Labor Day


Carpenters, jewelers, plaster sculptors, mandolin-makers ...  I've spent a good part of 2016 traveling around Italy to meet all different artisans from a variety of specialities and walks of life. And while their individual crafts were as diverse as the artisans themselves were, they all did have one important thing in common: every one of them was driven by a passion for their work.


 "There are jobs where you take your shower before you go to work in the morning, and there are jobs where you take your shower when you come home at night, and the world needs both of us."  

(cit. Eric Hollenbeck, Master Carpenter - Blue Ox Mill and School; Eureka, CA USA)

name unknown - fisherman, Sorrento

Piero Dri - Forcolaio (Venetian Oarlock Sculptor), Venice

Ferrobattuto Bernabei - Blacksmith, Siena

Beatrice Palma - Plaster Sculptor, Rome

Learn More

Piero Dri (Venice), "Forcolaio" -

Ferrobattuto Bernabei (Siena), Blacksmith

Tommaso Pedani (Florence), Luthier

Mario Talarico (Naples), Umbrella Maker

Paolo Penko (Florence), Goldsmith -


Marcello's Journey, Part 3 of 3

We've made it to the final installment of Marcello's Journey - an interview hosted by Professor Giovanni Fiorentino (Director of the Mediterranean Center of Environmental Education - CMEA) in which artisan and artist Marcello Aversa shares his story with us.  

Passion, courage, and conviction: signposts on the path that Marcello traveled to become the world renowned sculptor that he is today.  He was guided by his trust in nature and the beauty that humans are capable of creating when working in harmony with it.  

In Part 3, Marcello shares his vision for safeguarding a vibrant future for artisanship.  It's marked by openness and sharing.  It's guided by an appreciation for the very thing that surrounds us no matter where we are: nature

(CLICCA QUI per la versione in ITALIANO.)

CLICK HERE for full interview. 


Prof. Giovanni Fiorentino (GF):

What’s the timeline of your workflow?  Is it true that it echoes nature’s timing, like agrarian processes that coincided with the changing seasons?

Marcello Aversa (MA):

I need to take my time in order to be satisfied with my sculptures.  After shaping them, I dry them: each sculpture is covered with a glass dome that is gradually lifted over the course of a few days to ensure that the clay dries evenly without cracking.  I follow the progress of each sculpture for days, even months for more complicated pieces.  When it’s finally dry, I place the sculpture in an oven for a few days at a low temperature to avoid drying it out completely. When I open that oven, and everything went well, I’m compensated for the hard work and patience that went into it!

The same thing goes for farmers that don’t take shortcuts.  The Earth and its bounty articulate the rhythm of our lives.  At one time, we anxiously awaited the summer to eat a watermelon, the winter to eat tangerines, and the springtime to taste a cherry. The Neapolitan crèche even has 12 characters that represent the 12 months of the year.

Today, we are no longer forced to wait.  We can have what we want, when we want it, and we are convinced that this convenience does not have an impact on our happiness. Adults and children hurry to buy things that the globalized world imposes upon them; sometimes we have a hard time understanding if we really want these things, or if we want to emulate those who have them.  The funny thing is that, once we have them, we become their slaves rather than their masters.  Modern devices have improved our quality of life; but we risk losing many basic aspects of our culture like human interaction and storytelling.


You mentioned Peninsulart.  What is it? What are its goals?


Peninsulart is a cultural association open to everyone – especially to artisans.  Its goal is to pass on traditional artisanal crafts that risk extinction. 

All too often, petty motives like jealousy ensure that artisans’ tombs become the vault of their secrets.  In the past, this has led to the disappearance of many traditional crafts. Peninsulart’s goal is to turn the tide on this trend and create venues for sharing tricks of the trade with younger generations.

Sometimes, I feel discouraged when I see that young people are not exposed to artisanship so as to develop a passion for it; but when I see the excitement in the eyes of children that touch clay for the first time, hope is restored in me!

The situation that we find ourselves in is the fault of my own generation.  We conceived a world without points of reference that is increasingly selfish and inconsiderate, where everything is expected to be perfect, but without sacrifice; where employees are encouraged to seek hand-outs rather than hard work. . . the old-fashioned way.


How can we rectify the situation?


With new ideas. 

Once in the midst of a conversation about projects for local artisans, Mayor Cuomo (the Mayor of Sorrento) told me, “Marcello, we want to help you, but we need your ideas.” 

Alda Merini once said, “I love the simplicity that accompanies humility.” I truly appreciated the Mayor’s words, especially because it came from a politician that evidently appreciates the importance of being humble in order to solve a problem.

As adults we also need to hear ideas from young people. Francesco de Gregorio used to sing, “we are history.”  Better yet, we make history, and so will the young people.  My hope is that when this happens, they don’t make our same mistakes.  My dream is that future generations make history by working together to solve problems

To go back to our conversation about nature, lets hope that the younger generations love it as much as the Little Prince loved his planet, and that they take care of it just like he took care of his rose; lets hope that they maintain our culture and traditions. 

The Earth is the most beautiful gift we ever received.  She never betrayed us.  Lets not let her down, lets protect her for those that will come after us.  Lets live with her in the present, thinking about the future, never forgetting her past.  

Ph: Marcello Aversa

Translated by Salvatore Ambrosino

Marcello's Journey, Part 2 of 3

Yesterday we learned about Marcello's roots.  All about how he made a living working from morning until night on his hands and knees shaping terracotta tiles and bricks. 

Today we learn about his connection with nature and what led to his life-changing decision to abandon his family brick ovens to become an artist in the face of adversity.

It all started with an organic vision of sharing, learning and growing together. This is the story about how Marcello transformed a vision into reality. 

(CLICCA QUI per la versione in ITALIANO.)

Prof. Giovanni Fiorentino (GF):

No one agrees with you, and your family tries to discourage you from this decision; but you decided to leave the factory anyway.  How did you think you were going to make money?

Marcello Aversa (MA):

Actually, I encountered several obstacles that were very difficult to overcome.

First off, my family was under the impression that I should be committed to a mental institution.  I chose to abandon a profitable business to venture into the unknown despite how difficult it was for me to sell my terracotta creations.

Packing my sculptures in a cardboard box, I began making frequent trips to San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, the famed neighborhood of Neapolitan crèches.  Unfortunately, though, the Saint Joseph, Madonna and Baby Jesus sculptures accompanied me on my way there, as well as on my way back. 

Then one day, thanks to a friend, I participated in an exhibit of Sacred Art in Pompeii.  From that moment on (maybe it was the Madonna who interceded!) I began to receive invitations to participate in exhibits in Italy and abroad.



What guided you in your decision?


I believe that we are all puppets.  It’s up to us to feel the vibrations of the strings moved by the puppeteer.  Since I’m Christian, I believe that the puppeteer is God.  This is the only way that we can expect to best carry out our role in the grand theater of life.  It’s up to us to decide if we want to be protagonists, or simply be part of the chorus.

The vibrations that I felt pushed me away from the family kiln, even though it will always have a special place in my heart.  In fact, I would like to realize my biggest dream in that factory by transforming it into a center of Artisanal excellence where local artisans and artists can pass down their craft to anyone that is interested, especially to young people: crafts that, together with the natural beauty and innate hospitality of our community make Sorrento so special.  

This is part of the reason why I collaborated with many other local artisans to create the Associazione Peninsulart, where we organized events and exhibits for this same purpose.  



In 2000, a small workshop arrives.  What does a workshop mean for you? What was your inspiration? I distinctly remember my grandfather’s workshop, but when I pass in front of yours, I see a man working amidst an exhibit space…


In 2000, I took another big step: I opened a workshop in the historic center of Sorrento.  For years now, I open the door to this workshop daily and enter a world where I give life to crèches that depict Sorrento’s oldest traditions: costumes, farm houses, archeological sites, plants and rituals.

More than inspiration, I had my own idea of what a workshop should be.  A creative place where artisans and artists could share ideas – a place where I could grow both professionally and as a person.

Today, in my shop window, you will find the masterpieces of my friends, masters from all over Italy that come to visit often to give live demonstrations of their craft.

Next time you pass by my shop window, look closely.  If you take a few minutes to look, you won’t see a man at work, but a man having fun; this is what makes me happiest.


What impact has nature had on you? On your memories? On your creativity? On your daily life?


Even if you might find it strange, a sensation that I am sure none of you have ever felt will always be part of me.  For practical reasons, when we worked at the kiln, we had to walk in the dirt barefoot.

When you walk barefoot on freshly worked soil gives you the sensation that you’ve become one with the earth itself. 

It’s hard to explain it in words, you’ll just have to try it out for yourself.

Translated by Salvatore P Ambrosino

Stay tuned for Part 3... Coming tomorrow.