Italian handcrafts: The Wood of Cuneo
- WTI Magazine #102 Apr 14, 2018
The greatest concentration of wood companies in the province of Cuneo is located in Valle Varaita, a valley that is home to around 90 firms actively producing furniture and fixtures, as well as toys and musical instruments. Furniture manufacturing, which was strengthened between the 1950s and 1970s with the rustic “Valle Varaita” style, experienced important moments of development: in the 1960s, every month trucks loaded with furniture were sent to Valle Susa, Valle d'Aosta, Switzerland and the Tyrol.
Several master artisans, such as Boerio, Beoletto and Bessone, are worth noting for having brought changes to the Alpine style throughout the decades of the growth of the wood industry, until the end of the 1980s.
The functional furniture, known as ‘d'alpeggio’, was designed with ingenious solutions that allowed it to be transported by mule in historic times and gave it flexibility in terms of its usage, and also used surprising construction and assembly techniques. It is now being reintroduced by adapting traditional production methods to new lines of domestic furnishings.
Because of its technical and structural properties and its tactile and emotive qualities, wood is a material that has always been excellent for buildings and creating home furnishings. Woodcraft was established to create everyday objects, rustic and even artistic period furniture.
Three families of revised furniture are widely used today. The half-lap technique, a system for connecting two axes joined at the mid section, is very constructive and expressive. Furniture made in this way can be completely dismantled and is designed for contemporary furnishing systems, with frame structures with small axes of the same size connected with steel tie-rods and socket head screws.
The geometrical decorations have also been reintroduced with a focus on technology and experimentations in supply chain production processes. It is particularly popular for chests with rosettes, pinwheels and lenses made by self-taught carpenters.
Finally, deep etching has been innovated by interpreting the decorations around the edge, a firm fixture in the valley’s stylistic repertoire, which now has the function of a handle extended to all the contours around the products. This important furniture can often be found in shop furnishing and domestic shelving in particular.
Another significant aspect in wood production is the use of solid wood, an extraordinary living and changing material found in indigenous species (Swiss pine, larch, oak, cherry, walnut). It is not stained, and only treated with natural products (water, oil and wax based paints).
In the high lands of the province of Cuneo, the amount of forest-covered surface to be managed is estimated at 4,247 hectares, making up just 1.99% of the whole mountain area. The forest must now be considered as an organism, from the cultivation of the soil to the planting and care of plants, as well as the protection and use of wood as a resource.
The forestry production (which typically requires many years and for some species comes close to or exceeds a century) is natural and uses a particular method for cultivating the soil with the aim of obtaining qualitative information about the wood corresponding to the so-called “wood increment”, i.e. the layer of wood that each tree produces annually and which encompasses the layers from the previous years.
Each species of plant is characterised by a turn, corresponding to it technical, physical or economical maturity. The turn can be linked to a specific use of the wood and not only to the lifecycle of the plant. Cultivation is carried out through thinning, making it possible to achieve different results depending on the age of the plant.
Friends of Wood
Processing experience and techniques have now been enhanced some committed companies in the wood sector that have joined the association “Amici del Legno della Provincia Granda” (Friends of Wood in the Provincia Granda).
The main purpose of the association is to promote and protect the development of woodworking by encouraging and supporting craftsmen who spread the use of the species originating from Piedmont with their expertise. To meet the expectations of attentive consumers, who are capable of appreciating products made by wisely combining tradition and innovation, the companies involved in the association adhere to manufacturing guidelines promoted and ensured by Confartigianato Cuneo, of which the association is part.
The Local Area
The province of Cuneo earned the nickname “Granda” not only because of the size of its territories (almost 7,000 sq. km) but above all because of the great variety of its landscapes. The area has five distinct identities: the Saluzzese and the valleys of Monviso, Cuneo and its valleys, the Langhe and the Roero, Mondovì and the Monregalese and the lush flat area nestled between the mountains and the hills.
Each of these five territories has specific features, from the mountain with a height of almost 4000 metres in Monviso to the Po Plain, from the charming valleys of Cuneo to the gastronomic specialities of the Langhe, from the harsh Savoyard of Cuneo to the manor houses of Montelupo Albese.
Camera di Commercio di Cuneo