Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano RicchiLauren Mouat
Inside a historic Artisan Workshop: Giuliano Ricchi’s Laboratory of Treasures
Enamel, Gold and Silver plated miniatures from a Florentine master craftsman
When entering an artisan workshop, the space reveals itself slowly. A machine in the corner, coils of wire, unfinished metallic surfaces with rough edges collected in a bowl, a half open drawer crammed with tools for pressing, clipping, stamping … at last the treasure, gleaming gold and silver glinting from a shelf in the entry hall. In the center of this hidden world is Giuliano Ricchi.
Finding his laboratory wasn’t straightforward. He has no storefront and not even a sign – you’d never guess his pieces have been sold all over the world from Harrods in London to American designers like Christian Dior and beyond. You have to know where to look and which buzzer to ring in a line up of other Florentine names on what looks to the unknowing observer like any other apartment building in Florence.
“Come in, come in,” crackles his voice over the intercom and I step into a large, cool hall, heading back to the courtyard, adorned with ferns and a few gardening tools. Through the windows, barred as so many around Florence are, I make out the shadowy interior of a workshop. Giuliano greets me at the doorway, beckoning me into his studio past a small sticker on the window proclaiming this the site of: Esercizi Storici Fiorentini (Historical Artisans of Florence).
Within seconds, I’m holding gleaming gold bracelets, shining silver earrings, elegant picture frames, whimsical dishes, figurines, charms – a veritable trove of little treasures. I recognize some potpourri holders sold in a historical shop on the other side of Florence.
“Not those ones,” he says with a smile, “those are only for them, I don’t sell them myself.” Of course. The business cards with famous names I find taped to the side of the desk are a memory but not a crowning accomplishment. The studio unfolds like a labyrinth. After all, Giuliano has been here for decades. Most of his life. It does not reveal itslef like a carefully curated atelier but like the true workspace it is with spaces cleared in the center of tables where he elaborates his pieces, flanked by piles of golden shells, dolphins, thin handled spoons, rings with the Florentine fleur-de-lis.
“Within seconds, he’s showing me gleaming gold bracelets, shining silver earrings, elegant picture frames, whimsical dishes, figurines, charms – a veritable trove of little treasures.”
He takes me downstairs and shows me how he fits a strip of brass over a mold before running it between two large rollers. In one side goes a bronze plate, out the other comes a strip embossed with leaves and flowers. “And then?” I ask. “Then you make this into whatever you want,” he says. “Cover it in gold. Cover it in silver. As you prefer.” He’s been doing this for 60 years, he can turn metal into whatever he dreams. This leafy strip could be molded around one of the many tools found throughout the studio to make a circular napkin holder, a paperweight, a picture frame. He might cut out pieces or engrave a further design, dip it or paint it in gold or silver or embellish it in colorful enamel.
Back up the stairs, we talk about his craft, but he’s unlike younger artisans who know how to weave together their story from first inspiration to training to apprenticeship to mastery to fame. He doesn’t come from the generation of personal advertising and social media. “I’ve always done this,” he says. “This is my life.” In the 1960s he entered the studio of Carlo Cecchi to begin learning the craft and for years worked alongside other artisans in this shop. Sadly he adds, “I’m the only one left here now. There were some apprentices but they come for a short time only and I show them what I know.” Just visiting for a few months to learn from a master before returning home. Like so many crafts in Florence, there is no longer the desire (or perhaps ability) to spend years learning a trade that you’ll practice for a lifetime.
“Then you make this into whatever you want,” he says. “Cover it in gold. Cover it in silver. As you prefer.” He’s been doing this for 60 years, he can turn metal into whatever he dreams.
The last thing he shows me aren’t more pieces but the letters of thanks he’s received from the apprentices who have come to learn from him, laminated and preserved, in far better condition than the business cards of famous brands. Artisans like Giuliano who live and breathes the pieces he molds in his machines and in his hands are becoming fewer and farther between as lifestyles change from one generation to the next. Each piece he creates is unique, not only because of the innate beauty of the item but for the skills of a lifetime it took to make it and the individual touch of the true artisan that formed it. As I step back out into the sunny piazza, I am comforted to know behind this unassuming façade Giuliano continues to do his life’s work: to imagine and craft beautiful, joyful treasures.
Shop Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi creations here
Gold plated brass photo frames€60,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Engraved jewelry box€95,00 – €120,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Wine Bottle Coaster & Napkin Ring Set€130,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Jewelry box with honeycomb imprint and bejeweled bee€55,00 – €135,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Engraved photo frame€95,00 – €120,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Enamel heart pendant and keychain€70,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Wine bottle coaster (silver or gold plated)€60,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi
Artisanal napkin rings – Set of 6€98,00 Artisan: Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi