Valdichiana Senese artisans tell their creations: the story of artist-craftswoman Arianna Orsato

Gen 3, 2024

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A trip to the Valdichiana Senese to learn about local crafts and the golden hands of the area’s artisans

Micro sculpture on stones and corals told by artisan artist Arianna Orsato

“Art, craftsmanship, myself, my skills: in my sculpted jewelry I put it all”- speaking is Arianna Orsato, an artisan artist who moved from northern Italy to Montepulciano, in the Valdichiana Senese.

Originally from Padua, her vocation for micro sculpture took her to many cities to study and perfect the technique of stone sculpture, until her arrival in Valdichiana Senese, a land she liked right away and with which she fell in love from the first moment. Epochè is the philosophy that expresses the suspension of judgment, a concept Arianna has always loved: instead of judging and dividing, one looks to contemplation and uniting.

“This territory is gentle and sinuous, here I find inspiration for my creations: creating something volumetric, in three dimensions, touching it, seeing it from multiple sides, is something exciting. Making something from scratch is fantastic, it gives great satisfaction.”
Arianna has always been meticulous in her work, working even in small ways to be able to keep control of the creation as much as possible: “At one point, I turned to goldsmithing, always with the ball of sculpture. In Arezzo I found a workshop-school that was perfect for me: a master craftsman taught me how to work, how to hold the tools of the trade. I stayed in Arezzo for a period during which I learned how to work with coral. I learned how to create micro sculptures in coral such as little flowers, little roses, compositions with cherubs and little leaves, minute sculptures and therefore perfect for me.”

For a while Arianna tried to have a store where she could sell her own creations, but she realized that she was not suited for selling, so she brought the workshop back home where she started actually making
what she liked best, which was stone carvings: “Those the way they used to go a couple of centuries ago, rings with the family and noble coat of arms, with engravings of all kinds. I now mainly work rough gemstones (agate, quartz, jaspers), cut them, shape them, then engrave them with the subject that I am commissioned to do or that I decide on my own, polish it, and after that I can create the whole piece of jewelry or sell just the engraved stone. This strand is working very well and it’s what I like to do.”
Arianna is classified as an artist and not a craftswoman because the metals she works with, such as brass, copper and bronze, are mostly non-precious: “Mine is totally a craft from start to finish, from the casting of the metal, even in the case of alloys. I make the foil or wire and go on to create the jewelry; torch soldering until polishing. If there is stone carving to be done, which is what I prefer, I continue the work. The time to make a work varies being purely manual and painstaking, it depends on so many factors, the hardness of the stone, the complexity of the design, the size of the stone, the material to be used for polishing.”

For her today to be an artist-craftsman is extraordinary: “Because I found something that I love to do that is no longer on the market. Gem engraving is in little demand and hardly anyone does it, and to do it is a great pride. I was able to intercept what little demand there is, which is why I insist and persist on this path. Until I found that thread there were depressing and exhausting times, because I would spend hours and hours creating a piece of jewelry that I then couldn’t sell. I don’t sell online or even in local stores; my work is requested on commission from goldsmiths all over Italy, mainly from Florence, Bologna and Milan.

And as for subjects, Arianna’s greatest passion is for mythological animals: “Like griffins with perfect musculature, the bull from the Palace of Knossos, fauns. They give a lot of satisfaction, although the most in demand are the noble coats of arms. I don’t have any big future plans, I just want to increase what I already have. Often the engraved jewelry we see shining behind the windows are not handcrafted as much as they may seem to be, they are mass processed by numerically controlled machinery. The difference is that my jewelry, on the other hand, is entirely handmade. Very few of us do this, and I am proud to say the least.”

Arianna Orsato 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 Arianna and other Valdichiana Senese artisans live, book the Valdichiana Living Artisans Tour.

For a well-founded 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.