L'Arte Nascosta

- The Hidden Art -

An Artisanal Journey from Now to "Death Do Us Part"

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 on his wedding day. // Ph: @j.rockwell

Omar on his wedding day. // Ph: @j.rockwell

The choice

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

Shaping // ph. @paolopenko

Shaping // ph. @paolopenko

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. 

The soldered ring. // ph. @paolopenko

The soldered ring. // ph. @paolopenko

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.

Filing // ph. @paolopenko

Filing // ph. @paolopenko

Engraving // ph. @paolopenko

Engraving // ph. @paolopenko

Engraving // ph. @paolopenko

Engraving // ph. @paolopenko

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 master's engraving tools. // ph. @paolopenko

The master's engraving tools. // ph. @paolopenko

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. 

-Salva (@salvambro)

The final product. Ph: @j.rockwell

The final product. Ph: @j.rockwell

L'Osteria dell'Autenticità

I've long had a dream of opening a restaurant. Nothing chic or trendy about it. An old-fashioned Italian "osteria": simple decor, and rustic Italian cooking. Nothing gourmet, no special wine list, no music that forces you to strain your voice in attempt to make yourself heard. Just good food, good conversation, and a killer red "della casa".... The osteria would have a few guitars on hand, though, to allow clients to exhibit their innate talent like Lucio Dalla, Francesco Guccini, and Roberto Vecchioni in this video .

The restaurant will be called, "L'Osteria dell'Autenticità" and it will be a celebration of authentic of human creativity. #oneday

Emilio Colonna: A Photo Diary

Rome has a knack for throwing its best treasures at you when you least expect it. Emilio Colonna is no exception. 

While enjoying a walk around la città eterna on a beautiful Spring day, I came across a store front rife with vintage radios, combat boots and reproduction field watches dispersed among handmade leather accessories: watch straps, belts and wallets. On the other side of the glass, a bearded man wearing an indigo-died sweatshirt and neckerchief sewed at his workbench. My curiosity was piqued; it wasn't long before he noticed me looking on. He invited me in.

Before I knew it, we were deep in conversation about vintage watches and our shared appreciation for vintage american workwear.  It became clear to me that Emilio is a man of detail.  He showed me his product: workwear inspired wallets, belts, bags and watch straps. He explained how he and his business partner, Dino, make everything by hand from start to finish. Each piece of leather is cut by hand, each hole is punched by hand, and each seam is sewn... by hand. No short-cuts here.  Just a whole lot of research, patience, and attention to detail.


The store is an impressive blend of workshop and archive.  Where Emilio and Dino haven't carved out work surfaces, you can count on finding vintage clothing and accessories piled high.  If it's U.S. Military issue, it's probably on prominent display. Despite its size, a continuous stream of clients finds space to sit down for a chat while Emilio sews and Dino punches holes.  The atmosphere is reminiscent of an old-school barber shop, and that's exactly everyone loves about it. 

Emilio is different from most artisans that I've met so far.  He wasn't raised in a leather smith's shop, and he definitely didn't inherit this business.  He built it from the ground up. Actually, he backed in to it pretty much by chance.  

He spent most of his career as a vintage watch dealer. Over the years, he had developed a book of clients from all over the world.  What is today his workshop was once the store where, dressed in bespoke suits and hermes ties, he sold top-of-the-line vintage timepieces and handmade Tuscan watch straps.   

As his customers requested personal touches on their straps, Emilio learned his way around a needle and thread to take care of customization himself.  Just like that, Emilio discovered a passion; he began making the watch straps himself and gradually expanded his product offering until he decided to put watches aside and focus entirely on his passion: making vintage-inspired leather accessories. 

Since we first met, we have become great friends, and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Emilio for L'Arte Nascosta at The Proper Kit. (See here and here.)

We have a few products in mind that we're eager to develop and share.... Stay tuned.  

I have a pretty good feeling that you're going to love it.


**slideshow images from Emilio's INSTAGRAM**


or better yet.... VISIT HIM! 

Instagram: CLICK HERE


Address: Via Scandriglia, 12 - Roma 00199


Thank you, Emilio.  Grazie!