We are in Piazza di Pietra near the Pantheon. Yes, ancient Rome still alive in modern Rome. Dominating the square are the ten columns and façade of the Temple of Hadrian (Emperor) (Tempio di Adriano). We are seeking Maria Greca.
Each column of the temple consists of ten perfectly squared cylindrical marble stones, carved to create a Corinthian temple, yet now no longer perfect as Hadrian would have demanded. The façade has seen 2000 years of corrosion, erosion and tooling that makes one wonder when the old adage of ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ will come to pass. Yet, if the Colosseum can stand and the Pantheon still present its perfection, it seems that safety in engineering design was a feature of Roman architecture.
But we are here for a different reason – to share in a Rinascimento, to find some of the most excellent examples of Roman artisanal technology of the 21st century. There are 28 Roman artisans displaying the joys of their talent and creativity. Let us meet one, Maria Greca. But let us not rush.
There is an unusual table, grey black with striations in the smooth surface and bamboo legs. Its creator, Roberto Baffigo, deigns to discuss it with me, and in so doing he informs me that this is but a sideshow of the main act, and introduces me to Maria Greca, his mother. A good man admires his mother and certainly Roberto does, but not just because a man should always respect his mother, it is also because she is the artistic genesis of the family business in jewellery and objets d’art.
There may be thousands of Italian mothers like Maria (and not just in Napoli) who have been the artisans for the world name brands. All the great fashion houses are built on the hands, needles and thread, sewing machines, leather and metal working tools of families, the old and the young, devoting their whole days to creating magnificence for the rich and receiving just pennies into their pockets.
So what is special about Maria Greca (http://www.mariagreca.com). Her jewellery, created for the great fashion houses, utilises hi-tech materials such as titanium and carbon fibre combined with native materials and fashioned with technology that any scientist with a doctorate in the field would be proud to be able to replicate. Carbon fibre bangles melded with golden ovoid shapes, designed at home, and brought to reality by 3D printing. Just a few years ago, Roberto convinced his mother to come out of hiding and present her great artistic and materials engineering talents to the world in her name.
Yes, we are thrilled by these high technology jewellery pieces that would certainly excite the market places of Houston, LA, London and Milan.
Yet, Maria Greca also shows us an off-white snake shaped necklace covered by nodules.
“Where does this material come from?”
“The waters between Thailand and Indonesia”
“Please tell me what it is?”
I am befuddled, we must talk again. How did a jeweller in Rome come to be creating magical pieces from stingray skin and carbon fibre?
Maybe you should ask her. Find Maria Greca at Via dei Quattro Cantoni 39a (or contact Energitismo). If you are really brave, buy a piece of absolutely unique jewellery and tell the world your own story.