“The mad dog of Carrara”

October 24, 2015 § 3 Comments

Some years ago filmed this dog that belonged to a friend of the Ambrosini Family, the animal in question bit everyone, it was literally MAD! Yet in Italy madness, eccentricity, individuality is celebrated…encouraged, the dog happily expressed itself. The little monster even bit its owner! It is little wonder Italy has had so many geniuses…

PS: Recognise the person laughing?

Autunno Pietrasanta – 2015

October 23, 2015 § 5 Comments

Bound for Italia, to resume work on the full size sculpture of William Barak to be cast in bronze…made quite a few studies including different head studies….and making more.


How I got fat in Italy

December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

We got into Roma from Pietrasanta late on a thursday afternoon,  past the Circus Maximus entering the city in our hire car the trusty Audi, jostling every inch of the way with hordes of  Roman charioteers who drive vespas three wheeler Ape’s buses trucks etc, careering around the Monumento Vittorio Emanuele… my God its fantastically mad! Its what I love about Italy, chaos flowing a few scary centimetres away from you! At one stage traffic slowed to a crawl and past us cycled a fellow with a fat tabby cat perched on his shoulders. Rome is full of surprises, it is a grand city with a shitty arse, full of riches… artistic poetic musical architectural religious historical mythical political culinary… it seems to have no beginning and no end, it has a vastness of life lived, an outpouring of human expression, a place that makes you feel great to be human.

The title of this post? In Italy you eat, and I like eating, normally smashing at blocks of marble I stay in reasonable form, but this trip I got fat! Now I can see it… three months of every morning cappuccino’s the cakes fresh out of ovens with hot creme fillings, the midday lunch pasta pasta delicious frito misto di mare, coniglio tacchino patate fritte spinacci insalatone [big salad] the coffee macchiato’s the gelato! And now look at me fat bastard! No I don’t want you to look at me….I’m not going to eat for a month, Cinzia fondles my spare tyre with disbelief… ah well at least I’m happy sort off.

Lone cyclist with "Gatto"Taken by Cinzia

Lone cyclist with “Gatto”
Taken by Cinzia


August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

We had our cafe latte and brioche, hugged and kissed Michael and Shona and left Bagni di Lucca,  we took the freeway past Livorno and Grosseto heading towards Tarquinia a beautiful city, sitting atop a hill with views over the Mediterranean. It was the chief of the twelve cities of Etruria, it has a very different climate to the humid mountains of Versilia, its hotter and drier.

The Vitelleschi Palace, home to the National Museum of Tarquinia.

Tomba della Fustigazione(Flogging Grave), an Etruscan burial site dating to the end of the 6th century BC. Two men are portrayed flagellating a woman with a cane and a hand during an erotic situation.

Etruscan City

Commune di Tarquinia with marble fountain.

Guiseppe Buzzi master ceramicist creates faithful copies of the originals, dating back to 600 BC. he hand makes using  methods and techniques that the Etruscans employed.

Foot loose and Fancy Free – Wanderings in Versilia

August 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Everyday has been extraordinary, when you step out of familiar patterns and into the unknown, start mixing… it is amazing who you meet and what you see. Something happens, slowly inexorably a shift within… my whole organism feels different. Glancing back over the past week have been constantly on the move, Bruce Chatwin lived his pronouncement that “Man’s natural state is nomadic” Chatwin ruminated that he felt most creative had his best thoughts when he was walking….


Saturday night at “Ars Apua” a bed and breakfast run by the delightful Katzuko a Japanese woman who created this most beautiful place to stay, the mornings and evenings particularly, amazing views to the quarries. Katzuko frequently organises cultural events, concerts, exhibitions etc. Took in the views and cool breeze coming up the mountains, ate sushi and listened to great music performed by a holidaying Japanese concert pianist.

Cinzia and I spent several afternoon’s at the Bagni in Marina di Pietrasanta.  The beach experience is so different to what we Australians are used too. Stretching up and down the coast  are a whole series of  “Bagni” privately owned business’s that provide umbrellas and “Tende” set out in a perfect grid pattern, replete with beach chairs recliners, towels. You can eat in the restaurant and bar. Change rooms, showers, table tennis, every commodity is available. Women of all ages and shapes on mobile phones parade themselves in the briefest of swim wear. These women work seriously on their sun tans, the young women look gorgeous the older ladies a bit overcooked.

Last night invited to the break up dinner of Fonderia del Chairo. What an experience the front courtyard transformed into a magical space, candles soft live music Artists and all sorts of interesting people including artigiani, politicians and lawyers mingling and enjoying the elegance of the occasion.  Waiters dressed in white jackets constantly moving about and serving great wines and apertivi. A really spectacular  buffet greeted us as we came in.  This weekend begins the mass exodus by Italians for the beach its “Ferie Augusto” the sumner holidays.

 Watched as a young woman carved, sliced and chopped this massive watermelon or “cocomero” in Italian into this ornate beautiful flower design.

With Novello Finotti, one of Italy’s most significant contemporary artist’s. I first met Novello 20 years ago at his extraordinary home and studio near Verona.

Looking thru the front door at Michael and Shona’s

Cinzia and Michael chatting…

La Rocca

July 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

For the last two weekends we have visited our friends Michael Cartwright and Shona Nunan who live in Bagna di Lucca. They are both Artist’s who we have known from our student days. Nine years ago they relocated to Italy,   they followed their passion and live a life they love, its is great to be with them.

Bagni di Lucca also happens to be close by to “Rocca” where our dear (Melbourne friends) Aldo and Naomi Pierini originally came from. Actually Aldo from Rocca and Naomi from Borgo a Mozzano, un paese vicino. I think everybody who gets to know Aldo and Naomi falls in love with them!  Aldo is well known for his amazing wood carving and gilding.

On impulse I called Aldo ands said guess where I am?… I’m looking down upon the “fiume” river Lima in Bagni dig Lucca. Aldo told me he had not been well recently, but I could feel his excitement when he realised where I was,  close to where he was born.

He said I’ll call my “parenti”family in Rocca, you can go and meet with them. So the next day we set of to find “Rocca”. Dating back to the Middle ages  the village is built on a rocky outcropping, with the remains of an ancient fort atop the highest spot. We asked one of the locals and  were directed to Iliana Pierini house Aldo’s niece, we were invited in and shown out on to a terrace, it was hot and sweltering afternoon made pleasant by a breeze that came up from the valley below. We met with more of  Aldo’s delightful “Parenti” and drank wine with our Macedonia and gelato, later on we were taken on a walk around the village. In my heart I felt Aldo and Naomi where with me, my eyes contemplated their ancient and beloved birthplace. I am really glad we came.



The Ancient Church of Chiesa di S.Maria Assunta “Rocca”Image

With Vincenzo atop the “Rocca” where once stood one of the communication towers [apparently in an earthquake the whole tower toppled down into the valley below] that date back to Roman times when news was sent across the mountains from tower to tower by what must be the precursor to morse code, using fire instead of radio bleeps.


The bright beautiful splashes of colour that are carnations, found everywhere in Italy like the people themselves, hardy and frugal. ImageImage

The Rustic bell tower of the Church “Chiesa di S.Maria Assunta”.


With Aldo’s parenti on the terrace overlooking the valley below a tuscan paradise, still wild and untamed.

Iliana told us these carved frames with photos of his parents, and base relief were some of Aldo’s first wood carvings.

“Lanterne Del Desiderio”

July 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night “Vitamina” organised and cooked for about twenty people as he loves to do, and I was on my second plate of spaghetti al frutti di mare, chunk of bread in hand mopping up the last of the “sugo” when our  attention was drawn to lights gently ascending into the night sky from the area over “centro storico” [the historic centre]. I left the table telling my friends I would soon be back and went into Piazza Alberica to see what was going on. It was the night of the “Lanterne del Desiderio” when you light a lantern and make a wish. Piazza Alberica was full with with Carrarini… out in force, music pounding away,  families and their children, young adults dancing, a marvellous event to have been part of. I’ll upgrade my blog and post a video I took.



Great day with Paul and Amanda

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

We picked Paul and Amanda Sumner up from Aeroporto di Pisa late in the evening and then drove to Pietrasanta, by the time we parked and walked into Piazza it was getting towards 11.00 pm, the night was warm and humid. This is the summer holiday period and Pietrasanta is buzzing with people, at the moment there are six monumental bronze sculptures by Fernando Botero in the piazza, “la bondanza” of his forms.. huge ample generous and affirming statements…I wanted to show Paul and Amanda this at night,  magical grazie a’ maestro Botero!  The Commune of Pietrsanta is honouring Botero with an exhibition of sculptures and drawings on his 80th Birthday and 35 years of years of “ativita”as a sculptor living and working in the city.

We had something to eat at the “Gatto Nero” just outside the city walls, after a little while all tired satiated and happy we autostraded back to Carrara agreeing to meet for an early breakfast and start to the day. Coffee and brioches we consumed perched on the roof top garden, all glass and spectacular views…the Apuane Mountains the quarries of Carrara. We started with a drive up the winding road to Campo Cecina the highest point, at the top Amanda exclaimed  WOW! what a place!  And it is incredible sight, these rugged mountains and their treasure of marble. It was hot in the valley but at the summit it was fresh, the moisture laden air became clouds licking over the plateau area below the pinnacle of Mt Sagro. On our descent we narrowly avoided jousting with a one of the huge trucks speeding to a quarry to reload another junk of the mountain. Into the Ravaccione and the magnificent epic devastation wrought by man on these noble mountains, giant steps cut and unbelievable quantities of rubble, Michelangelo himself trudged these parts! We went to Studio SGF where I am carving works for my show with Paul, a quick walk to Piazza Alberica the Doumo of Carrara [mentioned in 1035 AD], Piazza D’Armi the Academia and then lunch at Nerina’s. After back to Pietrasanta drinks with friends Michael Cartwright and Shona Nunan reading the sign where Michelangelo signed contract to supply marble for the San Lorenzo facade. We relaxed sipping on orange coloured Spritz Aperol’s before sprinting back to the Aeroporto di Pisa all leaning in the background terracotta roof Piazza die Miracoli out car side window.. appointment at Paris flight and goodbye to Paul and Amanda! Drove back to Carrara light headed, a full full day!


View from Campo Cecina



Carrara Toscana Italia 2012

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Really looking forward to traveling to Carrara to the Tuscan landscape, the excitement I feel when I think of seeing Campo Cecina as you come in on the freeway, the sense of homecoming…the Apuan mountains those great chunks of calcium carbonate thrown up by the heaving and buckling of the earth, the sight of them excites me. I first went to Carrara in 1979 on an Italian Government scholarship, from the first day I felt at home.

Took this photo from the car park of the supermercato in Avenza, Campo Cecina snow capped rises up untamed wild and raw.

I wrote the following three decades ago, as this is my first posting to this blog I feel like am returning to this “source”…..

By 1977 I had carved half a dozen figures and heads in timber, up until this time I thought of myself primarily as painter, but the process of carving into a lump of material and seeing your concept slowly emerge felt so satisfying and natural to me. I loved the reductive process, but as far as timber is concerned although a lovely medium, has all sorts of limitations; it’s got knots, warps easily, termites can eat it etc. This together with the fact I’d hitched around Europe in 1976, staying in Rome [name me a more sculptural place than Rome!] for six months,  attending the Accademia di’ Belli Arti briefly[before my funds dried up] led me to start thinking more and more about sculpture.

In 1978 I was  awarded a sculpture prize, I made a huge “hand on a walking stick”  in fiberglass a material that [after four months of scratching myself] I learnt to dislike immensely!At this same time I formed the ambition to go back to Italy and carve marble, however I had no idea where I should go. I applied for an Italian Government Scholarship and miraculously I received one……Stewart Purves at Australian Galleries, Melbourne Australia, suggested that I contact Joel Ellenberg [ Australian sculptor b.1944 d.1980]. Some time later I met with Joel, who sadly was gravely ill, but notwithstanding was very vital in spirit, Joel said “Go to Carrara……” He gave me names of people to contact and the key to his apartment there.

Image of Carrara1.jpg

So in October 1979 I left for Carrara. I arrived exhausted, falling asleep and passing Carrara twice, on the train up from Rome. My first site of Carrara was around dawn, with the light raking across the famous Apennines mountains, there was marble everywhere, marble buildings, bench’s, road curbs etc. etc. I fell in love with the place straight away. I found the apartment up a little road called “Via Ficola” that wound its way up a hill just out of town, The apartment was built in the 16th century and possessed a lovely marble paved terrace, that afforded a spectacular view to the sea ahead and the mountains behind. Next day I went down into Carrara searching out the different contacts Joel had scribbled down for me.

For a young sculptor, Carrara is intoxicating, set against the spectacular Apennines that form a back drop to the town, great rugged mountains with big marble teeth extracted from centuries of quarrying. Walking around this ancient broken down working town I marveled at the great trucks loaded up with twenty tons of marble rumbling down the tiny dusty road “Via Carriona” built by the Romans for ox drawn carts. The place like all of Italy reeks of history. The river passing through the center of the city ran white, I learnt later that this was because the water was used to lubricate the saws that never cease reducing great blocks into “lastre” [slabs] the white was the dust from the marble. Wherever you go you can hear the grinding back and forth of the multi bladed “sega” the whole town revolves around marble.

Within a day I found myself a corner to work at Studio Nicoli presided over by the inimitable Sig. Carlo Nicoli [for those who know this place I need say no more, suffice to say that it is a sculpture workshop run by the Nicoli Family for many generations, efficient in a crazy Italian way, working there has been for me alternately frustrating and or sublime]  The sense of camaraderie was instant I met sculptors on my first day at the studio from Spain, America, Belgium, Sweden, Africa, Japan, etc. There was even one other Australian! I got myself a block of stone bought some hand tools and started carving a “Neffertiti” like head I called Dear John my first marble piece. As the days went by I felt incredible happiness and contentment well within me, I loved the medium of marble, I loved Carrara,I loved all these sculptor people who showed the same crazy compulsion, working with purpose and passion from the morning to the night. Writing these words now brings tears of nostalgia for times had…..wonderful times, bohemian times when I was out all night drinking cheap wine, arm wrestling mad Norwegians, making music, listening to the songs of the “Lizza” sung by old quarry workers primed up on grappa who gathered, like many of the sculptors at the “Bar Anarchista” to play chess. Let me tell you there was nothing to do besides hang out at bars, there were several cinema’s which ran mostly Italian comedies, Hollywood releases and porno films, I remember the biggest act was when Cicciolina came to town! Yet notwithstanding “we” the sculptors had a  wonderful social life, we worked all day and played all night,   I did this for about 8 months before I collapsed with exhaustion and the flu!   I produced in the year I was on the scholarship a considerable amount of work enough for a one man show back in Australia. Schip 1983

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