A trip to the Valdichiana Senese to learn about local crafts and the golden hands of the area’s artisans
The art of wooden furniture restoration as told by Aldo Quocchini
“Wood from cypress, chestnut, cherry, walnut, as well as poplar and maple, to name a few. An immense world that I have come to know in the three decades that I have been dedicated to this fascinating subject. I like wood because it is durable, it is able to go through years and years, and above all I like to work it to make it as good as new with patience, precision, delicacy and a lot of research. This is a job that you do only if you have passion, otherwise it’s just not possible to do it.”
The person speaking is restorer Aldo Quocchini: a restorer indeed, and not a carpenter, because if the latter builds a piece of furniture piece by piece, the restorer refurbishes what is already there, with patience and expertise.
In fact, Aldo does not make furniture, but renovates existing furniture, perhaps dating back many decades.An activity that today is a rarity as it is less and less in demand, in fact Aldo has transformed his work and today deals with cleaning windows, shutters, gates, beams.
“Restoration is a very manual operation that takes time. People used to commission a job and even wait years before seeing it done, today this is no longer the case, which makes it much more complicated. Despite this, it is undoubtedly a job that has given me a lot of satisfaction on a personal level, and I am convinced that the important thing in life is to do the things we like and not the things we are forced to do, and I have always liked this job a lot, too much!”
In Sinalunga, in the hamlet of Guazzino, in a small workshop like the ones we are used to seeing today especially in films set in bygone eras, Aldo has been working for 35 years on the restoration of furniture and more. We meet him among the many tools of the trade such as chisels, screwdrivers, pliers, macchinette machines and discard machines, he who started in the restoration business when he was just a boy by frequenting two workshops in Guazzino, one owned by his brother and another by a local craftsman. It was in these workshops that he stole with his eyes and became acquainted with the art of restoration, an activity that has always deeply gratified him: “Restoration means breathing life back into furniture of any kind that would otherwise be lost or destroyed: it’s a beautiful concept. Today there is no longer this culture, there is rather the culture of buying the new that tends to be of low quality. The furniture created years ago was made with criteria to last, but today consumerism is preferred, and for the few remaining restorers like me, it is increasingly difficult to get by.”
Nowadays there is more and more talk about sustainability and recovery, and in this perspective Aldo has been a forerunner of the times, working on what is already there trying to improve it and bring it back to its original splendor: “I have found myself working on wood that has been seasoned 20 or 30 years, which means that the product at the time was made well and is of quality. People should rediscover the beauty of antique furniture, understanding that if restored it can be made as good as new and especially understanding that an antique piece of furniture can be transformed in a modern way. But not only that, it is also possible to juxtapose the new with the old to tone down the ambiance, in the right house you can also mix old and new to create different effects.”
“I would love to be able to teach the work to a young person, unfortunately, however, today it is not possible due to a whole series of bureaucratic quibbles, but I am convinced that in 30 to 40 years the market will recover and restoration will once again become a popular and in-demand activity. And I’m just waiting for that day!” – concludes Aldo with a hopeful smile on his lips.
Aldo Quocchini is just one of the many artisans who make unique creations in the Valdichiana Senese. In the coming weeks we will tell the stories of the other expert masters of arts and crafts who open the doors of their workshops every day to create ceramics, musical instruments, jewelry and more. Follow us to find out about them all.
And if you missed it check out our video, where you can see the artisans at work.
If you’re curious to meet Aldo and other Valdichiana Senese artisans live, book the Valdichiana Living Artisans Tour.
For a well-rounded experience, we’ve also thought of a 3-day stay to get to know the Valdichiana Senese, explore the artisan stores, and eat local products. Take a look here