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Gainesville resident heads to Ireland to perfect her art

POSTED: September 18, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Photos by SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Andrea Tabacchi holds an inro ensemble she crafted as part of her medieval Celtic metalwork she became captivated with several years ago. She will attend a three-month internship in Ireland with master silversmiths.

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When many artists get ready to work on a new piece, they pull out their brushes and apply paint to canvas.

Andrea Tabacchi pulls out her hammers.

She also pulls out sheets of brass, copper and other metals.

For the last several years, Tabacchi has been busy trying to duplicate the ornate, metalwork styles of medieval artisans.

"To think about how these ancient metal workers did all of these intricate, complicated designs without any modern conveniences," said Tabacchi, a Gainesville resident.

"They didn’t have compressed gas for torches. They didn’t have power tools for sanding — they did it all by hand."

Although she’s built up an impressive body of work, this week, Tabacchi will leave for an extended study with master silversmiths in Dublin, Ireland, who specialize in medieval Celtic metalwork.

While abroad, Tabacchi hopes to master the ancient art of filigree and enameling. Another technique from that time period she hopes to master is repouss, which utilizes small hand tools to create raised patterns in a sheet of metal.

She plans on blogging about her progress while in Dublin on her website, www.atabacchi.com.

Although she’s no stranger to working with tools — her parents are avid builders — Tabacchi took a round-about approach to become a full-time artist.

In 2001, Tabacchi graduated from the University of Florida with a marketing degree. After working in the business world for several years, she decided it was time to change paths.

"I’ve always loved taking an idea from my mind and bringing it to life," Tabacchi said.

"I worked in business for eight or nine years, but I wanted to do something more, so I went back to school and started on a new path."

That path lead her to pursue a fine arts degree from the University of Georgia, which she obtained in December.

It is at the university that Tabacchi first became interested in Celtic metalwork.

"During my (bachelor of fine arts studies), we had to have so many hours of art history. When we did the unit about Celtic metal work, I just loved it," Tabacchi said.

"I loved looking at it and I loved the techniques they used. I have always been inspired by history and story telling. That’s where a good bit of my undergraduate thesis came from — it was inspired by mythology and the idea of invulnerability.

In fact, Tabacchi took the idea of invincibility and applied it to a major body of work.

"That whole collection was body armor. I selected characters that were perceived to be invulnerable from different cultures and developed a piece of armor to protect their vulnerability. The biggest example was Achilles. I made a heel guard for him."

Although some metalwork is strictly decorative, Tabacchi likes to also incorporate utilitarian pieces into her collections — another influence from her art history courses.

"I became fascinated for a while with Japanese inro. They were worn in the 1700s and 1800s, mostly by men because the kimonos didn’t have pockets," Tabacchi said.

"The inro hooked (under the waist band) and they would keep things that they needed in there. Some of them got very specialized. Like if they (the wearer) were a scribe, they would have an inro with all of their inks and seals in there."

Even though she has access to conveniences like propane torches and battery-powered tools, Tabacchi is still moved by the ancient artisans. She will be drawing inspiration from the medieval metalworkers to create her latest collection, which she will be working on while in Ireland.

"I am amazed at the skill and detail they were able to accomplished under the circumstances," Tabacchi said.

"It’s unbelievable."



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