Andrea Celestino is a skilled sculptor and woodcarver. Born in Aosta in 1993, he became passionate about woodworking as a child, watching his grandfather carving and sculpting in his garage in Valle d'Aosta. He thus discovered that he had a strong propensity for art and craftsmanship, great manual skills and a talent for sculpture. He then attended a “bottega-scuola” (a workshop whose skilled owner also teaches the craft to younger artisans) in his region, and continued his training in Ortisei, in Val Gardena, the home of wooden sculpture. Today, in his workshop in Saint-Pierre, he creates works of art and sculptures with a contemporary style: his female figures exude serenity, grace and freedom, but at the same time a powerful and vibrant energy. The creative process starts from a careful search for harmony in lines and shapes, which depends also on the type of wood he uses, while the inspiration comes from nature, and its shapes and colours.

What was your path and how did you start in this profession?

My path started at a very young age by seeing my grandfather sculpting for passion in the garage, in the wintertime, when he was interrupting his job. I immediately realised that I loved working with my hands and building things: from the age of 12 until today I have never stopped. When I was a teenager, I slowly started with drawing, and later with wood sculpture, attending a “bottega-scuola” in my region. Then I continued my studies in Val Gardena, in Ortisei. I owe a lot to these two experiences.

I started doing this job far too early, unfortunately or fortunately, out of inexperience, as I had not yet consolidated the necessary foundations to make it a real job. But after realising this, I decided not to waste a single second to achieve the goals I had set for myself in order to grow. Even now I am still going in this direction.

I mainly draw inspiration from my surroundings and the human figure in general. But what gives me most satisfaction is the creative process, often more than the finished work.

I do not have a favourite one. I learn new things with each piece, and I am very grateful for that. So I consider them all equally important.

The Aosta Valley is a region known for woodworking, a tradition with ancient roots. How important was the link with the territory for your work?

The space where my grandfather used to carve was the garage of a hotel located at 1800 metres altitude, surrounded by nature and at the foot of beautiful mountains. As a child, I was strongly influenced by the beauty that surrounded me, more by nature than by the people who lived there. I believe that my connection with the land where I was born is closer to nature and animals than to the history of its people, without taking anything away from the people who inhabit this wonderful land.

But I used to sculpt as a child because I liked doing it, I don't come from a family of artisans, like those who, for generations, have taken part in the Sant'Orso fair after spending the season in the alpine pastures, and then come down to the valley to sell typical objects. I did not have that kind of experience, nor did my parents; perhaps my grandparents did when they were young, but that experience did not reach me. However, if it had not been for this tradition, my grandfather probably would not have

carved in the garage, and today I don't know if I would have become a sculptor; I don't know if I would have developed a passion for sculpture. So I owe a lot to the land where I was born and to its people.

Your works are realistic and evocative at the same time. From what do you draw inspiration?

I mainly draw inspiration from my surroundings and the human figure in general. But what gives me most satisfaction is the creative process, often more than the finished work.

How many hours of work does it take to create a large work, and what are the steps involved in the process?

The time required to realise large works varies greatly depending on the type of sculpture and its complexity. It can take from one month to six months, up to a year, and this depends on many variables. The steps are more or less always the same: I start with a sketch on paper, then proceed to the creation of the scale model in three dimensions, and finally to the realisation of the final sculpture, exactly as the great masters of the Renaissance did.

Who are your clients and what has been the most interesting work you have done so far?

They are usually private clients, but sometimes also public institutions.  To be honest, the most interesting work realised so far does not exist, because I find them all interesting, especially in the execution phase, and often also for the end result. I do not have a favourite one. I learn new things with each piece, and I am very grateful for that. So I consider them all equally important.

How do you combine tradition and innovation in your work?

This is a difficult question for me, because it is still not clear to me what this means. If we mean Valle d'Aosta sculptural tradition or its craftsmanship, there is practically nothing traditional in my work at the moment. Since I am a sculptor, what I mean for tradition is the work of the masters of Renaissance sculpture: Donatello, Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova... but also the contemporary ones. To this day I do not know how to combine this tradition with innovation, and I am still looking for a way to do it. But I can say that in recent years I see, especially among young people of my age and younger, that there are fewer and fewer people with a good know-how in crafts. The quality is not what it used to be, and I consider this a great loss: to create with one's own hands something extremely difficult is good for the soul. I cannot imagine a machine or technology replacing this experience.

What are your future plans?

At the moment my plan is to grow continuously from a technical point of view, and to pursue my way. And I will see where this will take me, moment by moment.

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