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Florence, Italy: Giancarlo Giachetti- Master of Metals
"Puccio" and his Whimsical Sculptures
For lovers of Renaissance Florence and the Medici
The master at work.
Sketching Out a Design
Lamp Design for Frescobaldi
A vampire novel brimming with sensual imagery and historical detail
Fanciful Wild Boar
Un Vero Toscano...
A True Tuscan...That is what was going through my mind when I was interviewing Giancarlo Giachetti, or as he is called by the locals: "Puccio." (childhood nickname). He is Fabbro (Blacksmith) and has been doing it for well over half a century.
The jovial fabbro proudly told me his age, which is over 70 (he looks great), and that he can trace his Tuscan roots all the way back to the 16th century. This is not surprising in Florence, but it never fails to impress the heck out of an art historian like myself.
His studio is located in the Oltrarno on Via Toscanella, a narrow street dating back to the Middle Ages where supposedly Dante and other historical figures have walked. The building itself dates to about the same time period. Inside his work space is where all the magic takes place.
Giancarlo was apprenticed to a blacksmith at a very young age and did simple stencils and detail work on fruit bowls. As he became more experienced, he was given jobs that were a bit more challenging until he finally started working on his own. Today, he is internationally known and has done some pretty impressive things.
The famous Frescobaldi commissioned him to design beautiful light fixtures fashioned into the shape of grape leaves for his villa. Giancarlo has one of these lamps hanging on the wall and explained that when the light is turned on, the orange leaves glow softly.
He then led me to the showroom that is attached to the studio and showed me the articlewritten about him in the New York Times and the photo from his successful art exhibition in Chicago.
Giancarlo's work is whimsical and fanciful. It is not serious, but humorous, like the artist himself. He believes that his creatures- the wild boars, fat fish, owls, toucans, penguins- should be funny, friendly and full of imagination. I found myself smiling involuntarily just looking at them and that is exactly the reaction he wants the viewer to experience.
Surprisingly, his father was not a blacksmith, but a shoemaker who worked with Salvatore Ferragamo (yes,THE Ferragamo). Giancarlo confided to me that his father didn't like working with Salvatore because the man only cared about making money and moving to the U.S. When asked to join him in opening a shoe store overseas, Giancarlo's father shunned the idea, telling Salvatore that he would never leave his beloved Italy!
Giancarlo shares the same passionate patriotism as his father and told me that he, too, turned down opportunities to live in the U.S. He is proud to be Italian, Tuscan, but most importantly, Florentine.
Most of his creations come from his head unless a person gives him a rough sketch of something specific. While I was there he was drawing a Pietà (Madonna and Jesus), chain-smoking and entertaining a friend all at the same time.
He told me that if you can draw, you can create a metal sculpture. I told him that I can indeed draw very well, but I don't know the first thing about metalworking. This led me to an important question: WHO is going to take over when you decide to retire?
Giancarlo's answer saddened me deeply. He has no children to take over, no apprentice, no one. When he closes the shop, that will be the end of that wonderful bottega. Sadly, this is the tragedy of many bottegas in Europe. These specialized artisans who work with their hands are in danger of total extinction.
If anyone reading this article has the desire to learn from a master fabbro in Florence, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. Contact Giancarlo (you must be fluent in Italian). As always, thank you for reading!
Via Toscanella, 3/5r
TEL: (+39) 055 239 8088
C. De Melo
Author & Artist