Cosi Tabellini, is a third generation family run company, handcrafting pewter, ceramic and crystal glass objects, in an artisanal workshop in the Northern Italian city of Brescia, near the beautiful Lake Garda, an area famous for centuries for pewter craftwork and generations of highly skilled pewterers.
The Tabellinis, Alberto and Daniela, have stayed true to the companyís origins in terms of production; their designs compliment the past alongside the present, using age-old techniques of handcasting pewter and yet combining this versatile metal, by evolving design and employing intricate processes, with other locally produced and highly regarded materials, such as Brescian stainless steel, Italian ceramics, Italian crystal glass, and European Cherry woods, to create contemporary versions of timeless designs, which can bought as comprehensive sets or one-off pieces, suiting both traditional and contemporary homes. Pewter can be cast to emulate exact replicas of household objects seen in a classic still life painting, faithful reproductions that are accurate and soulful enough to be the real things, perfect on top of a well loved hand-me-down or vintage-find oak table, yet alongside this, this age-old alloy can be artfully crafted into brave, bright, fresh designs that suit urban living, naturally sitting amongst the glass and monochrome trendiness of a loft apartmentís kitchen work-top.
Alberto Tabellini fondly, and yet understandably proudly, recounts the humble beginnings of the family businessÖ It all started in Northern Italy, in the middle of the last century, when Albertoís great uncle Bruno Cosi found work in a pewter workshop. It is often said in Italy that no-one can teach you a trade, but by watching and learning you, in fact, steal it, and so Bruno Cosi "stole the craft"; from casting the metal, preparing and filling moulds, to finishing and engraving.
Bruno Cosi went on to establish a small pewter workshop in 1954 in the basement of the Tabellini familyís home in Brescia, and Sergio Tabellini, Brunoís nephew (and Alberto & Danielaís father) began to sell the pewter products, travelling with literally a suitcase of samples. The character and soul of the traditional pewter proved extremely popular in Italy and beyond, and the family company evolved and expanded, into the second generation of Sergio Tabellini and his cousin Enrico Cosi and numerous craft workers, during the 1960s and into the 1970s, as well as the third generation, Alberto and his sister Daniela, who began to help with simple tasks, like packing, alongside childhood games with the chalks used for the moulds. Alberto and Daniela, now own the company and work closely together, alongside their longstanding, highly valued employees - highly skilled pewterers, one of which is the master craftsman. All are committed to continue the legacy of the original pieces, including art nouveau and baroque styles, whilst nurturing a healthy evolution of the company by designing and creating modern fusion of pewter with ceramic, crystal glass, wood and leather, as well as maintaining the original company ethos of traditional craftsmanship and a family collaboration.
The versatility of pewter as a material is tremendous; it can form replicas of classic styles, looking like something reincarnated from a Dutch Still Life painting, beautiful household objects artfully arranged, soulful enough to be the real thing, objects that are faithful to the Brescian tradition of pewtering, or it can become a contemporary design classic, fresh and modern using a timeless material. It is the transforming the design idea, from an image in oneís head, onto paper in a series of sketches, and then to an actual workable object, that is the remarkable skill. The result is complex, more than just a piece of metal crafted into an object of simply use or beauty. Click on the images below to find out, in a little more detail, about the main stages in the manufacturing process.
Firstly, the raw materials: tin, copper and antimony, are cut up and heated to 300∫C in a kiln and very quickly a beautiful molten liquid is formed, which, using a casting ladle is poured into the mould with extreme care.
Modern moulds are made from silicon rubber, although some of the original iron moulds are still used, the modern moulds have built-in imperfections to capture an antiqued and distressed look to the surface of the cast pewter to enhance the character and warmth of the finished object. The molten pewter is forced into every nook, cranny of the mould, by either a centrifugal force or an air pressure machine.
Each object is normally made up of a number of different moulds, one for the main body, and then for the different components, so some pieces have as many as 7 different moulds, and if each object has several different sizes, those moulds have to be either scaled up or down. Once each piece has cooled in the moulds, the pewter is gently removed and any superfluous lumps and bumps leftover from the casting process are removed, by clipping off, with specialist pliers, and returned to the molten pewter to be re-used.
The next step is to ëfinishí the pieces, by skilled polishing and then rubbing by increasingly fine graded wool, to rid of any surface roughness and imperfections, yet retaining the character of the piece, either soft and matt or polished and glossy depending upon the style of the object, the final buff is undertaken using a fine polishing cloth.
Each piece is then assembled, welded and soldered skilfully by hand. This is an extremely skilful and technical procedure, especially with pieces designed to hold liquids.
At this point any decorative chiselling and engraving is undertaken, including any touchmarks, if they are not already built into the mould, to enhance the overall character of the object. A final colour wash and gentle polish highlights any decorative relief and the piece is ready for packaging.
In the movies
SCosi Tabellini are proud of their links with the silver screen, with a number of historically inspired pieces of pewter, such as oil lamps, platters and goblets have featured in feature films such as Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Man with the Iron Mask, whilst contemporary objects, like espresso cups and photo frames have featured in Material Girls, Casper and Capri. Click on the films below to see Cosi Tabellini products featured.