Florence is a city famed for its old artisanal crafts. Artists using techniques that date back to the 13th century can be seen at work creating everything from the hand woven table cloths in local restaurants to the rich Italian leather. If you take an afternoon stroll around the streets surrounding Piazza Carlo Goldini, peek in through the windows and doors and you will find craftsman in action – whittling wooden utensils, hand-sewing shoes, crafting golden frames to encase moody oil paintings. These timeworn crafts help Florence preserve its past, as detailed and elaborate as it has ever been.
Buried in the well-heeled neighbourhood surrounding the Santa Trinita Church, Alberto Cozzi has been upholding one of Florence’s most treasured crafts for well over a hundred years. Specialising in paper and bookbinding, Alberto Cozzi creates extraordinary marbled paper using the techniques mastered four generations ago, when the shop first opened. It has been run by the same family ever since. The marbling is inspired by ancient Turkish patterns, with graceful swirls of colour making up each unique design. Inside the shop, three masters of marbling are at work pulling paint across each page, stamping, sketching drying and binding each piece of artwork to the newest book. Inside this shop and studio, with the same equipment whirring away and the same delicate marbling being created, the crafts of Florence’s past can be felt. In a city that embraces its past so deeply, Alberto Cozzi is precious. It is here that Desmond & Dempsey found their newest collection – a line of pyjamas inspired by Alberto Cozzi’s dramatic patterns.
Keen to show us around, the brother and sister behind this beloved workshop explained that marbling dates back to the fifteenth century, originating in Turkey. There, it was referred to as ‘Cloud Art’. A sheet of paper is placed in a thick water solution before the paint is ‘combed’ over it. The solution allows the paint to float and the dramatic twirls of colour to be achieved. We were led over to the small workstation where each and every design is created. There is a spread of bright paints, two handmade ‘combs’, a pool of liquid and a stack of pure cotton rag paper. Alberto Cozzi has perfected this delicate, timely craft and become one of Italy’s most respected purveyors of marbled paper. This latest ‘Dolce Far Niente’ collection features a design made exclusively by Alberto Cozzi for Desmond & Dempsey. To them, it sums up the perfect balance of Florence; a place that blends opulent, thoughtful design with simple pleasures.
Words by Meg Abbot
Images by Issy Croker