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I Forge Iron

Italian Wrought Iron

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To all American Blacksmiths,

I am writing from Italy to promote a project that I am thinking since a while and that maybe you all can affect.
My name is Francesco De Biasio, 25 years old and I am the son of a blacksmith-sculptor. The passion for the wrought iron has accompanied my father's entire life, Mauro De Biasio, which from the heart of the Dolomites till the feet of the Marmolada (Veneto, Municipality of Belluno), has always sought with passion to forge new ideas, new products and to keep alive the tradition of our family in the field of wrought iron, with particular objects and original sculptures.

The company and factory were closed some time ago and he is now retired but his dream and desire is to show, to all those interested, his work. I want to state that I haven't followed his path, my interests are focused in other fields such as music and literature but I have been able to give my little contribution by working in our family's factory and then, as often happens, Life showed me other courses. For seven years I studied accordion in the Gioacchino Rossini Academy of Belluno and I love singing accompanied by guitar.

Transmitting a sincere passion for the United States, then evolved into my personal point of view, my father made my idea simple and focused on the base of old memories.
Many years have passed by since his travels in the U.S.A. (the 70's) and unfortunately his contact have faded. Thanks to Mr. Bill Gasparrini who first hosted him in your country, my father had the possibility to know many blacksmiths including Stephen Bondi (CA), who repeatedly visited our laboratory here in Italy, while he was ending his apprenticeship in Benetton, Municipality of Treviso and the Master Francis Whitaker, who invited him to move to Colorado to teach at his school.

The idea I have in mind is to show young and non American blacksmiths, through photos and documents, a different way of working wrought iron, in order to provide inspiration to all those who, have desire and interest to see in a different way, their own work: from small souvenir items till the art of sculpture, where it will be my pleasure to explain the inner meaning of each object. Collecting photos and documents was a hard job, and I was often demoralized while researching, but thanks to some help and to a great tenacity it was satisfactory.

Unfortunately, I speak very little English and this project, first, which as first point aims at disseminating the works of my father, but secondly, also my personal determination in learning your language and it is essential that if my plan results successful, I should be approached by craftsmen and artists who speak at least some Italian so they can help me with the explanations.
Last but not least, I want to underline my availability (as far as my experiences make it possible) in helping in laboratories and forges where I'll illustrate my project.

Unfortunately, only few articles and few sculptures remained in my family because of that economic process called trade, but there is a complete photographic archive of all the works, from my grandparents factory till the recent closure of the company, ready to be shown to anyone interested.

Hoping I have been very clear and exhaustive while exposing these issues, I sincerely hope that in the not too distant future, I may get to know you personally, in order to give a small contribution to the American wrought iron craft.

Of course I'll be happy to give hospitality, by providing my apartment for one or more people so that you too can enjoy a little piece of Italy.

Awaiting your questions and willing to send you some pictures,

Best Regards

Francesco De Biasio

via Buzzatti,61
32036 Sedico (Belluno)

Here I add something about my father Mauro De Biasio:

His works have been published:

"I Maestri Italiani del Ferro Battuto - The Italian Masters of Wrought Iron -" Joseph Ciscato 1998

Page: 47,92,369,374,402,403,460.

- ABANA-The Anvil's Ring of the Artist - Blacksmith's Association of North America:

March 1976-Vol. 3 number 4. Page: to cover, 4,7.

December 1979 - Vol. 7, number 4. Page: 25.

Summer 1992 - Vol. 20, number 1. Page: 33.

Spring 1993-Vol. 20, number 4. Page: 32,35.

"Decorative and Sculptural ironwork" ,by Dona Z. Meilach 1977

Page: 17,286,287,288,289.

"Blacksmith's Association of Western Australia"

At the "Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America" meeting (Association of which he was one of the few European members), one of his creations was chosen by the Southern Illinois University of Carbondale (USA)

In 1979 coinciding with the visit of Pope John Paul II at the top of the Marmolada (m.3343) the artist forged a huge copy of the key of the ancient stone church of our country, Sottoguda, which was donated to the Pontiff. One of his most original works entitled "God's Eye", made with a technique that has been the most innovative part of the Sculptor's artistic research and that represents an interesting blend of traditional material with the working methods of the fathers and the most daring shapes of contemporary art, has welcomed Pope John Paul II in our valleys.

Some presentation:

Mauro was born in a village at the foot of the highest mountain in the Dolomite Range in Northern Italy,in 1945. He was trained in the shop of his father and uncles,all of whom were craftsman in ironwork. In the period between the two world wars,this shop had acquired a certain reputation in Italy as well as elsewhere in Europe for the excellence of its work.
The chief occupation of Mauro is producing ornamental wrought-iron in this same shop. However ,in 1968,he began to create sculpture in this same medium. How his work are in numerous private collections in Italy and elsewhere.

The Iron Sculpture of Mauro De Biasio

The first word that might be used to describe Mauro De Biasio's sculpture is atypical. There are two reason for this. The first reason is in the special training of the artist himself,which was had directly il the shop of his father,not in schools nor art academies,a rather rare occurence nowadays. The second,closely related to the first,is the material used by the artist to create his sculpture. This is a material,as can be noted in any manual of technique of art and craft,that is not particularly given to possibilities for the realization of expression,at least in its use for statues or for pure art in general.
And yet it is in this very special unusualness that the artist's path in progress can be understood. By knowing the meaning of this arduous route followed by the artist in liberating progressively his sensitivity of expression,one that is often hars and tense,and visionary,by seeing the ... of his art in the craft he acquired in the shop,a full comprehension of his srt can be realized.

The material iron was not chose by De Biasio in a kind of intellectual decision as a “poor” material that might be used in the search for purity or for the working with an archaic skill. Iron was,rather,the very first material handled by the artist in the initial stages of his learning,as an adolescent. He used iron not by choice,but by necessity.
Working the iron in the close quarters of the forge,he developed and matured,taking along with him just as his other contemporaries did,all his unresolved tensions,his contradictions,and his dreams to avoid harsher realities.
In this context,then,ho noted certain of the ideas and the patterns that were furnished him by the world of contemparary art. But he knew these things only unsystematically and only guided by his instinct and his feeling for the plasticity of from that his own craft provided him.
Searching in contemporary artists and their work,at the beginning,mere suggestions or ideas for the nenewal and the up-dating of his craft.
De Biasio finnaly came to discover a sort of lesson in liberty,that is, how to look for, even in his own “poor” material,the possibility for free expression. He was then able,using only his own means,to begin an autonomous development. He was freed both from the “rules” of the craft of which he was a perfect master and from the more or less istitutionalized rules of art,from which he felt for reason of environment and cultural background excluded.
From this situation there came about a very special kind of artistic production which,in the singularity of its origin,preserves a certain discontinuity as well as toughness and above all an extraordinary vitality.
One must,in fact, keep in mind that the producing of the from through the hammering of the incadescent material,more than limiting the expressive possibilities,links them closely to a series of conditionings that are accomplished by means of trying to find a delicate and precarious balance using the properties of the material and the mechanical quality of the tools that are regulated and guided by the motions of the smithy.
The specificty of the procedure consists in a unification-which,owing to the sheer physical force required for the job,has something about it of the violent and the dramatic – of the moment of conception as idea and that of execution. This moment if realization,nothwithstanding chances for successive reworkings and corrections,remains always very brief,limited as it is by the duration of the material's ductibility.
Every stroke – and here one might make the connection with musical arts most logically – forms a moment of struggle against time and the stiffening resistance of the material as it cools. Realization necessarily becomes a kind of improvization,a search for rhythm that is the result of an encounter or meeting between the physical nature of the medium and the very physical brute force of the maker himself.
From this all is derived a from in which the creative process itself is never completely transcended. This is a from that can be considered as a tension partially unrealized:a from that is at one and the same time the limits attempted by the artist and the residue of a happening whose complete meaning is in the actual time of the making.
One would look mistakenly for a creative unity in the work of sculpture of Mauro De Biasio because the unity exists not in the choice of subjects as themes,but in a profound feeling for the expressiveness of the process,in a complete awareness of its poetic quality.
This is the first time that Mauro De Biasio -giving in to the insistence of his friends and enthusiasts who for years have know and appreciated his work – has shown his sculpture outside his shop. Up until now he has always presented his work together with the craftwork from his shop,almost as though he wished to stress the strict ties between the two areas of his activity,as well as to consider them is showing them nothing more than a sort of addition,personally and privately,to his basic craft.

The choice of Feltre for this first exhibition,in the hometown of Carlo Rizzarda,is not a presumptuous act, but is hommage to a great poet in iron on the part of a young man who has been able to discover in this poetry of iron new possibilities and new meanings,seeking to pass beyond certain institutionalized limits,but yet to remain profoundly anchored in the special nature of the process ( and the artist would doubtlessly say that it was a “trade” not an art).

July 1974 - Antonio Costa,film critic -


The art of Mauro De Biasio begins with complete honesty of craft.
He is a master of his iron work and permits himself no false approaches. In fact,the creative act for him is a clean sense of careful craftsmanship. The artist bends himself physically into the action of the mighty drop-hammer and models the incandescent iron. The blows that come with varying intensity remain visible even when the iron cools. There they are:legs and feet,wings,sails,strange tortured faces,leaping and spreading in the space that surrounds us,yet for this homely material that void is different,vaster,infinite as art. The time is odd too.
These sculptures recall Mauro De Biasio's interest in the object cools as the iron cools.
Our interest quickens and widens.
That is the art:his craft hammering into form his idea and our wild,exciting pursuit of this form.
We sense the perfect honesty of the material iron,of the work itself,and of the artist's spirt.
We sense the energy escaping through the leaping forms.
This force carries us with it for a little way.
Mauro De Biasio is a fine smith who has gone on exploring space and form,into the mysteries of beauty,a strange and unquiet continent.

- Charles Matz, PhD., Columbia University, New York -

"When I was small and I used to sit for hours on a stool watching my father engraving plates or forging curls while it was snowing outside, I desired having his ability. He had a tobacco and charcoal smell, my old man.
A smell that I can still hear, accompanied by the noise of small fan that used to burst sparks in the black cloak of the soot. The old hammer engine used to squeak before reaching its speed and the worked polished plunger used to pant slowly an powerful”.(M.De Biasio)

Translation by: Solimini Franco



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