Thursday, 30 July 2015

All things Gelato - my favourite Gelateria's and flavours in Florence

I have been eating my way around Florence, particularly when it comes to gelato. I quickly discovered that for the best gelato you must seek out Gelateria's that make the delicious goodness by hand.

The most delicious I have discovered are:

Antica Gelateria Fiorentina - this one is just around the corner from Academia Riaci, making it a great place to stop. They make some very unusual flavours such as Persian (rosewater and pistachio), and stracca (yoghurt, cinamon and honey)

Carabe  - a delicious stop on my walk home from school. Delicious flavours included kiwi fruit and watermelon

Delicious flavours of Gelata Santa Trinita
with the Ponto Vechio in the background

Gelata Santa Trinita - this place is so well known that there was a long line out the door, even at 11pm at night! And understandably so. I tried black sesame seed, and passionfruit. Absolutely delicious and unusual flavours.

Gelateria Edoardo - In the square of the Duomo. Try the red wine, combined cinnamon. Absolutely delicious! And perfect for a hot day. And the best time to go is lunch time around 12.15pm. For some reason this is when the line is shortest!

Vivoli -  - a little out of the way of the touristy places, this is the oldest gelateria in town. The make a particularly delicious coffee gelato

Delicious colours of the gelato spoons
I have also been charmed by the delightful colours of the gelato spoons and have been collecting them on my gelato foraging around Florence.

Gelato spoon necklace #1
I have been having a bit of fun creating some jewellery using my collection of plastic gelato spoons.

Gelato Spoon necklace #2

detail of Gelato Spoon Necklace #2

Making the jewellery is a good excuse for me to continue to try all the delicious flavours of gelato! That's my excuse anyway :) 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Siena, my Florentine Ring and recipes for gold

Last weekend as part of our cultural excursions we caught the bus to Siena, which was a short 1.5 hour bus ride away.

Siena's historical centre has been Unesco Heritage listed as a 'living embodiment of a medieval city'.

Easily explored in a day we wandered around admiring the architecture. One of the highlights was a look through Siena's duomo which was built from 1215 and finished about two centuries later. The interior is absolutely stunning from the inlaid marble floor, black and white stripe marble pillars, through to the vividly coloured frescoes painted by Bernardino Pinturicchio in the Liberia Piccolomini, which also housed a great collection of medieval manuscripts. The Siena Duomo, also known as Opera della Metropolitana di Siena, is easily one of the most beautiful churches I have ever visited.

Amazing detail in the marble floor

Black and white marble pillars 

Vividly coloured frescoes in the Libreria
Amazing details in the ceiling
 We spent most of the afternoon exploring the church and its associated buildings and by the early afternoon we were ready for a relaxing drink of the local red wine, Chianti, whilst overlooking the Piazza del Campo.

 It is hard to believe that this is my final week at the Academy Riaci. On Monday I started my final ring, which combined all the techniques I have learnt over the past couple of weeks.

I love the way the ring was shaped using a bowl of lead, and a steel ball. This creates a slight curve on the surface whilst also helping to create the circular ring shape. It is a technique I have not encountered before.

Shaping my final ring
The next step was to solder the many pieces together.

I also learnt how to make 24k gold into 18k gold by melting it with silver and coper. I also learnt the ratios for mixing rose gold too. My teacher is quite the alchemist.

The recipe to make 18k gold is:
75% pure gold
20% silver
5% coper

The recipe to make rose gold is:
75% pure gold
15% silver
10% copper

pretty neat huh!

soldering the gold bezel to the ring
After a lot of filing and clean up, I then practiced some incisione on the sides of the ring band, using sealing wax to hold it in place. 

I chose to set an amethyst stone because purple is the colour of Florence. 

And here is the finished ring, a nice object that embodies my memories and experiences of my four weeks in Florence.

The final ring
I also finished the earnings I started in the first week too. 

Incisione earrings 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Leaning towers

As part of the academic program at Accademie Riaci, cultural excursions take place every second week. Florence is central to many renown towns and villages, and this week we travelled to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower.

Leaning tower of Pisa
 It costs 18 Euros to climb the tower and combined with heat of about 35 degrees celsius - so we elected to view the tower whilst in its shadow instead.

The serious tilt of the Leaning tower.

There is more to the complex than just the tower which is really just a bell tower for the cathedral and baptistery and the complex is known as Campo dei Miracle (field of Miracles). 

Within the cathedral features a pulpit carved by Giovanni Pisano, sculpted between 1302 and 1310, which features nudes and heroic figures. It was at this time that the human body was beginning to be celebrated, rather than being thought of a place of sin. It is said that this inspired Michelangelo's David.

Academia Riaci also organises art tours on Friday mornings and we visited the Galleria dell'Academia which has a room dedicated to Michelangelo's sculptures along with a large exhibition of medieval paintings. Seeing Michelangelo's David in real life brought tears to my eyes. It is an exquisitely carved sculpture and the story behind it was brought to life by an amazing art guide, Andi who runs art tours Artist for a Day

Back at school this week I learnt the basics of incisione, carving into metal. Using sealing wax to hold the metal in place, I used small sharp chisels to create an image in the metal. Some of the techniques are very similar to those used in print making. 

Interestingly, each of the different jewellery techniques (construction, incisione, gem setting) are taught by a professor who specialise in each area. Daniele, my teacher, specialises in construction. 

Tools used for Incisione
 So my incisione work is very much experimental!

My attempts at incisione
 I also contracted a fourth ring, which was quite complex and included a number of different techniques to create the final piece.

The fourth ring

Another view of the fourth ring

 Time is passing incredibly quickly in Florence and its hard to believe I have only one more week here of study.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Bellisimo! Ponte Vechio + Cinque Terra

La luna and the Ponte Vecchio

During the first week I was in Florence I was graced with a full moon which glowed like a delightful peach in the summery sky. To enjoy the balmy evenings we packed a picnic and ate dinner on the bridge. Ponte Vecchio means 'old bridge', built in 1335 each side of the street are shops selling jewellery, art and souvenirs. 

As promised, here are some pictures of the finished objects I was working on last week.

Brass ring

Silver leaf pendant : front

Silver leaf pendant : reverse

Whilst in Italy I couldn't resist a trip to the Cinque Terra, (five villages) that are connected by walking paths. Because the terrain is so steep some of the villages are still not connected by road, with rail and boat as the only mode of transport. If you are really energetic you could walk all five in one day, but with the current hot summer days, I wouldn't recommend it! We ended up walking one of the three trails that were open and by the end of it a swim was very necessary.

The scenery between Levanto and Montarosso on the hike
Picnic on the rocks in Riomagiore

Back at school for week 2 I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the jewellers block which bears witness to the many hands that learn jewellery at the Accademia Riaci.

I commenced a pair of traditional Florentine design earrings which have been cut out in silver. 

I also made a Florentine Seal ring, which is quite complicated and technically challenging (for me anyway!) 

The class is incredibly small, with only two students, which makes it more like private lessons. I feel incredibly lucky to have such an amazing opportunity to learn traditional technical skills as most of what we do is by hand (no additional tools or machinery with the exception of the polishing wheels). We have an interpreter to explain what our teacher says, although I can understand most of what he is saying by watching his demonstrations. I wonder what I will make next?

Ciao! x

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ciao! Accademia Riacci

Its hard to believe that I am in Florence. The opportunity to study under a scholarship seemed to come from out of the blue, and before I knew it, I was in Italy. On my first morning walking to school  I stumbled across the Duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). They started building the church in 1296 and finished it in 1436 with its famous dome. The building is a work of art and decorated with white, green and pink marble panels.......And my school is just around the corner from this! 

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
 It is an intensive course, with tuition four mornings a week (Monday - Thursday) from 9 am to 1pm. I am learning traditional jewellery techniques and my first project was to make a brass ring. This was so the teacher, Daniel, could gage the level of my skills.

My work bench at the Accademia

Making my first bass ring.

I completed the brass ring on the first day.

My first brass ring
Gelato is the Italian philosophy in life

To celebrate finishing my first day I tried some of the gelato flavours: The Queen (pink cream), Antique cream (hint of lemon) and a rich dark chocolate. There seems to be a gelateria on every corner and I resolved to try all the different flavours in the city! The weather at the moment is about 35 degrees daily - and eating gelato help me stay cool. (well, thats my theory anyway)

The second bass ring was more complicated and I had to solder 2 flat lengths of brass to the main piece, before turning it into a ring. I liked how tweezers were used to hold the brass, and these just rested on the fire brick (as opposed to using a third arm).

Brass ring #2 in progress

Brass Ring #2 before finishing.

 Expresso is a regular part of my daily routine, and it is a delicious way to finish off lunch. Lunch consists of a 2 course meal, which is generally soooo big that I end up taking half of it with me to eat for dinner.

 On the third day I started work on a silver fig leaf pendant.

Fig leaf in pitch
The leaf is held in pitch which is soft enough to allow indentations to be made, whilst holding it in place. I am excited to be learning this as it is the traditional Florentine jewellery designs and techniques.

The fourth day consisted of soldering a pierced place to the back of the leaf, and cleaning up the joins. Because of the fine detail of the edges, this took all day. But by the end my teacher said 'Bellisimo' and I soldered a 'stem' onto it which became the mechanism to attach it to a necklace. 

(Ill post pictures of the finished pieces soon).

For more images you can follow me on Instagram.

Ciao Bella x 


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