An Artistic Day in Montepulciano
Another big day for the Paper Paintings Italy Retreat! Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany, it’s not far from where we are staying in Umbria, on the boarder of Tuscany.
We arrived at Piazza Grande at the top of the hill this morning around 9am and there was a slight breeze and some cooler temperatures; everyone was happy about having some relief from the heat.
A competitive “barrel race through the city” called the Bravio delle botti has been held on the last Sunday of August since the 14th Century, and it was held this past week. There were victory flags and banners for the winning neighborhood all along the side streets of the city.
Mosaic Artisan Studio
Our first stop was to visit Albo Mazzetti at his working studio on the main winding street of town. Sr. Mazetti is the last remaining mosaic artist in Montepulciano. When he went to school to study his craft in his early 20’s (he’s now 70) there were 21. I asked him if he still loved his job after all this time and his answer was, “Yes! If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.” He replied to my question with a smile on his face.
Albo Mazzetti does not have any available work in his studio, it’s all sold! Not a bad position to be in, I say. He works mainly on commission, and has 30 such pieces lined up for the rest of the year. On average, he told us that his pieces take about 15 days. He had a few amazing examples of his work that were waiting to be shipped to the US and other parts of the world.
Albo Mazzetti attended the Italian Mosaic School founded in 1947 in Montepulciano; here he learned the art of mosaics from both the Roman and Byzantine periods. In 1975, together with another two collegues, Cimarosti and Sarchielli, Mazzetti created numerous mosaics in churches in Italy and abroad, particularly in the United States.
Albo told us that one of his biggest projects was creating mosaics for a church in Lowell in Massachusetts, the students were able to look at a book of photos of this amazing project–it took years to complete. The work was completed in Italy and then shipped to the US for installation.
Pamela translated several questions about his all glass tiles from Venice, how long it takes, does he sketch underneath, and his costs. The students were also very interested in how mosaic was a cousin to collage; how the carefully carved pieces of glass are cut in shapes and put down in a direction that helps to follow the form, achieving volume.
Sounds very familiar.
Copper Artisan Studio
Next stop after some free time for the students to explore the city, was Cesare Mazzetti’s (no relation to our mosaic artisan) copper studio, Bottega del Rame.
Sr. Mazzetti’ was thrilled to have us in his studio, hugs and kisses to all the ladies! Like Albo, Cesare does not speak English, and so our wonderful tour coordinator Pamela did a whole lot of translating for us today. Grazie!
Cesare shared stories of how he’s the third generation copper artisan in his family, he showed us his grandfather’s tools from the 1800’s and shared memories of working in this very shop with his father as a child. Chef’s from all over the world use his cookware, it’s exceptionally functional as well as beautiful.
Cesare took the time to explain his process in detail to the group. We were able to see some of his own designs and concepts for everything from wine chillers to mushroom steaming pans. Sr. Mazzetti has a wonderful sense of humor, he works every day and has a shop in town that is filled with beautiful cookware and serving items.
Would you believe it if I told you…he just turned 80 this year?
Cesare’s shop is chock full of treasures amongst the tools and old bits and pieces he has hanging around. I found myself wanting to photograph everything in there, a mindset I shared with John from our group who also was clicking away with his camera.
Remember that barrel race through the city? Every year since the 70’s Cesare has been commissioned to create the date stamp that will be branded into the barrels. What an honor!
The ladles in the photo above are for extra special chefs, they are lined with sterling silver instead of Sr. Mazzetti’s traditional pure tin. Cesare explained to us that he is commissioned to create some unique and interesting, as well as fancy schmancy pots and cooking tools for top chefs around the world.
Cesare hammered a copper disk with rose flowers, leaves, and each student’s initials on it. He added the date, and his own personal signature stamp. Sr. Mazzetti explained to us that his stamp, the mark he puts on every piece of copper he makes, translates to “The joy of creating.”
I can only hope that at 80 years old my creativity will still bring me joy and deliver me to a place where I get to meet such interesting, open people. I believe it is passion that fuels the creative flame, and it is a passion for creativity that keeps the mind and body engaged.
What an amazing and artistic day we had! In the afternoon the students returned to the studio at our Villa for a collage ripping and gluing demonstration before they were set to fly free and start their collage projects. Our sunflowers are really coming together, stay tuned tomorrow for some work in progress photos.
And a pasta making lesson.
for being a part of my
Join us Next June, 2018!
Next June we will be making the Italy Paper Paintings Retreat journey again from the 10th-16th. We have already sold six spots, and have eight spots remaining. Sign-up before October 1st and take advantage of a five-payment plan with Strada Toscana.