In the Lombard countryside, a few steps from the center of Milan, Bottega Volta is still keeping up the tradition of craftsmanship among garages, workshops and... flashes of light
HOW WAS YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND, YOUR BEGINNINGS AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL CHOICES
I started by working on the more technical side, as a draftsman and surveyor on construction sites, creating structural supports for big construction and residential buildings.
I used to draw with AutoCAD and I drew every little detail of the construction, even for very imposing structures.
Manual and technical skills have marked my professional career, until my first real experience at an old Milanese workshop born in 1969, where I started working on smaller details made with my hands.
Bottega Gadda, born from Silvio Gadda, master and artistic reference, has been my home for several years and it is there that, starting from a slab or a section bar, assembling various pieces and various shapes, I began to work with lighting and the realization of lamps, coating of surfaces and works of various shapes.
I was immediately fascinated by the handcrafting of non-ferrous metals, such as brass, bronze and copper.
YOUR WORKSHOP IS LOCATED IN A PARTICULAR MILANESE CONTEXT... HOW DID YOU GET THERE?
I have always lived in the south-west area of Milan and that's where I started, in the workshop that since the 70's was making handmade pieces and products for the best architects and designers of the industrial generation of those years.
When I started looking for my own space, I dreamed of staying in my neighborhood, in the old area of Corso San Gottardo, but the market prices, 50 years later, did not support that choice at all.
So, I moved to the countryside less than 2 km away from the city in an atmosphere which is definitely of other times.
Via Boffalora 15 is an example of a small community on the outskirts of Milan, surrounded by the Po Valley and where you can find everything you need.
Workshops of various types and sizes enrich this old farmhouse, such as a carpenter, a blacksmith, various artists and the boys who live in a rural space that was previously a center for workers with attached housing.
HOW DO YOU DIVIDE YOUR PRODUCTION BETWEEN THE HANDCRAFTED AND ARTISTIC ASPECTS? ARE THERE PEOPLE WHO ISPIRES YOU PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING?
The handcrafted part is what characterizes my reality; together with architects and designers I realize what will furnish or embellish living spaces and not. I mainly make lamps and furniture accessories, all tailored-made and with finishes chosen specifically by the customer.
However, part of my profession is focused on the artistic activity. I love reworking pieces of my production, recovering glass and old lamps that I redesign and rebuild obtaining unique objects... my creations.
The choices are always related to materials and what I use, specifically the metal, which is the element that mark my work.
Artists like Josef Hoffmann have always stimulated my imagination, my artistic soul.
In the early 1900s he realized cutlery, vases, containers made of metal with shapes that today make them futuristic objects to my eyes. Knowing the processing techniques, the limits of the materials and the tools to create them, today I understand the complexity of the operation carried out more than 100 years ago.
Carlo Scarpa, a genius of architecture, is definitely another example and source of inspiration.
HOW DO YOU LIKE TO DEFINE YOURSELF? IN WHICH WAY DO YOU FEEL CONNECTED TO THE CHOICE OF MATERIALS AND HOW DO YOU RELATE TO THEM?
I have always felt like a craftsman and this is how I define my professional figure.
The term bronzesmith, now lost, was used in the 70's and 80's for those who did my job and worked with the same materials that I use today and identified everything that means craftsmanship and working with metals such as brass, bronze and copper. Three non-ferrous metals that are extremely connected to each other.
Copper is a pure material. Bronze is an alloy composed mainly of copper enriched by a percentage of tin. Brass instead is an alloy characterized by the presence of copper and zinc.
These three materials have always communicated a sense of warmth to me, especially in their way of reflecting light that affects the environment and gives them a vibrant brilliance. Everything happens through the atmosphere they can create and that makes me feel a sense of deep intimacy that has never faded over time.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR OWN YOU PUT IN THE COMMISSIONED WORK AND HOW DOES THE RELATIONSHIPS WITH DESIGNERS WORK BEST?
My interaction with designers, in addition to part of the handwork of the products, is also characterized by a mediation between request and realization given by the expertise and knowledge of materials.
Some imagined and designed projects often clash with a much more complex reality of workmanship. When we talk about handicraft, we have to take into consideration that there are materials have limits that must be respected, we can’t pretend the impossible and there is also a substantial difference with industrial and mass production.
Handicraft makes each piece unique and always different from the twin that you want to make.
WHY DID TOU APPROACHED TO LIGHTING AND WHAT CONNECTS YOU TO IT?
I have always been very fascinated by light, natural and artificial, that completes and enriches an environment.
In designing my lamps, I try to pay attention to the final vision of the environment, in order to create the atmosphere I desire.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PROFESSION IN A FUTURE THAT IS INCREASINGLY INFLUENCED BY TECHNOLOGY AND HOW DOES IT CURRENTLY INFLUENCE YOU?
Technology helps, it simplifies processes that decades ago were extremely difficult and time-consuming.
Just think of a simple cut on a slab with complex and articulated shapes, cutted by hand it would be less precise and slower.
Today, water or laser cutting techniques simplify all these activities, and technical design with CAD helps to make manufacturing more and more precise on the smallest and millimetric spaces.
However, for me, the most important part will always be the handicraft, which gives value and charm to the objects I make.
I believe and hope that the demand for custom-made pieces will remain in the future.
My hope is driven by a strong passion that for craftsmanship and tradition that should not be forgotten.
High technology produces large quantities, but I am convinced that direct contact with what is done by hand will remain an irreplaceable added value.
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Images provided by Alessandro Ciampone