Have you ever entered an Italian historical Bottega? They are enchanted places where it seems to go back in time, where everything speaks of tradition and culture. To be referred to as “historical exercise” one must have exercised the activity in the same economic sector for at least 50 years, without interruption. Many of the Master Craftsmen have their studios in Historical Workshops where the original furnishings, tools, and the same signs have been preserved for over 100 years.
Florence, Bologna, Genoa, and Palermo, to name a few, have ad hoc regulations to protect their value and there is also a register of historic companies on a national level. Unfortunately, as it often happens, the local regulation does not reflect the national one either in terms of vocabulary or in terms of years required for such recognition, but we would be satisfied with the correct mapping if it were guaranteed.
In this regard, I had a virtual coffee with the President of the Association of Historical Exercises of Florence, the Master Craftsman Gabriele Maselli framer, I will tell you our conversation:
Do you remember such a difficult period in the city of Florence?
I don’t think I can directly recall such a difficult moment if not from my father’s stories about the flood. That of 1966 was a catastrophic event that once passed brought with it all the desire for reconstruction and collaboration to make our city flourish. This event is much more subtle, it is not over yet and consumes all of our daily life, our lives, and our activities.
How has it changed and how do you think your job will change?
Surely many companies have understood, in this context, the importance of having a virtual showcase to better reach the international public. As we know this is not enough on its own, you need a vision, you need to rely on experts while we continue to commit ourselves to the product and processing.
The work will change because it will have to keep up with the times. Today’s mistake is that young people think that craftsmanship is an opportunity made up of a lot of communication and little manual work. It is exactly the opposite. Being a craftsman means working with method and competence (and it is no coincidence that my son Tommaso, twenty years old, is attending the school of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure after having completed his artistic high school and also had experience in the workshop). Every day you have to learn the discipline of work as well as seeing the profession from another angle, that of culture and artistic knowledge.
Is there or has there been any aid from the Municipality, Region, State?
At the moment there are some incentives and calls such as those of the CR Firenze Foundation that with OMA is supporting the artistic crafts sector in Florence. I decided not to resort to aid because it provided a bank loan which at this moment I prefer not to access.”
What types of aid do you want so that the historic shops can be preserved?
The most concrete help for us is listening to our requests. The governors must listen to our words and treasure them because we transmit a unique competence that once it has disappeared it will not be possible to replace it. It is the great strength of our country that is never sufficiently exploited except by private initiatives. We should ask for major financial contributions to save ours.
For the moment we can only give honor and merit to the Master Craftsmen who with dedication and sacrifice manage to keep their workshop alive and to the work done by the Cities and Associations that work with passion so that so much wealth does not go thwarted. For my part, starting from the city of Florence, I will tell you the stories of many Master Artisans and their workshops with photos, videos and interviews. See you soon.