ANGELO GARRO, ART IRONSMITH
A truly modern renaissance man is Angelo Garro. Born in Cassara, Siracusa, Italy, he has been exposed to art and the art of life his entire life and has brought all of that together in a fusion of art, culture and cuisine in San Francisco.
Mr. Garro was raised in Sicily where his family had a citrus brokering business. At his mother and grandmother’s side, he learned about the art of cooking and the seasons of life., Angelo Garro was always fascinated by the local stonemasons carving angels into marble tombstones and the representations of art that surrounded his life.
He left Sicily at the age of 18 to study at Kunst Geverbe Schule, near Zurich, obtaining a toolmaking and machinist degree. After several years of work as a tool and dye maker, assisting Swiss and Czech artists, he left and took an apprenticeship with a Kunstschmiede, or Artist Ironsmith. Three years were spent with Joseph Cathomas in the town of Breil/Brigels, Graubunden, in the Swiss Alps. There he learned to fashion iron through the ancient process of continuous heating and hammering using the forge, the anvil and assorted hand tools.
Upon the completion of the apprenticeship in 1975, Angelo emigrated to Canada and opened a studio, Ravenna Forge, 90 miles north of Toronto. In this rural studio, he designed and fabricated wrought iron fireplace accessories, candelabras, artistic railings, display signs, religious artifacts, window and door screens, tools, old fashioned locks, keys, hinges and doorknockers. In 1979, Angelo spent six months at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, studying sculpture and bronze casting.
Angelo moved the studio to Toronto in 1980 to work on larger architectural wrought iron projects and public art projects. He designed and fabricated the ornate fences and gates for the Toronto Sculpture Garden, an urban renewal project of the Planning and Development Commission. In 1982, a competition was held to design an entrance to the park next to St. James Cathedral, and his wrought iron bower design echoing the lines of the cathedral won the competition. The entire project was awarded the Governor General’s medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. During this period, he also designed elaborate sets and props for the Toronto Opera, created a modernistic geologically gate for a jewelry store as well as completing a number of projects for private homes.
In 1983, Angelo moved to San Francisco, and created the Renaissance Forge, in a building that housed a working forge since the early 1900’s. Here he began work on the restoration of the old Mission San Jose in Fremont, using authentic techniques and historically accurate craftsmanship. Angelo was involved with the creation of hinges, nails, railings, locks, doorplates, grills and a crown for the original steeple bell.
For the city of San Jose, in 1988 – 89, Angelo fabricated Thomas Aidala’s design for the entrance to the pedestrian bridge in River Park, San Jose, of repousse metal representing the animals living in the park. For the 1989 AIDS relief organizations, he contributed the design and fabrication of curtain rods with an olive branch motif. Later this design, included grape and eucalyptus motifs. Angelo also worked with artist David Ireland on a large snake shaped doorpull for the entry of the Security Pacific gallery in San Francisco.
In the years since his arrival in San Francisco, Mr. Garro has worked on ornamentation of private homes with a number of designers including Robert Noble, Gary Hutton, Rebecca Bradley and Ron Mann, as well as architects Morgan Smith, Robert La Rocca and Walker and Moody. Extensive ironwork has been completed for many homes internationally, including elaborate staircases, balconies, andirons, fireplace tools, sconces, fences and gates.
In addition, Angelo continues to create iron work, cast and low relief sculpture.The artistry of Angelo’s ironwork is exceptional. The lyricism that he brings to a balustrade is exquisite. One of the joys of experiencing his artistry is the feel of the metal after it has been forged into its magnificence.
In older cultures, the ironmonger is the wise one, the one who keeps the flame and the valued secrets, not just of forging metal, but of life. Angelo is part of that tradition.