Roberto Cipollone
Roberto Cipollone (Ciro)

Edward Piastro Illustrisimo lived in Italy for two years from 2014-2016. A close collaborator of the renowned Italian sculptor Roberto Cipollone who’s better known as Ciro, he worked for a year with him from 2014 to 2015. Here Edward shares five lessons in life that he learned from Ciro.

Roberto Cipollone or Ciro  (pronounced as “Chi-Roh”) is an Italian mixed-media artist who creates artworks / compositions from a wide range of materials: wood, iron, stone, cloth; also,  waste material (i.e. old farm implements, driftwood, clay, all kinds of metal, mushrooms, ‘thrown-away’ photo-frames, wagon wheels, etc.) , which he considers all full of life.  Inspired by the Persian King Cyrus, he gave himself the Italian version of the name: “Ciro”  (If we remember in the old testament, King Cyrus was instrumental in gathering the Jewish people in exile, a people considered during that time as ‘thrown away’,  helping them return to the Promised Land; he even commissioned the building of the Jewish temple.)

Ciro was born in Pescara (a seaside town in the Italian Region of Abbruzzo) in 1947, and spent his childhood and youth around the metal foundry of his father. Driven by a deep love for nature and together and possessed by a strong spiritual force, he tries to take every opportunity to express himself through small artefacts, paintings, drawings, engravings and compositions. He grew up with beautiful scenery all around him. A sense of aesthetics has inspired him to pursue instinctively, this passion for Art. For a long period in his life, he lived and worked in Tuscany, enjoying the majestic hills, beautiful sunsets, and surreal landscape that the region offers. Most of Ciro’s artworks reflect the heavenly scenes that Tuscany impresses on the minds of each visitor or traveller.

Soon enough, his city saw him participate in various artistic initiatives.  Then after a 6 –year stint in the Netherlands, in 1977 he arrived in Loppiano, near Florence. It was here that Ciro took the opportunity to devote himself full-time to the activities where he expresses his artistic talent today with inexhaustible imagination.

Since 1982, when he started his exhibits, he has been highly acclaimed in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Austria.  From 1991 he has done commissioned works of sacred furniture and restoration work for the environment, both in Italy and abroad.

Here are 5 things I have learned from Ciro as I worked for him for a year:

The first is, to see beauty in everything, even in the ugliest things.

Spending time with Ciro has always amazed me, for I see how he turns trash to treasure. He has this Midas touch that turns what is old to gold.  Every now and then we visit piles of refuse that have thousands of things in them. Ciro chooses things that can be transformed into something new. Recycling and reusing things has always been his forte. It is amazing how his eyes are now accustomed to seeing beauty – it’s a good thing to remember because we often focus on the bruto (ugly) side of life.

Oftentimes, we also went to the nearby Arno River to scour for driftwood. Rotting logs, branches, and twigs are still useful to Ciro. Through some kind of magic and technique, Ciro brings these dead pieces of wood to life! (I was telling him that he could be the real Dr. Frankenstein, as he rolls his eyes!) He would cut this driftwood appropriately, then we would clean them, and he would add terra or clay to form houses, bridges, towers, etc. on top of them. The result is always fantastic!

Second: Art should at least provide you with a decent dinner.

For Ciro, art just doesn’t serve its purpose by bringing joy to the artist and his public, for him, going full circle means that his art works should support his talent, needless to say, even fill his stomach for dinner. Indeed, it is quite a big challenge to be an artist – I realize now that Ciro treats his art as a profession, waking up early to start creating things, drawing from various inspirations; moreover, he sells his art to sustain his daily needs. He tells me that being an artist does not necessary mean living scantily – that is, being stupid is not being an artist!

Third: If you want to do it now, do it. If not NOW, When?

Ciro has a million ideas racing through his mind about how to create pieces of art. He is sharp but also a man of action. This really serves him well, he stays in the “HERE and NOW” and gives art his best. If an inspiration comes, he goes ahead and acts on it. He doesn’t procrastinate or have second thought. He tells me, “Non pensare troppo perché perdere tempo, fare quello che vuoi fare che è gia’ abbastanza. Avviarlo, le idee seguirrano” (Don’t think too much because you’re wasting time, do what you want to do and that is enough.

Fourth: Make mistakes, but learn from them.

Whenever he can’t figure out what to do with one thing, he moves to the next item, saying: “Basta Facciamo un’altra cosa!” (“Enough, let’s do something else!”). He never broods over a failure. For me this is really important. Procrastination and regret are two enemies of productivity – he deals with them well.

The fifth and last one: The 80/20 Principle (Pareto’s Law)

Artwork by Ciro
Artwork by Ciro

This is really one of the secrets of productive people like Ciro. It is really common sense that has become quite uncommon in the modern world. Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 principle was proposed by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto and it states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Using this principle Ciro has made roughly 16,000+ artworks up-to-date turning him one (utterly) productive artist. He tells me that in life one has to focus on the important few so that you can produce more of what you want. In his case, he takes up less than an hour to finish one art piece – that enables him to produce four to ten art pieces in a day. He told me that he has already removed all redundant processes so as to focus only on the important few and make his work fast and effective. Truly, it is useless to do more if we can do it with less. In life, we can apply this principle by focusing on the essentials and giving up things which are time-wasters…

Edward Piastro Illustrisimo



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