Challenges of Artisans in Florence

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CHALLENGES OF ARTISANS IN FLORENCE:
Meeting Eva Nannelli, a Leather Book Artisan

 

By Sophia Wong and Mikayla Rendall
Photo by the authors


Digital Writing student reports sit down with a young Florentine artisan, Eva Nannelli, who shares an insider's perspective of the beauty and difficulties of practicing craftsmanship in Florence and Italy today.

Much of the charm of travelling in Florence is touring around handcrafted bottegas, which have been thriving in this small city. What are the challenges these traditional shops or artisans are facing these years? We interviewed Eva Nannelli, a craftsman working on leather book binding at L’arte de’ Ciompi, a leather and paper gift shop, to find out more about the career as an artisan.

“Fatto a mano”
Working alongside antique wooden cabinets lined with fascinating paper and leather products, Eva was binding a sensuous leather book with meticulous care. We started our discussion on the importance of handcrafted goods in Florence.
Fatto a mano, which we may sometimes find written on products, means "handmade" in Italian. Eva told us that their customers, spanning the United States, Australia, Europe and Asia, etc. appreciate the unique one-of-a-kind in their shop. “Every piece embodies a spirit of pride and passion - no two pieces are completely alike,” Eva shared.

Started like a disaster
Eva confided that starting her business was difficult in the beginning, she ended up discarding many unsuccessful items. “It was disastrous! It took a long time to learn the craft well.” Having said that, Eva finds tremendous satisfaction when she now manages to bind leather books which are original and naturally beautiful. More meaningful is that they will begin to tell a personal story when customers take them home.

No Easy Money
After having been in business for about a year, Eva admits that there is no easy money in making handcrafted goods in Florence. The cost is high because of the materials, rent, and most importantly, the time spent on the exquisite details and impeccable craftsmanship.

Fading craftsmanship?
Florence’s centuries-old artisan culture is under threat, according to Eva. “There is a lack of apprentices willing to learn the time-intensive work. Many youngsters prefer cooler jobs like engineering or digital-related work in the hopes of earning higher salaries.”
Eva pointed out that another challenge traditional shops are facing is the competition arising from vendors and illegal hawkers selling low-cost unoriginal and fake goods. Traditional crafts risk becoming marginalized in the digital era.
Ultimately, artisanal techniques are the essence of cultural heritage, authenticity, and quality. Eva hopes people will continue to cherish the original artistry. There are still many talented and skillful masters in Florence who need our support.

More about Eva Nannelli
Eva Nannelli, 30 years old, was born in Florence, and studied psychology at university. She was involved in the field of exhibitions in the past and now works at L’arte de’ Ciompi as a craftsman on leather book binding. She likes practicing calligraphy in her spare time.

For more on contemporary Florentine craftsmanship, see the new book recently published by FUA's campus press Ingorda.


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