The Scenic route
The Proper Kit was a special moment for L'Arte Nascosta. After spending the better part of 2016 traveling all over Italy to meet artisans and share their stories with this community, I was excited to finally have the opportunity to take a step beyond the ".com" sphere and interact with you directly.
By bringing artisans to New York and inviting the friends and followers among you to participate in the artisanal process, the dream that this entire project is based upon became much more tangible.
Working with artisans is a beautiful and satisfying process. Beyond the product, it's the craftsman's outlook that is special. You're never viewed as "just a customer;" rather, you're respected as a patron, and since you've chosen to commission a unique product in lieu of consuming something sold in volume at your local department store, you've opted to join the craftsman on a creative journey. It's a kind of magical process that wanders through ideas and weaves between elements of inspiration along the scenic route to fait accompli. At it's core, L'Arte Nascosta is about taking a break from the frenetic pace that often surrounds us, and savoring the scenic route.
When he came to visit us at The Proper Kit, I couldn't have been more thrilled to embark on this journey with my dear friend and former colleague, Omar. It was two months out to his wedding, and he was having a hard time finding a wedding band suited to the commitment he was about to make to the woman of his dreams. He wanted something more than an industrially-forged ring that could be bought from his local jeweler. Instead, he chose to commission a ring designed and handmade in Florence by Paolo Penko.
Omar is one of the most elegant people I know. It's not uncommon to find him wearing a perfectly-fitting ISAIA suit; even when dressed casually, his old-world finesse shines. He never fails to hold the door open; when there is one chair to be had between two people, he prefers to stand. When it comes time to say goodbye, he looks you directly in the eye, shakes your hand firmly and bows slightly, gracefully... elegantly. He's the kind of guy whose impression lingers long after he's left the room.
I wasn't at all surprised by the model he chose to commission - no less elegant than himself: three alternating bands of white and yellow gold hand engraved with a traditional Florentine finish.
How it's made
As beautiful as the finished product is, it's origins are surprisingly simple. Paolo shapes three bands to size by hand - two from a white gold wire, one from yellow gold. They are then stacked and soldered to one another.
Once the metal has cooled, Paolo removes the steal wire that holds the newly soldered bands together during the cooling phase. Signs of the final product begin to emerge as Paolo files the ring to its convex shape.
Now that the ring has been sized, soldered and shaped, Paolo begins the most delicate and time-consuming phase of the process: engraving. It's the final step, but it's certainly nothing that should be rushed. It takes him hours to meticulously run his engraving tool along the surface of the ring to cut patterns inspired by ancient finishes from the Florentine Renaissance. Each pass is carefully calculated, as a single slip-up would require him to start the entire process from the beginning.
The Final Product
I don't think I'll ever forget Omar's face when he opened the box and tried the ring on for size, "I'll be wearing this for the rest of my life..." a weighty but excited silence lingered.
I feel tremendously lucky to have had the opportunity to facilitate such a significant commission for such a special friend through L'Arte Nascosta. To connect a patron with an artisan and share the magic of the creative process with them both truly is a privilege.