The big riveer and I

William Bertoia’s relationship with the river Tagliamento is intimate and exclusive.

“I met the river Tagliamento when I was a child. In early summer mornings, my mother used to take me there by bike to breathe the fresh and fine air before the sun would scorch the stony stretches. The awakening of nature, the blooming of the flowers, the running of animals and the flying of birds were and still are a unique spectacle.” During those long walks on the sandbanks along the currents of water split as by humongous snake-like branches, William Bertoia, founder of Friul Mosaic, learned from his mother to perform easy tricks with the pebbles of the river, the Big River.

Through the centuries, the vast stony riverbed of the Tagliamento has provided an essential resource of material for the building of farms, roads, bridges and castles in Friuli. Even today, its resistant gravels and sand, rich in silicon, are used in constructions. Since his very first compositions with small pebbles on the riverbanks to those he realized at home with some tesserae he found in two small bags under the staircase, William’s passion for mosaics has never ended. “The art and craft were my grandfather’s, he was a mosaic craftsman and “terrazziere” back during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose small bags were the only inheritance he left me”.  I later learned the knowledge of stones and the craft of mosaic making through the rigorous training given by the Mosaic Craft School of Friuli in Spilimbergo. The school, which is an excellence in the field, was founded in 1922 and has since trained thousands of craftspeople that in turn have spread the tradition all over Europe. “The first classes took place in the river where the maestro taught us how to select the best pebbles in the river that were to be chiseled with the “martellina”; the main and only tool of a mosaic craftsman.”  The compact dolomite, the volcanic silica, the colorful sandstones are still there waiting to be seen by the acute eye and picked up by the skillful hand to create noble compositions meant to adorn surfaces and living spaces.  Once the various materials are in the workshop they are chiseled and cut into tesserae by the typical hammer with its curved, double-edged iron blade.  William Bertoia has always had a close and exclusive bond with the river Tagliamento.

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