You can ask anything of Palermo’s artisans, except leaving their workshops. Because now, the era in which the chandlers of via dei Candelai or the saddlers or via dei Sellai would leave their jobs is over. It ended with the birth of ALAB (The Balarm Association of Free Artisans and Artists), founded by Pietro Muratore in 2012, when inventors, humanists and sculptors literally invaded the streets of the historic centre once again with a submerged creativity that is showing itself to be momentous. It is an extensive network of almost a hundred workers, all different from each other, without any competition. On the contrary, they continually encourage the manufacturing of unique products, always made by hand for at least 70% of the work.
There are artisans of a bygone era, those who know how to do everything, those who have never left their workshops, who no longer even remember when they started; they are people of another time, who, plying their trade, allow you to travel to a past where even the smallest detail have a great deal of importance, like Enzo Novara. As a true woodworker, he has this material deep within him: he understands it with a single gaze, through its smells, the same that you too will never be able to forget either, as he will see you what you have always taken for granted in wood, starting with its smells. In Enzo’s hands, throwaway objects and the most unthinkable pieces are given a new lease of life in the most diverse shapes, ready to rewind their existences and start anew, like beams from the Seventeenth century that become boxes, carts that become frames, or chairs that become small figurines of fish.
Each piece of wood has a story and becomes a different story, which sometimes end up coinciding, in that it centres on one of ALAB’s main principles – the sustainability, recycling and reuse of materials. So, when you try to make your own object, or you just purchase one, know that the object you are holding often comes from far away, has an infinite meaning, and perhaps also multiple lives. In fact, not all creations are always for sale, because there are some stories that are priceless and cannot be bought, but that we must appreciate that we know they exist.
And then? It’s over to all the young people that reinvented themselves, who left Palermo to later return or who never left it at all, but were never happy, like Giulia, Elena, Fabrizio or Giulietta, who, after graduating in Foreign Languages and Literature, opened their wool workshop, a tradition in threat of extinction.
But the beautifully thing is that during the journey, you will often find them busy, while they are working or holding courses to pass down their knowledge and to ensure that their trades are not lost, once and for all! Because in these places, before selling, you produce, learn, and teach, so much so that there are more and more artists who come from all over the world to learn everything these artisans know, also often for free. Because Palermo’s workshops have caused a huge increase in concrete materials within the area, which generate work there, making the only alternative now chosen by many Palermitans possible: that of staying.