this wonderful profession to a third generation. Recently, I have been trying to bring the art of gilding to ordinary people, by creating contemporary objects.
What is your point of view on "luxury"? Can we connect it to the uniqueness of the products of masters in the art professions?
The art of gilding in gold leaf is a full member of the world of luxury, from gift and fancy goods to design. The foreign luxury market is always growing, from Russia to the Arab countries: Italian firms do not want to lose this opportunity, and so, on the contrary, they are offering high quality crafts products aiming at uniqueness. Firms looking for products of the highest quality come to us.
What is your link with the territory, with the context in which you work? What difficulties or hardships do you see in your sector?
My profession has no direct link with the territory I live in, but it is a trade that is dying out. The difficulties are many-sided, starting with the fact that young people do not know about the profession of the gilder, nor about the fields of application of the trade. There is also a lack of necessary information between the world of the craftsman and the world of industry and production so that a meeting point between these two worlds might come about. I believe that it is fundamental to organize – on the part of competent institutions – important initiatives to save professions and highly skilled jobs in Italy that have been handed down over the centuries: this is the way to increase the artistic and cultural heritage of our country.