Oltrarno workshop visits, 15 April 2021
With a new generation of artisans now active in the botteghe of Florence, what are the challenges and opportunities in adapting Florence’s rich traditions of artigianato for the 21st century? A spotlight on contemporary creativity in Florence, from the artisans’ perspective, Curated by the British Institute, in partnership with Creative People in Florence, as part of the Oltrarno Gaze calendar 2021, organized by Il Palmerino Cultural Association and AWA.
Oltrarno Workshop visits Margherita Ghilardi.
With special guest Nanà Cecchi D'Amico.
Workshop visits in the Oltrarno district, April 2021
What’s important to artisans?
During the on-line workshop event, participants visited: Officine Nora jewelry atelier on Via dei Preti, Campuccio 10 Art and Design Studio on Via del Campuccio and Frau Leman, leather artisan on Via della Chiesa.
Two featured Oltrarno artisans voice their concerns:
Margherita de Martino Norante
“I chose the Oltrarno neighborhood because it’s one of the few spots in town still characterized by a wealth of local businesses, artisans, suppliers and resources. In this neighborhood, we can still find everything we need to make our products and, at the same time, have direct contact with the public. Apart from its historical monuments, a large part of the city has almost lost its identity and typicality. I think one of the causes of this impoverishment is the policy of driving artisanal production from the city center and not controlling the exponential growth of businesses dedicated almost exclusively to tourism (food, holiday accommodations, fast fashion chains, souvenirs of dubious origins). I hope for new policies that favor the return of residents, artisan workshops and neighborhood shops in the center of Florence. This includes easier rules for starting a business, a tax system that is more proportionate to people’s earnings and more incentives supporting entrepreneurship for women and young people would be a good start in my opinion.”
Margherita de Martino Norante at work, 2021
“I knew I wanted to work in the Oltrarno because it is brimming with artisans’ workshops and I love the energetic mix of locals and foreigners. It was also because my first Florentine apartment was in San Frediano and I loved living there. It would be wonderful to see more artisans coming back to the Oltrarno, maybe even reconverting ground floor short-term rentals back to what they were originally, workshops and local businesses. Learning and mastering traditional techniques in leatherwork are essential steps to developing my own style, which, hopefully, will lead to something innovative one day. In light of the recent discovery of organized crime infiltrating the Santa Croce tannery district and compromising the acclaimed waste treatment chain, I am sometimes disillusioned when it comes to my own field of work. Personally, I do not want to work with “vegan leather” as it is mostly plastic, so I see no alternative for using leather. I hope that leather goods will rise in quality and cost, so that less of it is consumed, because that would mean that less animals are farmed for meat consumption. For me, being able to continue my work, I want to perfect my techniques and designs to create luxury-level, life-long lasting leather goods, to be as respectful as possible towards the environment.”
Stephanie Leman at work, 2021
The workshop event forms part of the ‘Oltrarno Gaze 2021’ is a collaborative project developed, as part of ‘Firenze Insolita’.
Oltrarno Gaze 2021 Project Sponsors:
Municipality of Florence – Comune di Firenze, ‘FEEL FLORENCE’
Advancing Women Artists, with special thanks to Margaret MacKinnon and Donna Malin
Associazione Culturale Il Palmerino ASP
With the patronage of the US Consulate General
in Florence and the British Institute of Florence
Source: Excerpt of Artisan interviews from: 'What’s important to artisans?'
by 'Creative people in Florence', Inside AWA, September, 2018