As with past interviews, this one is first of all a cognitive investigation that is useful for understanding individual cases in Lombardy, and secondly a collection of data to identify different spatial and mechanical necessities.
This interview was carried out as part of the project for the thesis “If intangible, then…” by Andrea Bergamini and Stefano Mori (Facoltà di Architettura, Milan Polytechnic, 2013), which involved research, but is more importantly a project that faces today’s problems concerning traditional and artistic crafts conceived as the expression of a country’s non-material cultural heritage.
When did you start your career?
“I started working together with my brother 34 years ago, and later, about 9 years after that, I opened my own shop. For over twenty years, I continued to do inlay.
Today we have 3 skilled workmen and that’s our strong point – we’re small”.
What do you do? What is the process idea-production?
“The first phase often develops through collaboration with architects or designers, and consists of the creation of the design associated with the choice of material: briar-root, shreds, natural and dyed and natural reconstituted wood are the main types of wooden sheets that we use, often together with metals, mother of pearl and ivory. The sheets are 0.6 mm thick, and once chosen, they are cut with compressed oil cutters to get pieces that can be handled easily. Later, the design is transferred to sheets that have been placed one on top of the other, so that only one cutting operation has to be performed. By manually guiding the mechanical drill, a figure is obtained: this is the fundamental step that makes it possible to create enough pieces to get a small series of the final panel. The small pieces created are then “softened” by using heated sand, which slightly burns them, and makes it possible to create the effect of depth or shadowing in the composition. Finally, there is the assembly of the individual pieces, manually, by using little cutters or chisels: that’s how you get a panel that is then pressed to get the maximum adherence of the pieces to the paper. It’s then up to the woodworker to do the veneer”.
How much space do you need for your job? What special devices do you use?
“For this type of work you need a few spaces that are different, but of adequate size for work benches and bulky machinery: these take up most of the space in the workshop, and here is where we spend most of our time. The benches are used to lay out and classify the different pieces after they have been cut, as well as create the final panel, so they are pretty big and should be situated so that you can move around them on all sides. Storage is another fundamental space that must be organized according to material and the types of sheet that are used. In general, besides good organization, there are a few tricks that optimize the workspace. First of all, since this work requires great precision, both for the work at the drill and for the assembly of the pieces, a great deal of light – mainly artificial – is necessary inside. Then, to make it easier to move material, all of the spaces have to be on the same level, and finally there should be artificial ventilation and adequate height for the machines.”
Do you have apprentices in your shop? What do you think about young people who want to do this kind of work?
“In the past, many years ago, various boys came to ask about learning the trade. There were a lot of commissions, so there were different jobs to do, and you could find a way to teach an apprentice by making him start with simple things. Nowadays, young people are no longer interested in this kind of work: I would have time for teaching, but it costs too much and the jobs are all very complex, so I cannot afford to take the risk. Certainly the few interns from the schools that we have had recently come with a good knowledge of the trade in general. Nevertheless, they don’t have much manual practice, and once they’ve gained a little experience, they tend to open their own shops.”