Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, Tuscany

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, ItalyDear Art Lover,

     A couple of our friends and colleagues from the recent Tuscan symposium also had participated in a symposium for wood carving in the forest near Abetone, Italy (famous for skiing in the winter, blueberry festival in August).  So, quarry owner Marco Nardini took Kumiko Suzuki and me to this forest in Pian di Novello, slightly southwest of Abetone.

     As we wound through the curvy roads through the mountains, Marco asked us if we were afraid of heights.  We said we were game for what he had in mind and thus before we arrived to the symposium site, we found ourselves walking across the “ponte sospeso” (Suspended Bridge) in Comune di San Marcello Pistoiese.

     According to a sign on the site once one crosses the bridge, the longest suspension on a bridge is 1991 meters for the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan.  It has intermediate supports that span as much as 282 meters!  

     Marco told us that when he was a kid, this footbridge we were on (called the Ironworks Suspension Bridge) was rope and wood slats, with some of those missing.  It was more terrifyingly exciting than it is today, although, of course, much more dangerous and swinging movement.  The original bridge was only intended to be around for a few years.  It was built to aid workers from Popiglio get to the metallurgical plant of Mammiamo Basso quicker, shaving several kilometers [one way] off of their daily trip across the river.

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy
This sign is in front of a small, unassuming park that contains the entrance to the bridge

     The work was started in 1920, and S.M.L. ordered the plant closed in 1931 to focus manufacturing in Campotizzoro.  However, the bridge was so admired by all, and the designer Vincenzo Douglas-Scotti (1877-1937) praised, that the bridge not only remained, but was recreated in the materials one sees today. In 1980 it was reworked and again improved in 2004.  In 2014, solar-powered LED lights were added, making the bridge more beautiful. 

A quote from one of the signs there:
“The Area of the Suspension Bridge

     Since prehistoric times, the valley of the Lima torrent, the greatest tributary of the Serchio River, represented a route for penetrating and crossing the Apennines by nomad hunters and later Roman armies or medieval travelers.  The flat areas, now dominated by the suspension bridge, offered an ideal place for resting or camping, which is evidenced by the recent archaeological finds of worked flints dating back to the Epigravettian period (late epipaleolithic – about 9/10,000 years before Christ and ceramic fragments from the Roman Age, which are now preserved in the Naturalistic Archaeological Centre of the Pistoia Apennine, based in Campotizzoro and the Civic Museum of Natural Sciences and Archaeology of Val di Nievole.

     At that time the Lima torrent, like the Limestre torrent and the other main tributaries offered ideal conditions for setting up numerous hydraulic plants.  Think of the mills built to transform chestnuts into sweet flour, the main local foodstuff, and the pioneering Cini paper mills and many ironworks.

     The Magona Granducale, a Tuscan company regulated by a monopolistic regime for the production of iron in 1704, started with building the plants of Mammiano Basso, which soon became the largest production center in the area of Pistoia.

     When Magona was abolished in 1836, the production of iron and steel in Mammiano continued despite the subsequent numerous transfers of the structures, which finally ended up at the S.M.I. (Italian Metallurgical Company) at the end of the nineteenth century.

     It was during this period that the engineer Vicenzo Douglas-Scotti, who designed the bridge, was called upon to manage the plant.  Today, the area continues to be of great interest for its hydroelectric production, which is also implemented by using part of the canalizations and pipes that were originally created for the Magona plants.”

The Ironworks Suspension Bridge is free to walk across and admire the views.


P.S.  I woke this morning to an e-mail from my father asking if I was safe from the earthquake.  I was unaware of another one in Italy.  It occurred during the night last night and it looks devastating.  It was south of Tuscany, but tremendous.  As I write this, rescue workers are still searching to save anyone under the rubbish that they can. 

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy
Marco and Kumiko enjoy the Ironworks Suspended Bridge

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy metalwork, screws

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stone Carving Symposium, Vellano, Tuscany

Kelly Borsheim stone carving symposium Vellano Tuscany Italy Pinocchio
First day symposium:  4 July 2016
Dear Art Lover,

     Enough friends have asked me about the status of my sculpture “Pinocchio sul Columbo” [“Pinocchio rides on the Dove” that I stared on 4 July for the stone carving symposium at Cava Nardini in Vellano, Tuscany, Italy.  After two cracks in the stone called pietra serena [a grey sandstone] made me scrap my original idea, I overdesigned the next idea.  Normally, one finishes the work DURING the symposium, but I knew that this was a very laid back situation and that it is local for me.  In fact, all of the participating sculptors were fairly local.  Several of us stayed longer to finish our compositions. 

     I still have 2-4 days of work left to do to make a presentable piece.  However, tomorrow is Ferragosto, a national (Catholic) holiday in Italy.  I also still do not have a car and depend on Marco Nardini, quarry owner and really nice guy, to pick me up and take me home, so the schedule is at his convenience, as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, without further ado.  The first image is me standing next to the stone chosen and set up for me before the symposium started.  Because of my leg injury and my bronze fountain sculpture commission, I was not able to go to the quarry beforehand to select my stone, so I sent approximate dimensions for my original idea to Silvio Viola, a sculptor and the organizer of this event.  The symposium started on 4 July 2016.

It is really great working at a quarry.  If we needed tools or the stone moved or a hole drilled, it was far easier to do in on a regular work site than have to make special arrangements to have these things done in a timely manner.  This was the first time that I had assistance on my sculpture.  I would cut, or more accurately score, the stone where I wanted some removed.  Another artisan would come to chip away what I had scored.  I do not know if I did my knee more or less harm during this event, but hey, I am sculpting stone again!

Kelly Borsheim stone carving symposium Vellano Tuscany Italy Pinocchio
10 days later... 14 July 2016 "Pinocchio sul Colombo"[unfinished]

This second image was taken on the last day of the symposium, July 14, 2016.  It is clearly not finished.  Many people still do not see the idea.  Or as Kumiko quipped, “It looks like a mosquito attacking a bird.”  Thankfully, the two of us have returned enough days that the form is coming together as much as possible, considering the cracks that stopped me from making a more romantic composition.  [Had I brought the wing tips together, the front view would have had more “ohh la la” as the wings formed a flame shape.  Boh!]

I will post the after shots once I have finished the work, probably in my next art newsletter.  Subscribe if interested.

Thank you.  Buon Ferragosto, Italia!


Kelly Borsheim stone carving symposium Vellano Tuscany Italy Pinocchio

Friday, August 12, 2016

Germano Nardini Stone Quarry Traditions Tuscany

Dear Art Lover,
   I was delighted to take a break from carving my Pinocchio sculpture in the local stone, Pietra Serena.  Marco Nardini (of the quarry Cava Nardini in Vellano, Toscana, Italia) had received a visitor and he was great to share with me some of the history of the quarry.  This man’s grandfather and his father had worked in the quarries years before, although he told me that the grandfather had a better talent with the stone than his father had.
Cava Nardini stone quarry pietra serena, Vellano, Tuscany, Italy
Germano Nardini shows me [Kelly] how to make a paper hat.
     He went on to explain some of the history of stone quarrying in this area.  After WWII there was a LOT of work, reconstructing roads and bridges.  Cava Nardini had another proprietor in those days.  After the roads and homes were rebuilt as needed, the labor force moved into the paper factories that line the river in this valley called Valleriana, north of Pescia in Tuscany.  Sadly, today there are only two paper factories left as the economic crisis eats up the futures of many Italians.

     This man (whose name I did not catch, but I gathered lives in Vellano) said that Germano Nardini, Marco’s father, took a huge risk when he bought the quarry.  None of the shop buildings we see today, the office, or even the large flat area with is so easy to work in now existed back then.  Germano slowly and persistently created his new business with determined tenacity.  And his son Marco was soon by his side.

Cava Nardini stone quarry pietra serena, Vellano, Tuscany, Italy
View of the Tuscan Hills from Cava Nardini, Italy
Cava Nardini stone quarry pietra serena, Vellano, Tuscany, Italy
View from the top part of Cava Nardini, looking down.
     I love the descriptions of the quarry work from those post-war days.  Young sons would arrive in time to bring their fathers a lunch of coffee and bread.    One could hear, “Bimbo, vieni qui!” [Little boy, come here!”] once it was a safe time for the boys to enter.
     After war, there was lots of work in many quarries in the area to rebuild after the bombings.  Later, the work dropped off and the workers moved to the paper mills [if my understanding of Italian was accurate].  Today, Cava Nardini is the only one is the area of Vellano, although there are a few others still in existence closer to Abetone.

Many hammer heads and one handle.  When lose, we put in water to soak up into the handle, tightening the fit.

     Harvesting this hard grey stone (a sandstone) that you see in the buildings around Tuscany, including Florence, was not easy.  A man would climb up into the mountains, mind you, the man clarified for me, not smooth and accessible the way the quarry looks today, but rough, rugged wooded mountains.  While hanging from a rope, a quarryman would have to slowly hammer a long [the teller’s hand motioned about a 2.5 feet length] stick of iron into the rock  He would hammer and twist and then remove the metal to take out the resulting sand.  And he would repeat this “hand drilling” until the hole was deep enough.  What difficult work, especially given the angles and suspension!  Many of these long thin holes had to be hand-drilled into the stone mountains along the lines in which another quarryman had determined the cut should be. 

Two "pins and feathers" sets used to remove a larger piece of stone from Kelly's scupture.
     The holes were then filled with explosive powder.  The men near the holes, once ready, would then holler to the man below, “La Mina!”  That receiving man would then yell to those below him, “La Mina!”  Each man below another would continue this message to those further down the mountain. 
     When I asked the storyteller to repeat the phrase that the men yelled, he said, “La Mina!” [literally, “the mine”].  Marco interjected at this point, “As in the [bombshell] Italian singer, Mina.”  She, Mina Anna Mazzini (born 25 March 1940),  is still quite popular today.

     After passing the message down the mountain, each man would take cover or at the very least stand directly behind a tree.  Five minutes later, the fuse was lit and the bomb was heard throughout the valley as the stone was released from the mountain block.

      Germano is now 83 years old, but you would not know it so much.  While his son Marco runs the quarry, Germano is often around, at least when my friend Kumiko and I have been there.  Germano still operates the large machinery to move or break pietra serena into uneven blocks used by the muratori (wall builders) for homes in the valley.

Germano Nardini lends a chisel to sculptor Roberto Politano.

Germano Nardini presents sculptor Kumiko Suzuki with a paper hat.

At 83 years old, Germano seems unstoppable!

     Germano is helpful and always joking.  He offers advice when he sees something he thinks we can improve upon, including staying cleaner by using the traditional paper hat, creating several for each sculptor in our symposium.  He is someone we all like and respect, even though he asked each of us at one point or another, “Did you learn nothing in school?  Must I teach everything?”   ahha.. He even rakes the stone chips away from our sites to help us not trip over them.  On the downside, he does suffer lung problems because he has breathed in too much stone dust.

Kumiko has a conversation with the maestro.

     Although these links are to sites in Italian, Google translate is enough to give you some more insight into the history of marble and other stone quarrying processes in Italy.

     Good page for marble in Carrara, the Lizzatura [moving the marble from the mountains to the sea, re-enacted each August or perhaps every other year…it was this year on August 7, Sunday], and includes historic images.  Especially interesting is the description of “Apuan Alps - The lizzatura the Monolith took place in November 1928” [30 pairs of oxen and 6-month’s journey to reach just the town of Carrara, with some slopes as steep as 60%!  It arrives at the sea port almost one year later], as well as the story of the poet visiting during the explosion on July 14, 1907.

 CAVA NARDINI: Nardini Germano di Nardini Marco
Via Mammianese, 371 Vellano Pescia (PT)  Tel 3395438705   P.iva 0130045 047 3

Enjoy the Olympics!


P.S.  Happy Birthday, Aunt Carole! 

Germano Nardini using quite the power hammer.

Germano and Kelly afterhours (note my shoes!)

Germano Nardini in the driver's seat, breaking boulders

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