Avevo 11 anni ed avevo appena finito le scuole elementari, quando un mattino, passeggiando per le vie di Valdicastello, il mio paese che era appena uscito, come tutti i paesi della nostra Italia, martoriato e ferito, dalla grande guerra che aveva visto la mia infanzia costellata di privazioni, paura e dolore, mi imbattei in Lino, che faceva l’operaio in una ditta di Pietrasanta, e che seduto sulle scale del monumento, valutandomi con un’occhiata, mi chiese:
“O bimbo, ma tu avresti voglia di imparare a fare il mosaico? La mia ditta cerca un apprendista, ma uno che abbia voglia di lavorare”
Lo guardai, sorrisi e dissi: “Si che avrei voglia, tanta voglia, ma sento il babbo e la mamma e poi vi faccio sapere”.
All’epoca si dava ancora del Voi alle persone più grandi, in segno di rispetto e deferenza, e veniva così, naturale, senza pensarci troppo.
Corsi via, più veloce che potevo, per raccontare alla mamma di questa offerta, così meravigliosa, così più grande di me, che mi faceva sentire già uomo, già adulto e, al mattino dopo, mi alzai con il primo canto del gallo e, con il cuore che mi batteva forte, mi incamminai verso Pietrasanta con una borsa, grande, più grande di me, che toccava quasi per terra e che conteneva il mio pranzo.
La passeggiata, quella mattina, come per tutte le mattine successive, fu breve, perché per la strada incontrai Napoleone dell’Erné, che mi dette un passaggio in bicicletta, così che arrivai in anticipo davanti al cancello dalla ditta Ferrari&Bacci.
Entrai, cominciai a guardarmi intorno e scoprii un mondo fatto di colori, forme, figure, minuscoli pezzetti di smalti colorati, grandi banconi di legno sui quali, gli operai stavano ricurvi con un martellino in mano, fischiettando una canzone, in allegria.
Gli operai erano 6 e a pensarci bene oggi, non erano molto più adulti di me, visto che avevano tra 18 e i 20 anni, ma a me, quel giorno, sembrarono uomini fatti…
Ricordo che il più grande di tutti aveva solo 30 anni, ma all’epoca a 30 anni eravamo adulti, con famiglia e figli.
All’epoca avevamo altre responsabilità: dovevamo ricostruire una nazione.
Dopo una breve visita, breve perché, il lavoro era tanto e tempo da perdere non ce n’era, Il Ferrari, così lo chiamavamo e così lo chiamai per il resto della nostra vita insieme, mi diede un paio di forbici e mi disse:” Ricopiale su un foglio e poi riempi la forma di mosaici”, allungandomi una scatolina piena zeppa di pezzetti di smalti multicolori.
Mi misi a sedere, disegnai le forbici e cominciai ad incollare i pezzetti, ben attento a non uscire dai margini del disegno.
Nessuno mi disse niente.
Nessuno mi diede istruzioni.
Io seguii il mio istinto ed andai avanti fino a che anche il più piccolo spazio bianco, fu riempito di colore e forma.
Una volta finito, lo portai dal Ferrari, un po' in ansia, ma Lui non disse una parola, mi prese la mano, me l’appoggiò su un foglio bianco e, con una matita, tracciò la forma della mia mano di bambino, inesperto ed insicuro e mi disse: “Ora riempi questa”.
Il mio primo giorno, iniziò così, con un paio di forbici ed una mano che diventarono mosaico.
Iniziò senza troppe parole, senza corsi di formazione, senza libri, iniziò con una esperienza.
I giorni corsero via veloci, diventarono settimane e mesi e cominciai ad avvicinarmi al grande mondo dell’abbinamento dei colori e a maneggiare, gli strumenti del mosaicista: la martellina e la pinzetta.
Ne esistevano di varie forme e dimensioni in ditta e, a me, che ero un bambino, mi diedero la più piccola perché imparassi a maneggiarla.
Ne rimasi affascinato: la martellina era di acciaio temperato, fatta a mano dal famoso Brunini di Ponterosso e il mio mondo si aprì ad un vasto reame di possibilità.
Picchiavo con leggerezza sullo smalto e lo riducevo in piccoli pezzi, cercando di dargli una forma, uno spessore, una dimensione.
Ero l’unico bambino, anzi ero l’unico bimbo, come si dice in Versilia, ero silenzioso, volenteroso.
I grandi mi presero a benvolere e cominciarono ad insegnarmi, ognuno per propria competenza e specializzazione, ognuno con le proprie capacità.
Ma il mio maestro, allora e per sempre, fu il Ferrari, un uomo dal talento maestoso, capace di intuire con un colpo d’occhio, la forma, il colore, le dimensioni giuste del pezzo.
Il problema, il mio problema, come il problema di tutti, era la colla, fatta di farina di grano, che tendeva a cristallizzarsi, a tirare, come si diceva, e il mosaico si staccava, dopo tutto il lavoro fatto, senza alcun preavviso.
Gli anni passarono e la paga, elargita alla fine di ogni settimana, diventò un vero stipendio e dalle 200 lire dei primi tempi, mi trovai ad essere assunto come operaio dopo soli tre anni.
Avevo 14 anni, mi sentivo un uomo, mi sentivo grande perché portavo un vero stipendio a casa. Mi sentivo felice.
Continuai ad imparare e, dopo 7 anni, ero in grado di fare tutto.
Ero bravo a fare le vesti e cominciai a lavorare a cottimo, così si diceva una volta, guadagnando il quadruplo del mio stipendio, lavorando anche il sabato, con un progetto in testa: costruire una casa da dare alla mia famiglia.
Ne avevo ormai 18, di anni, quando il mosaico mi fece vivere la mia prima grande avventura all’estero e volai a Malta per installare il pavimento e l’abside di una chiesa.
Che emozione, che meraviglia, poter vedere il mondo, poter conoscere nuovi paesaggi, sentire lingue diverse, vedere posti nuovi e tutto grazie a minuscoli pezzetti di marmo colorato che, magicamente, potevano trasportami, proiettarmi in un’altra realtà.
Continuai a crescere, a specializzarmi, ormai sapevo fare tutto, anche lavorare i materiali più difficili come l’oro, che inganna, tradisce l’occhio del mosaicista, perché lavorando a rovescio, se ne perdono le sfumature e solo allora capii che la bravura non viene dalle mani, ma dalla testa, dalla capacità di capire il disegno, il progetto.
Capii che non sarei mai stato un artista ma un artigiano, che avrei prestato le mie mani e il mio cervello a chi volesse trasformare in mosaico la sua arte, la sua ispirazione.
Ma, mi mancava ancora un tassello… per completare la mia formazione, una cosa importante, di cui oggi, alla mia età, sono totalmente consapevole, e che mi porta a dire che con il mosaico non smetti mai di imparare, perché ogni lavoro è un lavoro nuovo, pieno di incognite, il cui risultato sarà, lì sotto gli occhi di tutti, solo dopo che sarà finito, mai prima.
Non ho sogni nel cassetto, anzi si, ne ho uno, continuare a lavorare, come sempre, perché la passione, l’entusiasmo e l’amore che provo per questo lavoro è più forte di qualsiasi cosa, più forte del tempo che passa, più forte dell‘età che avanza, più forte del vento.
Perché questo non è un lavoro, è vita vissuta.
Sometimes I believe my job is a blessing.
A blessing, someone may think, because of the money it involves.
No, I’d answer, because of the people it involves.
My job puts me in touch, on a daily basis, with people all over the world: different nationalities, different traditions, different customs, but one same purpose: art for art’s sake.
Some of them come and go, like the jobs they bring with them.
Some of them stay, forever, with me.
I was thinking about this when I met with Barbara, my blogger, in a cold and wet February morning evening, when everybody was already out, busy shopping in the lively and colourful streets of Pietrasanta during the San Biagio’s fun fair.
The reason why I asked Barbara to come, was that I wanted to share with her an unusual and beautiful story of a wonderful friendship with two colleagues: Emanuele and Jim.
Emanuele, the President of a very famous local company specialized in marble and art, the Barsanti Marble, Bronze&Mosaics, founded by Emanuele’s great- grand-father, had lived and worked in my home town for all his life, but in spite of living both in Pietrasanta, we had had little to no chance to get to know each other well, until, one day, I received a phone call from him announcing a prospect big job to be done in Atlanta with a very evocative title : Cosmic Christ.
It took us a minute’s conversation to decide to go and inspect the location ourselves and book a flight to Atlanta.
The flight, the long twelve hours’ flight, was one of the best experiences in my life time.
It was a soul journey.
It was a breakthrough.
Me and Emanuele talked about everything but work, everything but the project we were going to work on together, as if we needed to delve into each other’s mind and soul, before proceeding further.
The flight gave me the chance to get to know and to like Emanuele to such an extend that, once we landed in Atlanta I felt we were, already, very good friends, as if we had known each other for years, sharing the same ideas, the same vision and the same concept of life.
I was already so pleased with what life had so generously offered, that I thought I could not ask for more, when, on the following day, I met with Jim, the owner and founder of Jim Piercey Studios Inc, the company that contacted Emanuele for the job.
Imagine my surprise when, on meeting with Jim, I realized that I had the second chance, in a week, to work with a creative, imaginative and talented entrepreneur, who shared with me and Emanuele the same perspective.
How would you call this, if not a blessing?
Jim and Emanuele had known each other for long but I felt immediately at ease with them and started working with them on the project, getting on it with passion.
The site inspection revealed what we all feared: the mosaics under evaluation could not be saved, could not be saved at all.
Once this was accepted as the only possible answer, the B plan was put into immediate action.
A detailed report followed.
Brainstorming meetings took place with a committee of engineers that were there to evaluate us and our skills, who, after a short while, stopped, simply stopped evaluating us and started working with us on a presentation, that was shortly due to be staged to the local Church Community.
The presentation was beautifully arranged by Jim and presented to an audience of more than 800 people, who, I am proud to say, voted for it unanimously and the project could get its first kick off.
To me it was the beginning of a new phase of life, which is something that happens to me every time I start working on a new project.
A project is never “only a project” to me.
It becomes part of my daily life. It is in my thoughts, day and night.
It is something that lingers in my mind when I lay in bed, when I wake up, when I work, until I see it produced, until I see it living.
During the creation of a new piece of mosaics every day is a new beginning, when nothing is ever taken for granted, where every peace of marble or glass is handled at least four times, before finding its special place in the plan.
Six months of continuous work passed and the first huge “door” was ready to be installed.
I flew with my staff to Atlanta, this time, regretfully, without Emanuele and we spent one month there to install it, to everybody’s pleasure.
Jim, in the meantime, had become part of my family, after our trip together to Venice with Emanuele, his wife Sabrina and my wife, Silvia.
A trip where business and pleasure mingled easily and made it a great, new occasion to come to know each other, better and better.
Once back to Italy, my mind set immediately on the second huge door, heading to complete the 800 sqft project with its thousands and thousands of precious pieces of mosaics.
Time will pass fast and will see us busy completing the project, will see us working closely with Emanuele and Jim, to my great pleasure.
What should I ask for more?
Life is beautiful, isn’t it?
MOSAICS IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE: A DREAM COME TRUE
We all tend to believe that mosaics are mainly meant for Art, Churches, Temples and monuments celebrating the grand deeds of historical figures or religious leaders.
But this is not always true.
Mosaics may also become part of your everyday life.
They may enrich the walls of your house, the facings of your shower and the floor of your bathroom.
It all depends on the taste and on the style you want your house to have and your life to be.
Decorative mosaics may be customized on the clients’ needs and taste and we often work in close cooperation with interior designers and architects to reproduce a specific theme with the shades of colours that better adapt to the rest of the house.
The project is all in the architect’s hands who provides us with the fil rouge, the theme, to develop and to go along with.
After preparing some drafts to explain the project better, we share our ideas, suggestions, proposals with the team, in a brain storming activity that brings the best out of each of us for the sake of the project.
Private villas, hotels, luxury yachts are all the right recipients of our mosaics, from the noblest parts of the house to the humblest.
Both marble and glass mosaics are largely used according to the everyday use is made of the area.
Marble mosaics will certainly be installed in areas where the use itself does not put them in touch with acid, fruit, wine or fat, where glass will certainly be the optimum, due to its own chemical characteristics.
Techniques vary as well, according to the material used and to the project to be made and everything is agreed upon, between the team and us, the mosaics specialists.
After much debating and discussing on how, where and what, we come out with a sample, thank to which and through which the client, first, and the architect or the interior decorator can see, experience and touch the final product, and therefore get an aesthetical experience that involves all the 5 senses.
We invite the client to touch it, to feel it, to sense it, since we know that the human body and mind knows through various tools provided by Mother Nature and comes to experience the final effect long before the work is accomplished and finalized.
Mosaics, in spite of being made of a material that may be heavy, are largely used to decorate also luxury yachts that float, beautifully, in the Oceans, in the Mediterranean Sea and in the far away seas.
Technique here is what makes it light and possible not to overweight the vessel and balance the floating capacity with the heaviness of the materials used.
It is always an adventure to start a new project, to share ideas, project, concepts that become art into our artisans’ hands and we are very proud to be part of this and to have our mosaics living forever in your home.
Leaving my country always provides me with a mixture of excitement and sadness: I am ready for new adventures and sorry to leave behind me my family, my company and my daily routine.
This is what I was thinking, while waiting for my Pisa-Rome flight on a wonderful and sunny July day, when the telephone rang.
It was Barbara, my blogger, who, knowing I was about to leave for a week, wanted to catch up with me and update me with the blog progress.
It was her idea that I would keep a diary where to jot down what would happen during my stay in Boston. I liked the idea and agreed with her I’d do it.
After the usual long and boring wait, that I made fruitful with several other phone calls about a new project I am working on, off I went flying over the magical Mediterranean sea, that I love so much, with a sight I never get tired of, especially when I have a window seat, like in this short and enjoyable flight.
I am flying to Boston to participate in a conference about mosaics and this makes me nervous and excited, since it is going to be the first time that I do a public speech on the topic.
To people like me, it is easier do things than talk about them, but this time I feel it is time to prove myself on this and I take advantage of the long flying hours to prepare a schedule of topics I will expose to the audience: the creation of a mosaic, its installation, its maintenance... topics that are common to me but still unknown to the mass.
I land on a lovely summer night under a sky covered with fireworks… what a welcome!!
I could have done with less
Visitors and attendees get more and more numerous throughout the day.
The atmosphere is informal, meetings are very nice and I modify my presentation to a friendly exhibition of techniques and materials to get people engaged in what I am doing.
Conversation flies and I find out, much to my surprise, that many delegates have never touched a mosaic or seen it from near and I invite them to use their hands to “know” through the touch the beauty of it.
Many don’t even know that mosaic is made of Murano glass and part of my day goes on by explaining the visitors what, to me, is simple daily routine, what, to me, is my life and work.
Monday starts with a jump: many visitors, hundreds of questions asked in the most informal and friendly way.
I am happy.
Happy to answer, happy to meet, happy to work and share my knowledge with people that come over and over again, with curiosities to be satisfied, with doubts to be clarified.
Many contacts, many appointments that will be transformed into potential clients in the close future with various follow-up activities managed beautifully by my American partners from Inspired Artisans, Gino and Gianfranco who are all that I could ask for in terms of partnership, knowledge and... friendship.
Yes friendship, because in life good business partners become part of your daily life, become family, at least, to me.
At 1 pm the atmosphere changes, excitement goes through the vast halls, people start talking softly as if waiting for someone really special…
We all know who we are waiting for: His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
I am curious. Curious to see someone so important in the Ukrainian church. I am curious... but not prepared to what is going to happen in the next few minutes…
The Patriarch moves around the halls, talking to journalists, waiving at people, until, something attracts his attention: it’s my mosaic, the mosaic portraying the Holy Virgin I placed on the table to exhibit.
He comes closer.
He dismisses with a nice gesture the journalists around him and then... he looks at me and smiles.
I cannot believe my eyes.
My heart is pounding in my chest.
He gets closer and closer.
He comes to my desk and touches my mosaic… I am at a loss what to do, what to say… I choose to say nothing and take a picture.
Around us, silence… people are in awe.
I am in awe.
I feel blessed to have had one of my pieces touched so lovingly by the Patriarch.
I feel fortunate to have had this experience.
I feel proud of my work.
THAT SENSE OF EMPTINESS
In 1990 I joined Ferrari&Bacci and started that wonderful adventure that is my work in the mosaic business.
It was a special year when many unique things happened: the two sides of Germany were reunited and Germany became one; the football world championship was held in Italy and Italy was eliminated by Argentina in the semi-final… what a pity…; and in South Africa, apartheid was forever eliminated and black people could start living a better and more dignified life.
While the world at large was rich in events, my personal world became, all of a sudden, full of interest and novelty and I left Italy to go to Orlando to work on what was, at the time, my first big assignment in the mosaic business.
Happiness, anxiety, excitement…
These were the emotions I experienced on my long flight to Orlando, where I was going to stay for a 2 months’ period to install the largest mosaic I had worked on, till then.
By the moment I touched down I felt an adventure was about to begin and felt ready for that.
I was warmly welcomed by the family that managed the Orlando graveyard, that, after a while, became family to me, in the real sense of the word: people I shared my days and nights with; people I shared my success and worries with, people that became friends and then best friends.
We became so close that I came to choose David L. Neel the graveyard manager’s son, as my best man, for my wedding with Silvia, on my coming back home, but that’s another story…
I started working and, day after day, the mosaic took shape and colours became vivid in each single detail:
The work, in its whole, consisted in the representation of Christ’s life, with 180, 1 to 1 figures, spread on a surface covering 3960 sqft.
I used 3.600.000 ... yes you are reading well… three million, six hundred thousand pieces of Murano glass mosaic and I used the traditional technique of inside out paper, fixed, on its positive, directly on the Mausoleum façade.
The work went on, and day by day, the pieces were assembled and the details created large scenes of Christ’s life.
Working on site, it has always been an enriching experience,
In spite of your being organized and in spite of all the care taken in very single step of the work, there are always small things that need adjustment, when and where you less expect that, and my artisans’ expertise was, as always is, the real way out from any “cul de sac”, so to speak.
There would be so many episodes to tell, that happened during these two, wonderful, long months, but the one I remember more vividly is that the Resurrection scene was fixed on the very same day in which the Nasa, whose seat was visible from the Mausoleum, launched the Space Shuttle into the sky!! Incredible!
What an emotion!
What a feeling!
On the day the mosaic was finished, when the last piece was mounted, I moved aside and look at it as if I were its first visitor… and I experienced a weird feeling, a sense of emptiness that I had never experienced before…
I felt, lonely and sad as if my creature, my piece of art, was going to abandon me to live its own life, to walk on its feet, as it were, to shine on with its unique colours and its figures in front of the thousands of people that were going to visit it, see it, admire it, without me… forever.
I was told by other artisans about this sense of emptiness, about this sadness, but it was my first time to experience it and I was not prepared, I did not know how to handle it, without pain.
It lasted a second or maybe two… the second after I was already looking at the whole mosaic in awe, smiling happily about the final result.
Today, when I happen to think of it, I still love the idea of people passing and stopping to watch, to see, to admire what I did so long ago, together with my amazing staff.