Francesco Sisto interview
The apprentice shipwright
I’m Francesco Sisto, architect, apprentice shipwright and President of Officina Maremosso.
A few years ago I decided to change a part of my life and return to Taranto to set up this business, which deals with the recovery, restoration and conservation of the ancient crafts linked to traditional seafaring, specifically the restoration, construction and maintenance of wooden boats, using the traditional techniques of ancient crafts, such as the shipwright, the caulker, the sea carpenter and the naval carpenter.
We are in Taranto, in the ancient area of Porta Napoli, a small village situated between the old city and the Tamburi district, where once were concentrated all the production and commercial activities closely related to the station or the port.
The term “maestro d’ascia” (shipwright) is a complex one that encompasses all the craftsmanship of these ancient professionals of the sea.
It is called “master of the axe”, precisely because the axe was the main tool that these craftsmen used to shape the hulls of the boats; “master” because they were able, with this simple tool, to create a boat, something as complex as a boat that could be for work, for pleasure, for transport or even commerce, literally carving it from the plain trunk, from the rough wood being able to master a whole range of traditional techniques and processes aimed at the ultimate goal, which was to create an efficient and seaworthy boat.
The commitment of Officina Maremosso
Taranto is a city that needs to fully recover its relationship with the sea.
Given its position, Taranto is a unique city, because it stretches between two seas.
Until 50-60 years ago, its entire economy depended on the sea, on all the professions broadly linked to the sea.
Today, this pressing need is returning, and the true vocation of the city of Taranto is being rediscovered.
And, therefore, there is a need for something and someone to take up this ancient knowledge, to preserve and disseminate it.
Officina Maremosso is trying to work in this direction, targeting young people.
Precisely for this reason, we have for some years also established collaborations with the Ministry of Justice, Department of Youth Justice.
Creating ad-hoc formative socialisation projects for minors at risk or already inside the criminal justice system.
In this way, we facilitate the experience of ‘formative socialisation’, as it is called, and thus working in a group to reach a common goal, a real training course, organising in turn specific projects on certain techniques or sea-related crafts, such as the construction of hulls, the construction of masts, the construction of supports, all strictly in wood and all strictly following the ancient techniques of workmanship.
Today’s focus is to return to natural materials such as wood that for centuries, for millennia was the main material of shipbuilding, because wood is a natural material and, therefore, the running costs, the disposal costs and especially the manufacturing waste do not have the same disastrous environmental impact that synthetic materials at present have.
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