Le Radiche di Renato – Renato’s Briar Roots: I met Renato Casini while exploring Volterra during one of my Artisan Tours. His tiny shop ( Le Radiche di Renato) and showroom is in the centre of Volterra, surrounded by alabaster makers and souvenir shops.
For many years, he worked as teacher and you immediately realize that by just talking with him. The “bottega” displays wood sculptures together with home decors made out of briar root, alabaster and silver: three elements strictly linked to Volterra and its territory. I bought a silver pendant, a copy of an Etruscan jewel design that I really love.
We spoke longtime; his love for the work transpires from the way he talks. He told us about his son: a jewel designer and goldsmith who was forced to abandon his work as artisan because it was not enough for living. The often-common destiny of many artisans whose work is slowly disappearing, due to the many difficulties and intricate bureaucracy found every day.
In a society where everything has to move fast and be cheap, there is no time to appreciate a work that requires time, dedication and at the end, it will cost a bit more than the hundreds of copies found in the minimarket next door.
Renato also is the President of the association “Arte in Bottega” (Art in the workshop), reuniting Volterra artisans and artists. In 2003 they launched a project: the creation of an accurate alabaster reproduction of the Campanile (bell tower) of the Duomo in Pisa, the famous leaning tower (la Torre di Pisa), built in 1173, today symbol of Italy history and culture.
The project: The miniature alabaster leaning tower
First it was necessary to find a sponsor then, years later, the work began.
Artisans started by selecting the material from different alabaster caves; the design needed continuous controls. Site inspections and photographic reportage have been carefully carried out to insure the copy was perfect. The “mobile” sculpture (it has been displayed in exhibition around the world) is a unique creation, built with absolute precision.
For the artists it had been a fantastic opportunity to work all together, side by side and, once the work was completed, they all felt it was like a child moving away from home.
From the bells to the floor mosaics, all is a perfect scale reproduction of la Torre di Pisa, 1:25
The entire sculpture includes more than 25.000 pieces.
The alabaster used (6 different varieties) is coming exclusively from Volterra all coming from Cipollone cave in San Anastasio
There are 7 bells made using silver casting
The tower’s weight is about 900 kilograms and it’s 3 meters high.
The techniques used for the work are the old traditional ones as well as the tools used even though, in some circumstances, due to the particular accuracy needed for the project, new instruments have been created to overcome some technical difficulties