An artisan never truly retires

Jane’s Gems

Sabine Pretch
January 11, 2007

 ‘We used to have 13 artisans on this street—Via dei Velluti in the Santo Spirito District—and today we have only three,’ states master artisan Luigi Mecocci. Such is the serious plight of the master artisan community of Florence today. Once the backbone of the city and the main contributor to its economy, local artisans are quickly becoming a dying breed.


Luigi Mecocci is 70 years old. He studied under famous Florentine artisan Maioli and has been practicing his craft for 53 years: woodcarving, restoring wooden sculptures and creating inlay furniture and art objects. His bottega is filled with wooden pieces of furniture, and statues in need of restoration. The walls of his workshop are covered with antique frames and crowded with sculptured arms and legs of chairs, all representing his world of magic.


Although retired, Mecocci continues to work for private clients and museums who call him to restore difficult pieces. ‘An artisan never truly retires,’ he explains. ‘When I come to the bottega in the morning, I feel good and happy. This is my world and I forget everything around me. Besides, there are a lot of things to do and many works I want to finish before I die.’


As a ‘real’ master artisan, Mecocci has taught for several years. He often invites foreign students to visit his bottega and tries to give them an understanding of the techniques involved in his art. When asked what will happen when he is no longer able to continue his work, he smiles sadly and explains that it is difficult to find an apprentice who’s willing to learn the trade. ‘To be an apprentice, you need to have curiosity and a passion for the craft. You need patience to listen, and humility to learn. Today, young people are unwilling to wait, to take the time it takes. To become an artisan means that you must be willing to continue learning all your life, for one can never know enough and there is something new waiting to be discovered every day.’


What will happen to Mecocci’s art and his bottega? He remembers the many promises made to do somethingfor the artisans, and nothing has happened. But, he will continue his work as long as possible, as do other artisans in the same position.

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