It’s an Inborn Thing

I have transcribed some questions from friends that often ask me when they come to visit me in my Studio or by messages that I receive. 
I hope they offer the real image of me and my work, just like a self-portrait.

How started your relation with Plaster Casts?
My grandfather worked making scenery at Cinecittà Studios since was founded in 1937 and during 1950’s brought with him my father, as a boy after the school season, to learn the ‘art of molding and casting’ during the making of films kolossal like Ben Hur and Cleopatra. After some years my father get his own ‘Bottega’ for molding and casting in plaster.
Even was younger kid I attended on summer days in that ‘Bottega’ and also in Sculptor Ateliers, Art Foundries, Studies of Scenery, Film Sets and Museums. My favorite childhood games were modeling clay, mixing plaster or melt wax just in a corner of the workshop while the works goes on. So, playing I’d taken my first steps that led me to my actual job, in a completely spontaneous way.
Which were your favourites artist places during your training and why?
During my adolescence and my young age I attended a huge numbers of sculptor studios, art foundries, chiselling workshops, silversmiths, and then laboratories for scenography and special effects, film sets, museums, archaeological areas. Every day some surprises came, that were really exciting years.
So, the Francesco Bruni’s Art Foundry, that was near my house and no longer exists, is one of that place. There during seventies, admiring a lot of sculptors at work, I felt my first stirrings of the Craft of Art.
Then I must absolutely include the Giacomo Manzù Studio in Ardea near Rome where I worked for decades, beside my father and the famous sculptor, like assistant. That place, where the Art grows from the hands of a great Master passing trough the hands of a skilled craftsman, was like a sacred place to me. I think back to those atmospheres, that light and those silences like a cathedral of thought and poetry.
The last one is the Joan Fitzgerald’s Atelier at Giudecca in Venice where I lived, slept and meditated a long during lot of years, since was a child. That woman has opened my horizons on Art and Art of Life. Joan was a Chicago sculptress who had made the sculpture her weapon for free living. She became an aunt for me, as a child I investigated her person and her life, then as an adult I understood her art. The last time we met we spent all day talking and drinking, talking and drinking, she was a life-changing encounters.
Which are your favourites artist place today and why?
Perhaps every place that inspires you could be but there are certainly places where art breathes and this breath is somehow absorbed by the place itself.
My absolute favorite place is my Studio because it represent the living and real space of my Mind. It is the place that physically represents me, the place where I want to go every day, the place where the hours pass more fast than elsewhere.
The second favorite art place is my father’s Bottega, where I moved my first steps on Art, it ever seems to me like the sacred cell of the temple….
I found my favorite third place in all those yellowed old photographs of artist studios, ateliers with young and old workers at work. I look at them with admiration and I see myself in some past lives, it’s extraordinary how in art the time can run fast or stay still at the same time, you can choose its speed.
What do you think about your relationship with Craftsmanship?
The craftsmanship is at the basis of thoughts of an Artist.
It’s an inborn thing.
In it are drawn the lines on which everyone builds their own way of being and working.
To be a Craftsman means to think like a Craftsman.
It is an absolute condition.
It live in your hands like in your head.
What do you love most about your work?
I really love the total involvement.
Every time I make a mold and then the plaster cast I need to do a project before. In my mind.
Then I go to search into my past experiences all the teachings got.
Then I start using my body, the hand gestures, the deep knowledge of the materials, using a lot of valuable tools like an extension of my hands. I do all this trying to have the time and space by my side.
Working in full fidelity with the aesthetic sensibility, which has strict rules to be followed. The tradition keeps all this things.
At last if you’ve done a good work, rather than see it, you feel it inside of you.
What do you hate about your work?
I hate those people who don’t know how to recognize an art work of fine quality.
5 best place where to admire beautiful Plaster Casts?
in a random order:
Musèe de la Citè at Trocadero in Paris.
Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid.
The Royal Cast Collection in Cophenagen.
The Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy.
The Sir John Soane Museum in London.
When you have visited all these 5 ‘gypsum cathedrals’ you’ll be a connoisseur!
Which are your favorite steps about your plaster casting work process and why?
One is the opening of the mold and extraction of the plaster cast, is the expected moment when checks if you did a good work.
Also the final finishing and patina on plaster cast, because it occurs after the most tiring steps of molding and casting. During the finishing patina, very quietly, I can approach in a close way to the work of the great past masters.
Which is the most difficult cast you made from an original?
The molding of the Augustus of Primaporta which I have made at the Vatican Museums. It was very complicated because the delicate nature of the marble with traces of original color, because the dimensions and composition and also because it is one of the most important roman statues in the world. I did that work when was 28 years old, for the first time I worked alone without the assistance of nobody. In that moment it was the most difficult work I had ever done.
As traditional Mold Maker, what are the advantages of creating casts with your hands rather than 3D scan or digital technologies?
Recently, we are seeing the 3D-mania applied on sculpture reproduction. I don’t like it and at  the beginning I rejected of knowing, then slowly I approached to it, just to understand how it worked and what could be done. At last, considering the results, I stopped worrying about it…
Plaster Cast is an artistic product of great historic and traditional values which offers the total fidelity after an original, because it is made by a very antique mechanical process  by a  direct contact. Molding and Casting are part of the sculptural process, it always has been.
Reproductions made with a 3D scan are just copies and not casts. It is important not to confuse these two things. Almost always produces copies of poor quality.
They are not artistic products and haven’t the same fidelity and intrinsic value than plaster casts. For what concerns me 3D in sculpture is already dead.
Laser scan; structured light; photo scanning… Did not produces in this way a work of art. You can’t make a work of art simply reading an users manual.
It is the same difference you’ll find between a dinner in a good italian restaurant with a beautiful woman and a lunch in a dirty and crowded fast food with your boss.
What’s your favourites Work of Art?
I don’t have only one but I can tell the first 7 which I love for different reasons:
The Cristo Velato by Sammartino; Cappella San Severo in Naples.
The Age of Bronze by Auguste Rodin; Musèe Rodin in Paris.
The Dying Slave by Michelangelo Buonarroti; Musèe du Louvre in Paris.
The Origin of the World by Gustave Corbet; Musèe d’Orsay in Paris.
The Ratto di Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini; Galleria Borghese in Rome.
Liberty Enlightening the World by Auguste Bartholdi
The city of Venezia that I consider as a unique whole work of art.
What inspires you during your work?
I don’t know exactly but I can say that a glass of Chianti, listening the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata surrounded by all Plaster Casts in my Studio, bring me very close to God.
What do you dislike about the Art World?
The cunningness.
I think that true Art is an act of Honesty.
What is your dream project?
I really would like to create a sort of factory-house for the manufacture of my Casts that can become a big place of reference and inspiration for artists, collectors and young students, as they did during nineteenth century by some famous firms in Boston, London and Paris.
I love working on the rules of tradition. The teaching of the masters of the past, never disappointed me and retrace their experience is a way to honor them. Study their tracks is exciting and teaches me much more than you can imagine, sometimes it can happen to do surprising encounters and may born deep friendships.
Three sculptors you’d like to be compared to.
Very humbly of course!
I really like Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to have obstinately pursued his dream.
I admire Alexander Calder to have create his own World through his personal Art.
Not last I much love Auguste Rodin to have found Himself inside his own Sculptures.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To grow more and more, trying to do always better.
Yes, my work is based on tradition but each time it comes different, this is a great challenge and responsibility to me.
The plaster casts that I’m making today will be the works of art of tomorrow… this is a great responsibility.
What would you recommend to a young who wants approach to your profession?
Do not have hurry.
You can’t have hurry with Arts and Crafts.
The keyword of this century is ‘Soon!’.
Everything seems must be done immediately.
Everywhere all people are rushing!
But are you sure that Fast is synonymous of Efficiency? I don’t think so.
The trades of Arts, Crafts, learning Art Techniques requires a very long process. This process is called Experience, and ‘should’ take years.
Are you ready for this hard work? Really?…
You must to be ready mentally.
You must to learn a new language.
You must to walk in a 4th dimension.
You must become humble.
So, Guys If your goal is to earn a lot of money in a right way or get an immediate success, please look elsewhere because you are not mentally ready to work in a ‘Bottega’.
Andrea Felice
Mold Maker