© All rights reserved. Rigamonti Arredi snc of Luigi Rigamonti & sons The passion Luigi Rigamonti has for craftsmanship was evident since his most tender age. Already in primary school, in the early post-war years, by frequenting elderly Mr. Crespi and under the guidance of renowned Sicilian maestro Cirillo Fortunato, Luigi felt a growing passion for studying and learning the craft.
It was in Viganò three boys attended the school Besana Brianza: Luigi Rigamonti, Erminio Riva, and Enrico Casiraghi.
Up until the age of fourteen, riding their bicycles, they attended the most renown School for Professional Training in the province of Milan, which was known for producing the best artisans and directors in the field of construction of the time, through teaching inherent technical disciplines, drawing, and hands-on workshop activities.
At fourteen, Luigi began hands-on practice at the Onofri Company in Cassago Brianza, that produce industrial kitchens, working as a warehouse operator and solderer; then at fifteen, he moved on to working in Lissone as a carpenter manufacturing briar-root radio-cabinets, curved with veneers and canvas.
“I used to go to Onofri’s by bicycle. The first year it was tough as in the evening I also went to school in Besana by bicycle; sometimes we would hitch a ride grabbing onto the trucks of the Vismara cold cuts factory that were going to the train station to pick up the pigs or deliver salamis. There were a lot of us. And almost everybody went there because it was the most important school”.
In the meantime Luigi attended carpentry school in the evenings, that was also in Besana Brianza. For eight years, without ever missing one day. The lessons were different for carpenters, mechanics, or smiths, and there were even electricians then, and there was the section where you learned practical skills.
“My teacher was enthusiastic, he made me make all the kinds of woodworking joints, the special types too. Mr. Picchi Romeo lived there in Via della Busa, in Besana and he wasn’t married. He was enthusiastic about me and he made me do all kinds of work by hand”.
At night school the subjects were Italian language, maths, drawing and then workshop; there weren’t all the subjects you’d find at a regular day school: there was no physics, chemistry, technology, French. “Every year I got the first prize – I still have the carpenter’s plane – and one year I received a savings account booklet” and “During one year, I used to come home from work, I’d go to Besana, and then I would go to learn to play the clarinet in the town band of Casatenovo, where there was also the parochial youth club. This, until I was twenty-three. One year I even went to school in Monza, at the Villa Reale. Where there is still a school there now, near the Villa’s stables.
I went there for one year but it was disappointing. Mechanical modelling school. Wood models for machine tools. Of fifteen boys, there were always only two, three or four of us: the others skipped school and went to the cinema. In Besana I never skipped a day of school; instead, there it was a disaster and I quit that school out of desperation. It was an inferior level: in Besana you really learned.
At evening classes there was a teacher from Lissone, a really talented man, Mr. Palma, who made me do drawings; he was an artist at drawing. Really elegant drawings, I still have them, I’ll show them to my grandson Leonardo…”
In this period he worked at the NAVA CARPENTER SHOP IN VIGANÒ
“The furniture shop was in Viganò at the foothills. We made furniture in the workshop on the ground floor and upstairs we made doors and windows. There was Emilio Nava – called Miglietto, Mr. Colombo, and myself. Then we also started making artistic furniture and at one time we were even making pieces for America, because Carlo Nava, Emilio’s brother, had an art gallery in Milano.
The furniture department was in the old carpenter shop where Miglietto, Luigi Colombo and I worked. The building is still there but under it, the old carpenter shop has been torn down”.
“I used to go to the patrician houses to do maintenance, where there was antique furniture, paintings. I used to go there and repair them, but at that time we did a bit of everything, even caskets.
At that time, I used to dress a bit like an American, walking across the fields and dreaming of glory. I had a pair of beautiful beige sneakers, a jacket my uncle sent me from America. They were good times because I worked with enthusiasm, I used to make those nice little sideboards with drawers and brass edges; Emilio Nava went to get them from the Carati family in Milano, they were specialised in Empire style column capitals.
I still have around somewhere a few lyre-shaped coffee tables. The master-carpenter was always Luigi Colombo from Sirtori, and he already did some jobs for the count of Besana.
Then, they kept only the door and window business in the Nava carpenter shop”.
During this period, Luigi worked at MAPELLI ALFREDO & CO, IN SAN GIORGIO DI VILLASANTA.
Mr. Alfredo Mapelli lived in Via Stradivari, 1 in Milan. He was the director at the Proserpio Company in Barzanò, “one of the most renown companies in Italy”, and after the war, he founded his own company. The workshop was in San Giorgio di Villasanta and the offices in Via Rossini in Milan.
“First, I worked in the workshop, but then I started following Mapelli around to the construction sites, taking note of the working time, preparing drawings; we were used to making drawings for all the jobs. There was a technician in Milano who went to do the surveys, prepared the drafts of the drawings, and then he sent the rolls of drawings to us, in Villasanta, where we would carry everything over to plywood, in real-size, we did all jobs like that.
I was the pupil of Battista Beretta from Lesmo, who came from the Bestetti Company that made airplane wings in wood; they were good at handcrafting pieces, with animal glue and hot glue. Then, there was Carlo Fumagalli, who later became mayor of Castello Brianza; they were my teachers. My friend Angelo Bosisio “from Gesso” arrived. My work-mate was Enrico, who sat right next to me; it was he who then opened the famous pizzeria in Rovagnate – he’s passed away now”.
We produced doors, windows and mostly pieces of furniture, all unique productions, very valid pieces, even if you considered the technology involved.
“I made all the drawings, in full scale and prepared the supply notes to give to the sawmill for cutting, as each job was very particular, and with the work note; then I took note of the employees’ working time and each job had its own folder. That was my job.
Later on, I worked in installation. I remember I went to install some furniture in a villa in Forte dei Marmi, with Aldo Brambilla, the son of the mayor of Vimercate, and an assistant; we went down by train, three times in fifteen days. Then I worked in another three places and learned just how important installation is. Sometimes I travelled alone. I was twenty years old”.
“After these experiences they sent me to Milano, to the office in via Rossini. After, the office was moved to Via Andrea Costa, near Piazzale Loreto. And I began going out to do the surveys. We made large-scale drawings, 1:50 scale, and then the drawings were blown up to real-size in the workshop to make learning easier too. Because if you were able to see it in real size you couldn’t go wrong.
We went around taking measurements, would make the drawings, then we’d sent them to San Giorgio for production.
First Mapelli’s daughter fell ill and then so did he. During that period I also carried messages and papers, while he was in hospital at the San Camillo clinic, near the Central Station. I used to go there every morning to have him sign papers.
I became his intermediary and I even had a driver who would take me around Milano, a guy named Franco, who then ended up at the Corriere della Sera newspaper in Via Solferino.
He always wore a leather jacket, and he drove the boss and me around, when we had to go to the customers. They were all special and wealthy. We worked for the owner of BP, who had a castle in Via Brennero, and afterwards she bought a patrician villa in Corso Venezia. Inside there was an upholstery laboratory, with a dozen workers that made upholstered furniture.
We must’ve made about fifty wardrobes, right there in front of the park where there is the natural history museum.
We worked at the RAI building and also for their artists, for example people like Nuccio Bongiovanni and then we worked near the Pirelli building. We often went to the Galbani building in Via Fabio Filzi, and there on the eleventh floor we built a meeting room in teak and oak, with all round doors.
I remember that one room was all crystal glass, the first made; walls and crystal furniture at the Madonnina clinic; we had really big clients and they were really beautiful jobs. Again, in Milan we worked in the buildings in Via San Vincenzo, Santa Maria Segreta, Beata Capitanio, the Gaetano Pini hospital in Corso Italia.
We made an elliptical handrail for SKF in Piazza Cavour, that produces ball bearings; it was two floors long and all in one piece, entirely made of three-millimetre slats.
I remember I was so passionate about the job that one day, I was on the mezzanine floor of a warehouse, up on the scaffolding with the moulding and clamps, and I just stayed up there and forgot to go to lunch until two mates came looking for me. I was excited, I started putting all the clamps on with the glue. It was very wide, this elliptical handrail: I’d like to know if it’s still there.
Later, after the owner passed away, the Mapelli company started falling apart. I gave up my place to a guy that worked there with me, even my friend Angelo Bosisio stayed a little longer in San Giorgio… then the company closed.
When I was in the workshop in Villasanta I was traumatised the time I cut a phalange of my hand. I cried because I thought I could never draw again. I went to the hospital in Monza and they cut it off clean. I was just a boy then, and it happened because a chief machine operator had put too big a spade drill bit onto the mortise I was working with. I was drilling the inside of the handrail for the Madonnina Clinic of Milano, that was all spiral shaped.
I was a boy of twenty, and if it were to happen now they’d fix my finger. I was a good looking boy, and was rather shocked at the time”.
During this period Luigi worked at the BRAMATI GIUSEPPE COMPANY IN VILLASANTA
After the experience in Milano with Mapelli, Luigi worked as a mechanical modeller at the Bramati Company, making wood models for foundries. This was a deliberate decision, because modelling is a work of precision.
“I was twenty-three years old then, and we worked for long hours in the factory in Peregallo. We made models for a company in Arcore, for Colombo Cremona, and all the other woodworking machinery. At that time the machinery was all in cast iron, and all the models were made of wood; only later did they begin using die cast and aluminium.
At the end of that period an opportunity came up with an artisan in Lissone who had started making melamine furniture, and when he closed the company he sold all the machinery.
I was working like a dog, day and night, so I was able to afford to buy all the machines and start my own business in my home”.
The Company Rigamonti Luigi opens in Viganò. In the course of a year and a half working as a modeller, Luigi earned the capital necessary to buy the machinery from Lissone and start the business in his old family home.
“I started making doors and windows for my brother Angelo’s home, then the bedroom and the kitchen. I still have the designs.
Officially I started business presenting the necessary papers in the municipal offices, to the Artisans Guild and the Chamber of Commerce, on October the 2nd 1962, nearly 52 years ago.
In Viganò no one hardly ever saw me, as I worked during the day, then I went to school in Besana in the evening. And it was really tough, starting out all by myself. I started working with the Riva Construction Company, which later built my home. They introduced me to my first clients.
The first years I got around on a Vespa scooter, and once I managed to get to Barzanò with an entire window frame on the little Vespa.
My first carpenter’s shop was in the basement of my father’s and brothers’ home.
Then, in 1965, I started construction of my own artisan workshop near there, just one floor with a tar roof, leaving the structural pillars for the top floors of my future home jutting.
I started working with Pierino Penati, then little by little, I got more customers.
Up to‘67 I took any job I was offered; I made window and door frames by hand, using the spindle moulder, with a turn lock. But I had always studied to be a furniture-maker, and when my moment came, that’s exactly what I did”.
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The Rigamonti Furniture Company Snc opens in Viganò Brianza
With the participation of his sons and the experience passed on through the years, the adventure continues in untiring pursuit of this passion for artisanship and carpentry.
The inherent traits remain the same that characterised Luigi’s work from the very beginning: curiosity for learning the craft in the simple tasks as much as in the grand works, expertise in metrical surveying, drawing not only as a figurative medium but above all, as the representation of the actual model for manufacturing, and hence the study of details, the hand-crafting, that makes each product a unique and special piece.