Maurizio Betti is a master craftsman, owner of “La Bottega di Betti” in Santarcangelo di Romagna (Rimini). He inherited the interest in woodworking from his father Pasquale, who worked as a restorer in the Seventies.

Today he works with his partner Loredana Cangini, a professional decorator, and with his son Jonathan, to whom he taught the secrets of the craft: together they create, in their carpentry and restoration workshop, lacquered and finely decorated furniture, and they restore period furnishings.

But their greatest masterpieces are garden furnishings, and in particular the spectacular and colorful aviaries, nests and bird feeders: spectacular one-of-a-kind pieces, entirely handmade.

He participated in Homo Faber 2022 in Venice, with his "Lo Studiolo Ornitologico", diplayed in “Next of Europe” room. In the same year he was awarded with the title of “MAM - Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere”, by Fondazione Cologni.

What is your story? How did you approach craftsmanship, and in particular artistic carpentry?

I started working in an artisanal workshop as soon as I finished my school years. At first I used to set up wooden floors; then, being very curious by nature, I approached other techniques - I would make plaster stucco, mount and color them, trying to learn traditional crafts.

At the age of eighteen I opened my craft workshop and started working on projects I liked the most.

Even then, the field of craftsmanship was very competitive: many people improvised as craftsmen, and prices fluctuated sharply. For this reason I was constantly looking to be one step ahead of others, by creating something more difficult and truly unique.
ìIn doing so I managed to craft my works with great care, by using rare and ancient techniques, and thus giving life to very unusual artifacts. Then I started working for owners of historic villas, who needed specialized workmanship, like mine.

I began to lacquer the ancient doors of these estates, using the techniques of the past; I rebuilt the plaster vaults with wooden ribs. I received the first requests for small custom-made furniture for the rooms I was renovating. Thus I finally began to make the first artistic artifacts in wood.

When I was a child, I used to watch and love birds, and so I do now. In 2008 I had the chance to raise a baby parrot, a Calopsitta, and I built the "Casetta Cippanico" (Cippanico’s little house) for him, a small aviary that bore the name I had given to the bird, and I let him live free in the shop with me.

Furthermore, for some time now, I have felt the need to share the knowledge I have gained over many years of experience: I would like to teach young people the beauty of craftsmanship, and I am looking for a larger space to turn into a school.

You specialize in the creation of aviaries and other elements for birds. What was the path and motivation that led you to choose this particular niche?

When I was a child, I used to watch and love birds, and so I do now. In 2008 I had the chance to raise a baby parrot, a Calopsitta, and I built the "Casetta Cippanico" (Cippanico’s little house) for him, a small aviary that bore the name I had given to the bird, and I let him live free in the shop with me. That was his house, always open, from which he could leave and return at will to sleep and eat. When my partner Loredana Cangini saw the little house, she was enthusiastic about it and she encouraged me to build other creations dedicated to birds. In this way I began to make the first artistic nests. Together with Loredana we wondered how exotic birds born in captivity would live. We did some researches, and we found out that only ugly and narrow iron cages, which did not allow a decent life for the birds, were available to buy on the market. Our experience with our parrot Cippanico, on the other hand, had made us understand that it was possible to create a happy coexistence with exotic species, without forcing the little bird into a life of confinement. It was possible to have a friendship very similar to the one we establish with cats and dogs. For this reason we started to create the first larger aviaries, such as the "Pagoda Aviary", the “Voliera Le due Sorelle” (Two Sisters Aviary), the “Casetta Chalet”. At the same time, we built the first nests for native free-ranging birds.

Your works are imaginative and fairytale-like, what do you draw inspiration from?

Curiosity, years of work on site, the study of techniques and colours, the observation of beauty in nature, the need to always challenge ourselves in new projects, the need to express ourselves and create beauty, being generous and dedicated to work: all this qualities and circumstances of ours ensure that we never lack ideas and stimuli to create ever new shapes and decorations that we offer to our clients.

After the first meeting with the customer, we already come out with an accurate idea of their needs and tastes. Switching from this idea to designing the project is a short step, and the path is already defined.

How do you design and build an aviary, and how do you manage and split your work with Loredana?

Loredana usually shuts herself up in her studio to sketch an aviary, and hours go by without seeing or hearing from her. Sometimes it takes days, other times a day is enough for her to show up with one or more sketches, where the ideas for the aviary are clearly outlined. At this point we discuss together, to understand which ideas can take shape through my work and which ones are infeasible. After exchanging opinions, we come up with the definitive project, which will be developed by Loredana in a more detailed and colorful sketch: it is the proposal that we will present to the customer with variations of colors and decorations. Once the client is satisfied with our proposal and has approved the sketch and the quotation, I begin to build the aviary. In the first phase of the realization, I work alone in the shop; every now and then I talk to Loredana about the measurements and some details of the piece. Our workshop is a small space, where everything is in place: it was an old stable near the center of Santarcangelo di Romagna. When I found it, it was abandoned and in bad conditions, so I restored it with the intention to use it as a workshop. Driven by my love for animals, I have transformed it from a place of sadness and death to a joyful place where many birds visit me every day. During the summer I go out to work in the small garden, which is full of nests and feeders that feed the birds of the village. I buy the necessary wood and start to work, entirely by hand: I deliberately don't have computerized machinery and I finish all the details personally. I love to cut and finish the lace, the frames, the doors, the drawers and the decorative elements in wood. Each aviary can be disassembled into every single part, so that it is easy to clean it and maintain it. Once the piece is built, I prepare the surfaces and the backgrounds with a brush. At this point it’s again the turn of Loredana, who decorates all parts of the aviary by hand-painting birds, flowers, butterflies, small landscapes, portraits of the guests who are going to live there, and so on. These decorations enrich the drawers, the doors of the base and the roof. Sometimes we integrate these decorations with small stuccoes of feathers and flowers covered in gold leaf, or we create small clay sculptures for the rooftop. For example, for the "La Parigina" aviary, we created, as a decoration on top of the roof, a small terracotta Chinese figure sitting on a sphere, with a turtledove resting on his arm.

Who are your customers?

They are people who love beauty and nature. When we participate in flower and garden exhibitions such as "Orticola" in Milan and “Tre giorni per il giardino” (Three days for the garden) at Castello di Masino, we meet many people who then become loyal customers and friends, with whom we share our experiences with birds and plants. Some aviaries have been commissioned directly through our website, which represents us well and which is a gateway to our world. Every now and then we go to visit our customers' homes, and after years the aviaries are still in excellent conditions and well-exhibited. When necessary, we are also available for their restoration.

Which other artifacts do you make besides aviaries and bird feeders?

For a period of my professional career I have been passionate about stone restoration: I created the "Gazott", which means sparrow in Romagna dialect - they are garden sculptures, which I shape by hand, formed by a base decorated with flowers, leaves and pumpkins, surmounted by a large bird, usually a robin, wearing a hat that can serve as a plant pot. The "Giardino di Necessità" (Garden of Necessity) is another project that I particularly care about, inspired by the terrace owned by my mother when she was alive. All of her beautiful plants grew in discarded pots that she had used as vases. I started decorating some pots inherited after she passed away. They were the ones she loved the most and that she used to make her her good tomato sauce. Now there is a small collection of old, abandoned aluminum pots, to which we give a second chance by transforming them into garden vases, thanks to the skill of Loredana, who decorates them by hand one by one, with love. We called it the "Garden of Necessity", because beautiful things sometimes arise from necessity. We are proud to dedicate the same attention and care that we give to a large project such as an aviary, to the recovery and creation of small artefacts, such as these pots.

What are your plans for the future of the business?

For some years now, designing and creating aviaries and garden furniture has become our main activity. I would like to continue designing and creating the aviaries, turning our ideas into reality and seeing them appreciated all over the world.

Furthermore, for some time now, I have felt the need to share the knowledge I have gained over many years of experience: I would like to teach young people the beauty of craftsmanship, and I am looking for a larger space to turn into a school.

In our workshop, time stands still, and every gesture becomes a precious legacy.