Although this is an expat blog it is not about my adventures as a girl in a strange land. I have lived in Italy for more than 30 years as of this writing, and I have settled into my status as a ‘straniera’ quite comfortably, so the time for such a blog has passed I think. I am still struck by some things as being singularly Italian, but my experience of them is by now a mix of the amusement/delight/disdain of an outsider combined with the amusement/delight/disdain of a resident, for what that may be worth.
That said, this blog will be primarily about art. The driving interest I have always had is for art. I love painting, craft and design. I trained as a visual artist at the OCAD university in Toronto, then came to Florence on their off-campus program. I endeavoured to find work half way through my school year here, motivated by the creative lives I glimpsed inside the many artisan workshops in the Oltr’Arno area. At that time the whole neighbourhood on the south side of the Arno river was bustling with highly skilled creative craft businesses; gilders, decorators, cabinet makers, woodcarvers, bookbinders, bronze, iron and marble artisans. I spoke very little Italian but somehow worked up the nerve to knock on doors in the area with some samples of decorative painting that I had made. I think the motivation was within me because I was determined to have an artist’s life, and from what I had seen previously, during even my successful job searches in Toronto, it was frighteningly clear to me I had a better chance of realising that dream here in Florence despite the language barrier.
I did get a job in an artisan bottega, and that experience was formative in many ways. See my post on what I learned from the artisans. That is how my Italian artisan life began. I often say I got my education in reverse, going from producing experimental art with very little supervision to learning the basics of traditional materials and techniques with strong guidance and supervision. The Florentine artisans watched over me as I learned to make gesso and lay gold leaf, and I absorbed much from them as they appraised decorative work, antique furniture pieces and discussed their current projects. If you love art, I’m sure you’ll agree when I say an art education is never finished. I look forward to what is next.
I start this blog at a time when I am planning a new phase in my life and contemplating the accompanying changes. I have decided to give up my atelier in the centre of Florence, my nest at the top of a long staircase on the highest floor of a historical palace in the centre of Florence. I am moving to the countryside! I have found a home and studio within an antique monastery complex at the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine al Combarbio. It is a picturesque setting near the lovely town of Anghiari. It is beautiful there and I will share my exploration of this place and the area as I become familiar with it. Other topics for the blog are listed above. Please feel free to comment and contribute your impressions. Art shared is nourishment for us all.
My new location near Anghiari