Should a durable material be inalterable in time? How boring….
One of the things my father taught me,
and which he repeated to me constantly, was:
“Stone has always existed,
man has always used it and shall never cease to use it.”
I believe this is true, despite the fact that the latest-generation materials
leads us to believe that a durable material
should have an unvarying long life.
Why do I believe this? History proves this.
Through stone, civilisations have expressed their identity,
their political strength, their ability and their genius.
Through stone, we have been handed down the whole story of great people,
of great enterprises, but also of everyday routine life,
and this through the legacy of large constructions such as amphitheatres, fountains, bridges,
but also more humble or everyday objects such as oil presses, wells,
crosses or bas-reliefs depicting a holy scene,
sculpted with devotion even if by a modest hand.
Italy is filled with such messages, both small and grand, which have been left behind by those before us.
From one generation to the next, from one millennium to the other, stone has always been used
as testimony, which our ancestors handed down to their children and grand-children,
right down to us, along the long journey that is life.
This is a well-known fact, but people these days reflect too little on such an elemental fact,
in other words that the history of stone would not have been possible
without two of the most important characteristics which are intrinsic to this material:
Texture and Durability
If stone were not textured, it would not posses that “full paste”,
as some marble workers commonly call it, which makes it suitable for the products typically manufactured with this type of material.
If it had no texture, a concept that is often neglected,
many works would never have stood the test of time, would never have resisted atmospheric agents such as rain, snow, fog, sunlight, hail,
and more recently the detrimental effects of smog.
Indeed, it is this texture that makes stone durable, which allows any stone manufactured product… to lose its initial shine fresh from conception, to acquire a new appearance over time, new manifestations in its surface finish.
This is the appeal of the durability that distinguishes stone:
time wears, ages, but often stone gains in beauty, in pathos,
being transformed and revealing a new look.
When I walk into an old church,
I often appreciate the floor that has been “worn down” by a countless number of people walking over it,
who slowly marked an evident track in the material,
perhaps more so down the centre aisle and less in the wings.
This patient wearing down has not spoiled the floor in any way,
but it has allowed the stone to take on a new expression.
An expression that gives off a positive feeling of “warmth”, of “worn”,
which is pleasant especially to touch.
It is no coincidence that many modern products attempt to reproduce this spontaneous finish,
The marble industry (along with other industries) has recently developed a series of products under the name of Distressed Marble,
in order to reproduce on new products these very forms of finish that only time can achieve by wearing down the material.
The other family business which my brother and I are running
deals among other things in processing stone kitchen countertops in Arte Povera, attempting to recreate an ancient stone featuring traces of wear by removing material, by milling it and smoothing it unevenly.
But the result, while producing the right visual and tactile effect, is still quite far
off from the natural processing only achieved by time.
So marble ages well. Both on walls and on floors, it gets more appealing with age.
That’s the intriguing durability afforded by natural stone,
which should never be considered to be a material that deteriorates over time,
but instead as the material which lasts best and longest, because it is constantly renewed, taking on new expressive forms as time passes.
And that’s not all…
The marbles which then reach us over millennia of wear
can also be given a new lease of life through restoration:
through cleaning, through inserts and other specific techniques,
antique works can be restored to their ancient splendour.
This is another important theme linked to the special texture of marble,
which perhaps we can discuss in future in another post.