Artisans in and around Modena hand down ancient crafts that represent the culture of people, heritage and history. Laboratories and workshops of sculptors, ceramists, glassworkers, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tanners, jewellery makers, restorers, luthiers, watchmakers, upholsterers, book binders, stucco plasterers and stone masons are a heritage that must be safeguarded and shown to tourists and also to locals.
These artisan trades are kept alive by small and medium-sized businesses that act as a support for the sectors that drive the economy. The role of ancillary artisan firms is essential for the mechanics, ceramics, food and textile industries, where major companies out-source various stages of their production to third parties.
The presence of artisan businesses in the textile sector is a determining factor and they are responsible for important processes such as fabric cutting, sewing, finishing and making up.
Artistic craftsmanship is a case apart, made up of small enterprises that carry out typically local processes, handing down the tricks of the trade to the new generations.
The soils in the hills are rich in clay and perfect for making pottery and ceramics, and there is evidence that use of these materials started in ancient times, continuing today on industrial and artisan scales. There are both large ceramic industries and ceramists’ laboratories, the latter producing decorative artistic pieces.
Whereas workshops where the techniques of master glassworkers can be discovered are few and far between, their production ranges from furnishing accessories to artistic panes of glass, mosaics and sculptures.
Stucco plastering, an ancient invention, is used to make altar frontispieces, low tables, pictures and shelves.
Modena and the surrounding area is also home to a number of sculptors and restorers of sculptures, paintings, furniture and other articles in wood, such as wooden ceilings, as well as altarpieces, multi-coloured statues and organ housings.
There are also wonderful upholstery workshops that often specialise in restoring antique chairs, armchairs and sofas and also make curtains and cover soft furnishings with the most suitable materials, creating works of art with special artistic taste.
In watch- and clock-makers’ workshops work artisans who sell and repair antique and modern timepieces, both mechanical and electronic: watches, wall and table clocks, cuckoo and grandfather clocks.
Another interesting craft is leather and hide processing, with the presence of artisan laboratories that make belts, bags, satchels, purses and wallets, sandals, trinket and jewellery boxes and pen holders, using different kinds of leather, from bovine to python, crocodile, lizard and ostrich.
Stone masons carry out their fascinating work in the mountains, skilled artists in their sector who brought about the International stone sculpture symposium, which sees participation by artists from all over the world.
Barrels are also produced locally, for the maturing and ageing of balsamic vinegar. The species of wood traditionally used are those typical of the lowlands and hills around Modena, namely oak, mulberry, chestnut, juniper and cherry. The cooper’s craft comes into its own with assembly of the various elements, becoming almost a ritual for producing and storing a local product of excellence.
Modena can also boast an ancient tradition in artistic metal-working, in particular iron and copper: work tools, functional and decorative elements, home and urban furniture that characterise various zones in the area and combine manual skills with modern technology.
Jewellery making is another ancient craft (silverware and costume jewellery) and some artisans make new jewels using gold and precious stones while others repair and sell vintage pieces.
In the province there are companies that produce, repair and restore stringed instruments, making new and repairing used instruments, restoring antique pieces and working with musical instruments in general. A very few artisans even work with pipe organs, wind instruments and pianos.
The Modena area also has its share of artisan workshops in the food sector, especially those that produce fresh pasta (such as tagliatelle, tortellini and tortelloni) and confectionery, where long tradition and true passion are an everyday guarantee of genuine, tasty product.