'But, we saw everything there is to see yesterday!' were the utterances from the teenagers as we parked at Signa Station and validated our tickets to Florence.
I had done some research in Doha to locate local artists and craftspeople so that we could go to their workshops and if possible, buy something 'authentic' instead of the made in China stuff available all over the world.
As luck would have it, I found out that one of the ceramists I had on my list was based in Florence.
The staff at Borgo Villa Castelletti called him when we finished breakfast that morning. He was planning to be at his workshop till 12.30pm that day, so I decided that we should head out to see him as soon as we got off the train in Florence.
The children ( and their father) didn't see the point.
We knocked on the door and were immediately welcomed in by sunshine. His name is Bruno Gambone. Here's where you can read about how great an artist he is //www.brunogambone.it/eng/home.asp but let me tell you how amazing he is as a human being. So when I say that we were let into his workshop by sunshine (aka him), I am not exaggerating.
'Do you collect art?' he asked me after I had spent some time gaping at the amazing pieces around me.
I couldn't bring myself to say 'yes', for it sounded pompous to me (even in my head).
'I love art', I deflected, 'and buy whatever I can afford- usually prints from museums.'
'How much is this?' I pointed out to a sculpture that had caught my eye.
'Oh! this one I made over thirty years ago.' Bruno Gambone ran his fingers over the piece as if he was tousling the hair on his son's head- with love and tenderness. He stated the price. I took my time to disentangle myself from the sculpture slowly enough so that it looked 'casual' and not expose the 'I-can't-afford-this-skip- a -heartbeat' feeling one gets when one likes something but can't afford it!
I soon realised that I wouldn't be able to buy any of his art in his showroom as I couldn't justify the expense. I think he sensed it, too. But, this kind man just carried on talking to us and made us feel so at home as if this was the best way for him to spend his time. I don't know how many world renowned artists are this accessible- the art world I've peeped into via my friends who do 'collect' art seems to be anything but...it thrives on exclusivity.
And that's what I found out about him- he spoke of each piece like we talk about our children- proud and emotional and full of stories of when he had created them- maybe we don't all share stories of when we created our children!
The children had meanwhile gone off to explore the workshop with the camera. Here are some of the pictures my daughter took (yes, I've put my watermark with her permission).
'Oh! they understand, but...' and I went on to explain (with some guilt) why they were lacking in this field- it's all my fault. Had I insisted on all of us speaking in Hindi at home (like some of my friends do), I would 've said 'yes' proudly.
'My wife teaches my son Japanese, you know. He can speak fluently.' he told us of his son from his third wife, who is Japanese. 'He is learning how to read and write now.' he said with pride.
'Language is very important. It's who you are. It's a shame if you lose your language.' his eyes were sparkling with life and instead of feeling chided, I felt like I was being reminded of my role as a mother and as a speaker of my mother tongue.
A tiny but momentous remark by him made me think about the future of Hindi in my family.
We hung on for a long time. He recommended places we should visit when we travel south to Sienna. He listed his favourite spa towns. He spoke about his childhood, his language, his favourite parts of the world and where the clay he uses comes from. He pointed out the piece he was currently working on for an upcoming exhibition in Paris.
I was conscious of the time we had spent there, but he seemed just fine.
He shot me his charming grin again- quoted a price which was well within my means.
I shot a 'I- am- getting- this- piece' look at the husband, who took out his wallet (gladly, I choose to believe).
|Bruno wrapped up our purchase in bubble wrap.|
But you are...rich in warmth and creativity and love for what you do. I would wish such 'riches' on everyone, including me, to live a life abundant with creativity and messing around with clay every day!
When we finally said goodbye to Bruno Gambone, it felt like we had all been to a group therapy session. We all stepped out (and he came to the door to wave us goodbye) with huge grins on our faces.
The sun had finally come out and decimated the dark clouds of discontent.
The teenagers couldn't stop talking about him and his studio.
This was the absolute highlight of Florence for me. He made art accessible and human- the way it should be- not just for the rich. Not elitist. Not exclusive. Not a possession which comes with bragging rights. It should be about the soul, about being human. At least, that's what I think.
Thank you Bruno Gambone.
We headed back to Signa, bought some cheese, fruit , bread and wine at the local co-op, picked our travel blanket from the room and enjoyed a picnic in the beautiful grounds of Borgo Villa Castelletti just as the sun was going down imprinting these beautiful images on my soul.
There was a wedding celebration at Villa Castelletti up the hill. First the music and then the guests trickled towards the lake to take pictures with the setting sun- it was magical.
Well, I will be putting a post together for the rest of Art we saw in Florence- but I'm glad to report that the tide had turned and the rest of the trip was without any 'lectures'-
lesson learnt as a mother on Day Two- Let the kids be.