Valle d’Aosta Artisans

IVAT Institut Valdostaine de l’Artisanat Tipique
Valle d’Aosta Institute for Typical Artisans

Within the large group of handmade products there are two macro-categories: objects made with approved equivalent materials on one hand, and those made with traditional materials on the other; within this group there is a kind of royal family, composed of seven “symbolic” objects, seven traditional products so recognizable that they have almost become a “visiting card” for the Valle d’Aosta Region.

TRADITIONAL MATERIALS PRODUCTS

*Farm tools and articles*

Made accurately but with no particular aesthetic research, these are work tools still used today such as rakes, casks and brooms. These handmade products are a wonderful example of the mountain dweller-craftsman’s resourcefulness in satisfying the demands of daily life.

*Wrought iron*

This craft’s origins can be traced directly back to the mines and forests of Cogne which supplied the magnetite and the coal necessary for working the forges. Largely objects necessary for daily life were produced, even if they sometimes reached quite high artistic levels. Working techniques have evolved considerably; now gates, fences, gate hinges, and also lanterns, lamps, crucifixes are the most common articles produced.

Aosta Valley woodworking

*Furniture*

Indispensable furniture, made to satisfy the requirements of the moment, chests for holding flour and foodstuffs or household linen, small cradles made by future fathers and given to their brides on their wedding day, not to mention tables, chairs, benches, wardrobes, but also doors, windows, staircases and banisters. Today’s products, while conserving many traditional features, has changed from those of the past in that they must be both functional and attractive.

*Carved objects*

Carved decorations in wood, leather and steatite stone originated as a desire to embellish common place objects. The first were above all geometric patterns or stars, circles, roses, solar wheels, floral decorations, often having a symbolic value which help us to understand the nature of the Valle d’Aosta inhabitants: love for the family and land, sense of ownership, attachment to religious values.

Aosta Valley Costumes

*Lathe-worked objects*

Many objects for both domestic use and for decoration are made on the lathe. Plates, bowls, containers, vases, candle-holders are all made this way, but the most symbolic pieces of handicraft from Valle d’Aosta are clearly the “grolla” and the “friendship cup”.(link to typical local products).

*Wickerwork (woven willow and clematis)*

Baskets, panniers and sieves. This is a very thriving activity in Valle d’Aosta. In the upper part of the valley where there are no willow trees, thin strips of wood (hazelnut, chestnut, durmast oak) having a square or rectangular cross-section are cut and used as an alternative.

*Sculptures*

These are made of wood and steatite stone and represent the highest expression of culture in Valle d’Aosta. Initially this was a complementary past-time activity to farm work, but it gradually evolved and was perfected. Among the most significant subjects we find saints, character portraits and scenes portraying family and country life, local flora and fauna, masks, toys etc.

Merletti  - Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley
Merletti – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

*Textiles, footwear and clothing accessories*

Within this group we find many types of work which can be considered traditional and typical. “Dentelles” – pillow lace making from Cogne, “drap” – woven raw wool from Valgrisenche, “dzeut” – the weaving of fine hemp thread from Champorcher, “sock” or “pioun” – slippers made from cast-off fabric made in the Gressoney Valley, “sabots”- strong, comfortable footwear made out of wood in Valle d’Ayas. To these we can add leather products, traditional costumes and still more.

*Household objects*

This is an “odd-sock” category containing all those products made using traditional materials, but which do not fall into the previous categories.

*Typical local products*

There are objects whose lines are so unmistakable that they are recognizable at first sight and have become symbols of Valle d’Aosta; they are characteristic articles, visiting cards for the places they come from. They are a community’s mirror image. Learning about their origin and their primary use means learning about an important part of the history of our alpine valleys: Coppa dell’Amicizia (Friendship Cup), Sabots (clogs), Sock or Pioun, Drap, Grolla, Dentelles, Chanvre.

EQUIVALENT MATERIALS PRODUCTS

*Copper*

Household and farming objects, historically documented in Valle d’Aosta.

*Pottery*

This category includes household objects (vases, crockery, plates, vessels, statues etc) and stoves.

*Glass*

This category includes artistic glass windows using lead and/or tin mountings. Painting on glass also comes in this group if it is based on “grisaille” technique designs (decorative monochrome paintings using various shades, in order to imitate bas-reliefs, successively fired).

*Gold and silver*

This category includes objects or jewels whose use is historically documented by photographs, paintings and family collections proving their use in certain social classes (rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, various decorations…). The products must be exclusive pieces or a limited number (less than 100 items); elements of tradition materials may be found in these objects.
Courtesy of the AIAT Gran Paradiss; more… >>>