Pierluigi was born in 1964, and he continues to run the shop in Bologna in the tradition of his elders. See the interview with Pierluigi, below.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.
Here are excerpts from an interview (translated from Italian) with Pierluigi Prata of Bottega Prata in Bologna, Italy, conducted by Tessie Wallace.
Q: What is your first memory in the bottega?
A: My grand father opened the workshop in the '20s, after having worked in another workshop. He felt he needed to be independent and to develop his own ideas. When I first visited his workshop I must have been 5 or something. My mummy and granny used to bring me there, since my grandpa loved to see me - after all, I was his only grandson!
I was fascinated by my grandpa and I always wanted to copy him and be like him.
Q: Do you remember the first thing you made by yourself, without help?
A: The first object I made myself was a dog's head with his mouth open. I began working full time in the workshop after high school, when I was about 14 or 15. I kept studying but I came to the workshop almost every day. I learned more from my grandfather than from my father, since I spent more time with him. My grandfather was different from my father. He was very rigid, serious and brief in his explanation, while my father used more romance in describing how to make things (my father also used to paint). They had two very different personalities, and sometimes that was a source of contrast between them. In such cases, I acted as a go-between.
Q: Can you describe your grandfather's style as a blacksmith and your father's style?
A: My style and my father's style are heavily influenced by my grandfather. However, there are differences between us. My grandfather liked to leave the sign of hammering on his works, while my father used to make smooth surfaces. I am in between! But it also depends on my mood and the type of work I have to carry out.
Q: Do you know other Italian blacksmiths? In the U.S., there are blacksmithing conferences where we share information about tools, technique, etc.
A: There are other blacksmiths that I know, but there are just few of them around these days. In Italy, there is not a specific organization for blacksmiths: everybody looks after himself. There is a big organization of craftsmen in general, but it is not specific for a particular kind of craft such as blacksmithing.
Q: The bottega is in the historical center of Bologna ... How do you obtain your supplies, your steel? Is it true that your grandfather used a bicycle to carry supplies?
A: It is not easy to bring raw materials into this workshop. It is true that my grandfather used his bicycle to carry pieces of iron from the steel mill to his workshop. Today we use a small lorry to bring all the iron I need for my work, but only in small deliveries since the streets are so narrow.