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Talking about leather tanning in Florence, at Artigianato e Palazzo, September 2022

Leatherworkers and sustainability: this is the focus of Artigianato a Palazzo 28th edition, which will take place in Palazzo Corsini as per tradition

Artigianato e Palazzo comes back with over 90 testimonials of the antique artisan tradition. At its twenty-eighth edition in Florence, the audience will have the chance to have a glimpse of a selection of young artisans from all around Italy and Europe.

The aim of the exhibition is to give value to the artisans and show the worth of handmade and made in Italy products. Craftsmanship is a job made for young people too: Neri Torrigiani and Irene Ivoi speak.

Artigianato e Palazzo, back with the 28th edition in September 2022

Twenty-seven years ago, Princess Giorgiana Corsini and Neri Torrigiani gave new life and prominence to Italian craftsmanship. It all began with the first exhibition Artigianato e Palazzo – botteghe artigiane e le loro committenze. 

Giorgiana Corsini moved to Florence in 1989, after living for over twenty years in Chianti in Barberino Val d’Elsa, a small town in Tuscany. She lived her life next to her husband Filippo Corsini, from the noble Florentine family, and their four children. She died on August 1st , 2020, at the age of eighty years old. Her daughter, Sabina, succeeded her.
Neri Torrigiani, instead, has in Florence his own design and communication studio. He is the exhibition organizer and manages communication. 

Artigianato e Palazzo has arrived at its 28th edition. It will take place from September 16th to 18th 2022, at Palazzo Corsini in Florence.

Artigianato e Palazzo, the social value of craftsmanship

The event has the same premise since 1995. It aims at enhancing the ancient Italian artisan tradition and at investigating the contemporaneity of craftsmanship. The goal is to put the craftsman’s role and social value at the centre of the cultural and commercial context. 

Over the years, eight-hundred-twenty-eight artisan exhibitors participated in the event, putting on display products and workmanship in the garden of Palazzo Corsini. From textiles to objects, from furniture to jewellery. Designers, goldsmiths, glass grinders, carvers, potters, straw weavers, and many more, are the protagonists of the exhibition. 

«Artigianato e Palazzo was born as a setting to show the public the finished products, but also their processing», explains Mr. Torrigiani. «The goal is also to help artisans find new clients and partnerships. We try to stimulate them towards different creative and entrepreneurial directions. It is not just a set-up of stands. It is a moment of solicitation on specific themes, and reflection on which concrete possibilities can guide their work».

When preserving tradition becomes a challenge to change

The 2022 exhibition reflects on the critical moment of the generational shift. «The challenge to change arises during workshops. Here, knowledge is handed down from fathers to sons or from master craftsmen to apprentices», says Mr. Torrigiani. «Nowadays, it is a lot easier for young artisans to learn about paths and experiments made by others. The work experiences a contamination of different practices. Novelty and tradition are forced to meet. And all of this is positive because it leads to evolution and innovation». 

The new generations, who represent change more than anything else, are challenged as well by the Blogs&Crafts Europe competition. Since 2014, the contest aims at involving young artisans and influencers in the craft sector. For the 2022 edition, a committee selected twenty young people under thirty five from all over Europe. This was possible thanks to the collaboration with the World Crafts Council Europe, the international institution that brings together all the national associations for the promotion of crafts. The participants of the competition will stay for free at the Scuderie of the palace. This way not only will tradition confront change, but different traditions will confront each other. 

The Associazione Giardino Corsini involved the Camera di Commercio of Florence in this year exhibition. Economics experts have created a short workshop for all the participants of the contest. The course will illustrate the steps that a young person must take when they decide to become an artisan at a professional level. From the opening of a VAT number to the structure of a business plan. «With the hospitality, the free stand and the workshop dedicated to the world of business», continues Mr. Torrigiani, «we can achieve the goal of helping young people to develop artisanship as their job».

Giardino Corsini and Palazzo Corsini

Giardino Corsini has been the centre of the exhibition since the first Artigianato e Palazzo edition. It is set up as an outdoor workshop. The itinerary enhances the work of the artisans and the production process. «Everyone will have their workers and their workshops recreated. Manual skill is the basis of our storytelling and we want to show the public what a craftsman really does, not only his products», says Mr. Torrigiani. 

The artisans will stay in the rooms of the Scuderie, the Limonaie, and the Sale Monumentali, in the Garage and in the Stanza dei Finimenti, in the Legnaia and in the Falegnameria. All places that, between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, were inhabited by the craftsmen of the palace. The main point of Artigianato e Palazzo is to highlight research work, the basis of an ancient but evolving profession.

Artigianato e Palazzo: leatherworkers, heirs of a major art

The main exhibition of this edition brings to the palace one of the most prestigious artisan practices of the Tuscan tradition: the tanning of leather. This year’s protagonist is the Consorzio Vera Pelle Conciata al Vegetale, which, over the years, has developed sustainable tanning techniques for leather with entirely plant-based substances. 

The consortium is a not-for-profit organization that works to safeguard this centuries-old tradition, to protect a typical Tuscan product, to guarantee the quality of raw materials, and workmanship to perfection. Founded in 1994 by a small group of Tuscan tanners, today it brings together twenty tanneries producing vegetable tanned leather in the provinces of Florence and Pisa. Over the years, the consortium has conducted scientific studies and historical research, exhibitions, conferences, seminars, practical workshops, training projects for young people and students of fashion and design schools. 

Visitors to the exhibition will learn the secrets of an ancient process that, now as then, uses only wood extracts – chestnut, quebracho, tara and mimosa – for the processing of vegetable tanning, which transforms leather into hide. This practice requires patience and experience, in modern times it is helped by technology, yet respecting tradition. The result is a natural and quality leather.

The interest, says Mr. Torrigiani, «is to show the public that this type of activity can also be sustainable. Vegetable tanned leather is an appreciable product. In vegetable tanning, just a limited number of colours can be reached, precisely because of the tanning process itself. The result respects nature and the leather itself, which is enhanced in its uniqueness». The main exhibition will be set up in the Salone da Ballo of Palazzo Corsini. The consortium will have a 200 square meters space to display the products and prove to the public the validity of the vegetable tanning.

‘Gentilezza e Sostenibilità’, an investigation

Irene Ivoi, Eco designer and industrial designer, is an expert in waste prevention and waste policies. She collaborates with the exhibition organizers and is the leader of the “Gentilezza e Sostenibilità” (kindness and sustainability) project. Artigianato e Palazzo asked her to develop a path: Neri and Sabina’s desire was to invite craftsmen to sustainability, a guided invitation that orients craftsmen to act according to the circular economy principles. In September 2021 Ms. Ivoi presented a glossary and a guide to help craftsmen understand how sustainable their work can be, from packaging materials to the company they choose for shipping. 

Listening is the starting point of this year’s survey, which wants to be a kind proposal, hence the title. «With this year’s questionnaire we want to understand what the actual propensity towards sustainability is. And also what the artisans have done or intend to do in this area and to understand if what we are committed to do makes sense for them», explains Ms. Ivoi. «We must first listen to what the requirements are, otherwise, we risk imagining services that do not correspond to real needs».

The aim of the survey is to get clear results, to understand what the craft world needs in terms of sustainability, so that a useful intervention can be designed. «What we want is to attempt the path of a gentle push towards sustainability in a world, that of artisans, in which teachings and reflections on these issues are still marginal». The survey is addressed to the world of Italian crafts and the results will be presented on September 16th in the Giardinetto delle Rose.

Artigianato e Palazzo

Since the first exhibition in 1995, Artigianato e Palazzo has hosted in Florence 828 different exhibitors, 158 trades in the world of Italian and international crafts. Total visitors exceeded 167 thousand units.

Greta Sacchi

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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