Near Piazza San Marco there is one of the most fascinating workshops in Venice, keeper of an ancient art, that of the remèr, the builder of traditional oars and oarlocks. Today pursued only by four craftsmen in the entire Venice, it belongs to a tradition that for centuries has been handed down exclusively orally, from teacher to student.
The story of Paolo Brandolisio is a modern fairytale: at 16, with a passion for manual work and wood, he tried to copy a forcola (the gondolas’ oarlock) and took it, to have his opinion, to master Giuseppe Carli, the remér of the “champions” belonging to a historic family of reméri. Carli appreciated Paolo’s potential, spotting the spark of true talent in the vibrant passion of its creator. Paolo, therefore, began his apprenticeship under the guidance of Giuseppe who soon designated him his “heir”. In 1987, at the age of 20, Paolo thus became the “master” of Carli’s historic workshop.
Today, Paolo Brandolisio’s atelier still preserves the original furnishings dating back to the early 1900s, a real museum of the ancient art of remèr, where every object invites you to know its history. Among forcole of all shapes and sizes, old paintings and traditional maritime artifacts, stands out a beautiful black and white photo depicting the teacher and the pupil in a symbolic handover. Paolo, in fact, is keen to tell that for him Giuseppe was like an “old Indian chief”, a precious teacher of life who taught him pride in who one is and the right values that are worth fighting for.
The forcola is today a true work-of-art, not only because it is a symbol of the gondolas, but above all for its intrinsic value: each forcola is, in fact, a unique piece, signed and numbered. Handmade from a single piece of wood (walnut, cherry, pear), to be a good one, it must be calibrated according to the type of boat as well as the height and weight of the rower in order to guarantee perfect performance between the narrow Venetian channels.
For the originality and beauty of its design, the forcola was also exhibited at MOMA, Museum Of Modern Art, NY, becoming a symbol of Italian style in the world. In Paolo’s workshop, in addition to miniature and collectible forcolas, you can also find other beautiful hand-carved objects such as ladles, cutting boards, bracelets, and necklaces.
Ask for the bangles made by hand with 5 different types of wood: Elm (from a tree that fell down when a tornado struck the Giudecca and Sant’Elena islands in 2012), Padouk, Ciliegio, Amazaque and Toulipier.
In the 1950s, Giuseppe Carli had the ingenious intuition of placing the forcola on a base, thus turning it into a decorative design object. A two-meter-high creation by him was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in NY and from there, thanks to the appreciation of various art critics, was displayes in other international exhibitions.