The head and the heart of a blacksmith // Bottega Prata Ferri Battuti
Posted In: abitare, artisans, artist-craftsman, bologna, bottega prata, claudia falcomatà, ferro battuto, handcraft, interior design, italian design, italian style, Italy, pierluigi prata, Valeria Racemoli
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Text by Valeria Racemoli, Photos by Claudia Falcomatà [Bologna] // 10.06.2012
Coming back to my hometown after some time, I started wondering its narrow streets like a tourist staring with surprise at the old buildings, their colours and enjoying the view like if it was the very first time. During one of this walk, I was captured by a little shop, well actually a ‘bottega’. The door was open and from the outside I could hear the forge working. The bottega’s name is Bottega Prata, and a couple of weeks later my friend Claudia and I had the pleasure to interview his owner, Pierluigi Prata, Maestro d’Arte.
Pierluigi: “My grandfather funded the shop after the war; then in the 60s, thanks to the economic boom we were getting a lot of work so my father opened a second and bigger shop where we had up to 6 workers. But my grandfather never left his bottega. As a kid I was in love with my grandfather’s ways, both in his personal life and at work. To me he looked like a strong, confident man and all I wanted was to spend time at the shop with him, playing and learning from him. So that’s really how I started. For many years my entire family was involved in different ways in running our shops. And our workers too, they were like family to us. We worked for the pleasure of doing something we all loved, for the fortune of having such interesting works being commissioned. Money have always been us a consequence of all of this.”
Pierluigi: “I’m always very proud to recall some of the most important works we have done, like a 85 metres long staircase for the Baglioni Hotel in Bologna or 700 street-lamps for the Republic of San Marino. Even though I’m alone now in the shop, the philosophy and the way of working haven’t changed in the years. I still spend time talking to my clients, trying to know them better, understand and interpret their taste, so that what I do for them is really their. An artisanal object is not just yours because you buy it, but because in some way it comes from you, from a dialogue between you and the artisan.”
Pierluigi: “The shop as you see it now is pretty much the same as it was when my grandfather was here. I wanted to keep it like this so that it could be a sort of testimony of a time that is slowly disappearing. But, also, to be honest, I have never really had the need to change it, I mean to modernize it. The forge, for example, is the one my grandfather bought and it runs of coal. Yes, I could buy a more recent model that doesn’t make me cough here and there for the dust, but why? This one still works perfectly and it’s really the heart of the shop. I know it’s probably just a romantic way of looking at things but I think all the objects in this shop are what makes it so special, they are its sould in some way. You know that each blacksmith makes its own working instruments. We adapt them to ourselves, our way of working. So when our last employee retired and he gave me as a gift a box with his tools he was really giving me a part of himself.”
Pierluigi: “Compared to my grandfather, I prefer to forge the iron with the fire. I normally imagine an object in my mind and then I sketch it to see how my hand translate my thoughts. Then I make another drawing but this time in the object’s real dimension and only after all these steps I start working the iron. The most difficult thing when it comes to forging with fire is that you are not really allowed any mistake. I mean, once you have hit the iron it’s not really possible to go back. Sometimes you make a mess, and sometimes the flow is just perfect. It’s a continue learning process.”
“Whenever he could, my grandfather liked to make a copy of the objects he created to keep for himself. Those objects that now fill the shop and make it like a sort of museum have been during all these years my first source of inspiration. There are, of course, other blacksmith who’s work I really appreciate, for example Alessandro Mazzucotelli. But my favourite piece is still the Medusa that my grandfather did for his students of the School of Arts. It’s an impressive work, not only for the ability and the strenght it required (my grandfather forge it with fire, and he had to cover himself with wet clothes to protect himself from the heat), but because it really shows how far you can go in forging a piece of iron, so far to give it emotions.”
Bottega Prata is in Via Caldarese 1/D, Bologna, www.bottegaprata.com.
The complete set of photos can be found here