In 1903 my father was a young boy and my grandmother sent him to learn the “fine” work from a master coppersmith named “Ghiotto”. He learned with passion to craft jugs, pots, pans, tableware, artistic plates. My grandmother paid 10 soldos a week to the master coppersmith to teach him the “fine” work.
After Master Ghiotto died, Mazzetti bought over his tools and materials but his art was then made to have a sinister purpose, as during Mussolini’s Fascist regime, he was made to gather copper for its munitions programme as Italy’s own supplies of copper were scarce. Cesare’s own story is very interesting. Not only did he begin work in the smith’s at the age of four, but owing to the scarcity of copper in the 1930s, learnt his trade using tin, mainly tinning pots for local hotels. However, as copper pots lost favour to more robust and cheaper aluminium ones, the rameria (coppersmiths) diversified into tinning, electrics and plumbing. The connection between these trades and coppercraft continues even now as, for example, demonstrated by the copper and brass sculptures of ex-Austrian plumber Felix Rieser. However, the reputation of the Bottega as a centre for coppercraft was restored after the war ended and copper became easier to access again. Cesare worked as a plumber by day and with his father in the workshop at night, creating roof tiles for churches and banks, fountains, frames, finishings for villas, and fireplaces for restaurants.
As the work of the Bottega del Rame caught the attention of outsiders, it became clear to Cesare where his heart really lay:
“When you retire, who will continue?” My father answered: “I hope that my son Cesare will leave his company and come back to copper crafting, as I taught him.” This made me think how strong my love was for copper and for the beauty of creating, molding, chiseling. My wife and I promised my father that we would continue the family tradition.
And succeed he did. After Mazzetti Senior died in 1982, Cesare took over the workshop and opened a shop next to it for passing tourists and Italian patrons. Satisfied customers ever since has ensured its continuity up until today, but will there be anyone to take it over from here? They don’t say.
So if you find yourself in Tuscany and are travelling around, why not drop in and find out (and then let me know!) how the Mazzetti bottega is getting on. Beholding their handmade objects, clearly created with dedication and love, feels like one of those things that will soon be lost to the mists of time. However, there is a resurgence in appreciation of the studio-made object, and also a revival in the belief that copper is one of the best (if not the best) material to cook in, and therefore we wish the Bottega del Rame tanti auguri for their continued success.