Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bruno Gambone, the artist we met in Florence on Day Two.

The clouds of discontent were dark and ominous when on day two I suggested that we would be taking the train to Florence.




'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.

He welcomed us all and took us to his showroom through his studio. By now the children had stopped simmering and started enjoying the visit.

'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.'

He smiled.

'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).

'Do your children speak your language?' he asked as we moved around his workshop on a guided tour of his creations.

'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.

We decided to make our way out and that's when I spotted a few smaller pieces stacked on shelves in his workshop.

'How much?'

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.

'I am not a rich man, you know', remarked Gambone.

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.


  1. Thank you so much Arti for letting me know about this post. I would not have wanted to miss it! Truly amazing post with so much of art, your personal experience with the artist and the 'rich' and humble artist himself :) Unique and incredible pieces there...love the horses, the studio and the sunset pics! Loved how you have described your experience. Must say, Italy is in my bucket-list for all it's artistic splendour! Thanks for befriending me with this artist extraordinaire :)

    1. Hi Deepa. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about Bruno Gambone- I certainly relish my experience of meeting him. I will be putting a photo essay about the rest of the art we saw in Florence next, so hope to see you here again soon.

  2. OMG Arti, this post makes me want to hop a plane to Florence to meet this wonderful man... fantastic art and I love how you managed to spread his warmth with your words. Beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing his (and your) wisdom with the world. xx

    1. You are very welcome Pauline. And thank you for your super kind comments:) xx

  3. what a magical experience! thank you arti for sharing your beautiful, extraordinary stories and photos! it always so inspiring to visit your blog! xo

    1. It's always a pleasure to have you visit my blog space Ananda. Thank you:) xx

  4. What a lovely post Arti. I was smiling throughout. Loved the artist, his work and his dedication toward his art , quite obvious by the way he spoke about each piece and the time when he created it. Would love to visit somebody like him some day. I'm so glad you could pick up something from his studio to adorn your home and yes, loved your writing and pics too :)

  5. Thank you for finding the time to read this post Reshma:) Yes, it is indeed a privilege to meet a true artist like him- his humility makes him even more admirable. xx

  6. Arti, I cannot thank you enough for sending me this link. I absolutely loved everything about it. The great..and i mean in every sense great, artist himself, your experiences, the interaction...omg, it is just wonderful. To be a great human being you have to have humility..he has it in abundance, and generosity of spirit..again, he has it. And your appreciation..he must have got the vibes, your genuine interest, your warmth...all join together. i am so happy you had this joyful experience. BTW, loved the sculptures.....you know we were in Amsterdam and did a crazy rushed trip to Delft..i wanted to see the ceramic factory. Didn't know any artists! But still enjoyed the way the artists were seriously painting, their concentration, ...thanks again, Arti. You write so well!

  7. That was sunila!

    1. I am so happy you enjoyed this post Sunila- somehow, I had a feeling you would:) Plans to vist Amsterdamthis summer are brewing- so I do hope we can check out Delft, too.

  8. I found this on a google search for Signore Gambone. I so enjoyed reading. You are a lovely writer! We are visiting Florence next year and it is my hope to visit his studio and showroom and pick something up like you did. Many heartfelt thanks to you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Billy. I sincerely hope you will get to meet Mr. Gambone and visit his studio. Visiting his studio was a very special treat for us.


I would love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts and comments here.