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What purpose does art serve if not to improve our life?
Every success is correlated to a mountain of sacrifice, humility and labour.
Every single artist I have worked with has given me something positive. Our craft is not just an end in itself, but an enthusiastic exchange of ideas between us artisans and the artist, meaning the person who makes the design. The episode that influenced me most was definitely going to New York and working there in the early 1970s. From that moment onward, everything was different.
A mosaic always originates in an artist's sketch. He is the one who creates the idea, and he is generally the one who is asked by a client to make the project. We come into the picture when synergy has already been created between client and artist, leading to a sketch, drawing or painting. Our task is to construct a mosaic that is true to the style the artist wishes to transmit. There are many mosaic techniques, from the most traditional to the most abstract, and they include the Byzantine and Romanesque methods. We need to know all of them in order to render our work in the best possible way. We enlarge the drawing to a life-size scale, select the colours together with the artist, and create the mosaic. Naturally, we also supervise the actual laying of our artistic mosaics. Our service is meticulous, timely and customised.
The Big Apple is a miniaturised global world. There is a bit of everything; every bite has a different flavour. Regarding mosaic laying, I did not learn much, but on a human level I gained much experience. I met world-famous artists, and savoured the incredibly fast pace of life. All this marked me profoundly and influenced me for the rest of my life. New York teaches you to think quickly, act without wasting time, be brave and follow your dreams. It is a city that exalts the capable and massacres the mediocre without mercy, without ifs or buts.
We are firmly convinced that all mosaic techniques have already been explored, but you need to know them very well in order to propose them to different artists. The artists are really the ones who bring innovation through their contemporary and original designs. The mosaic technique is always traditional. One century ago, you only saw classic mosaics laid with a technique that was employed to copy the most realistic paintings. In the 1980s, there was an explosion of more modern techniques using large and small tesserae. Going back in history, we see that each period is characterised by a particular style. Just think of the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna. In my view, nothing combines design innovation with the tradition of artistic expression better than mosaic.
I think there is not much exchange of influence between the mosaics we make in public places and the ones we make in big cathedrals around the world. To the contrary, I think the two are quite separate. We are the only mosaic atelier in the world to be famous in both sectors. This happened because we have always cultivated attentive relationships in both domains. For the religious work, you need to been well schooled in the classical and Byzantine techniques, which vary according to whether you are dealing with the Catholic or the Orthodox Church. For public places, the situations are highly diverse according to the artist preparing the design. When you work for a church, you are aware of the responsibility of having to execute a mosaic that must show and transmit a sense of faith, a religious creed. People expect a lot from work of this nature, and we must rise to the challenge of important requests from the wide range of contexts we are called upon to work in.
Always strictly the design of the artist and his indications. This is why it is so important to be able to communicate with the artist before every project, so that there is perfect correspondence between his expectations and what our hands will create. Let us not forget that mosaics last eternally.
Training is all. It takes years to become acquainted with all the techniques, which comes after having frequented a mosaic school. Every project teaches you something. After having realised many hundreds of works in every corner of the world, we are still here learning and talking to one another about new ideas. Competence is a consequence of training. There is no competence without knowledge, and knowledge cannot be bought. You acquire it over many years. As for creativity, I'd say that it is a condition you cannot do without in this trade, where everything is done by hand, where we transform a coloured material into complex shapes and patterns.
In many years of work, episodes worth remembering are numerous indeed. Generally, we remember the artists more than the mosaics we made for them. The bond we form is so strong. I won't mention one event as the most important, but it is a beautiful thing to see the emotion and satisfaction on the faces of the people we work with when they see the finished mosaic. We are all like ships passing in the night, but to think that future generations will sometimes pause and look at one of our works is decidedly the most thrilling feeling of our craft. It happens that I see people observing one of our projects in a subway station or airport. It is great to think that each one of them receives a small amount of pleasure from the beauty transmitted from that particular artistic mosaic. What purpose does art serve if not to improve our life?
I'd give them but two pieces of advice. One: your market will be the world, so see to it that you speak English better than your mother tongue. Every person who contacts you must feel in good, professionally secure hands. Each client must be sure that he is understood perfectly.
Two: never be in a hurry. In this world, success linked to art does not arrive immediately, unlike in other sectors. In our craft, what counts is being very, very skilled. Many years are needed to learn, and sometimes even this is not enough to find your own market. But what is certain is this: if you become a good mosaicist who knows all the techniques, you will always find work and be appreciated for what you are able to do.
I don't know if this concept is easy to accept in an era where everything must be had immediately, and where professionalism is readily sold in exchange for short cuts, quick money and improbable promises. We must keep one eye on tomorrow, and one watchful eye on the past. Every success is correlated to a mountain of sacrifice, humility and labour.
Laura Inghirami, journalist and advisor specialized in the jewelry sector, and Founder of Donna Jewel, interviewed, for the Cologni Foundation, the Master artisans who have been awarded as “MAM – Master of Arts and Crafts”, in the category: Jewelry - Silversmithing – Goldsmithing.