Home News Life and work of the magnin: an ideal portrait

Life and work of the magnin: an ideal portrait

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Being born in the mines and forges of the Orco and Soana valleys, learning to work copper, in a workshop or for the world

LOCANA. Magnin is not a word, it is a life. To begin with, you have to be born in the right place. A valley, and not just any one. One that is familiar with metals: iron, gold, copper mines, populated by Canavese people who have known how to dig and work them since the time of the Salassi. So, the Orco and Soana valleys are fine.

Then you have to grow among people who value you only if you have the right hands to work and the voice to sing. People who have always lived on metal: they extract it, refines it and melts it, roughs it with water-powered tools, beats it by hand and refines it, and finally loads it on their shoulders and takes it to the plains, to sell it.

When you are around ten, you have to leave your home to go do the bòcia, the apprentice in someone else’s shop. One of few words, who removes your salary from lunches and dinners, but knows how to teach you how to give your own to anvils, hammers, pincers and shears to produce coppers, ladles, cauldrons.

You keep growing, you are already almost a man. And the time comes to take and go. But where? Down in the Po Valley, but also in France, Switzerland, up to Spain. For years. Even more than ten, returning home only for Christmas and the feast of San Besso, to get married and to conceive children who one day will lead the same life as you.

So you go “looking for refuge every evening”, as Angelo Paviolo writes, and you see the world, you speak other languages, you learn to avoid troubles. You deal with the rich and commoners, peasants and citizens, and you move around according to the patronal feasts, because on these occasions everyone buys, they stagnate, they want “the kitchen set well shiny and clean”, and this is your job.

You learn a lot, and you get better. Until one day, eaten up by homesickness, unlike the many who set up shop on the plain, you return to your valley.

Here you find your wife, a strong woman who has had to do everything alone and no longer accepts being a “white widow” for ten months a year, and the children suddenly grown up, and what do you do? You roll up your sleeves.

Set up a bòita, a mallet, a small company. Which then thrives, because you have a thin head, and you specialize in what few can do.

If you are good, you also have orders from abroad, and you feel like you are traveling another time. And the time will come when your hands will be in demand and from craftsmanship to industry, from copper to car bodies or aircraft fuselages.

Years go by and you don’t want to destroy what your hands have learned: you have to pass it on to someone else. One of your children has your talent, or even more than one, and then you are lucky. Otherwise, choose another bòcia, like the one you once were, and teach it everything you know, before it’s too late.

Even when you are old you don’t stop working: your hands are born with you and you will use them until the end. Every morning you go down to bòita and starting a new job, perhaps more artistic, you tell yourself: I’m a magnin. And you don’t need to add: I’m proud of it.

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