My love affair with factories began. I really and truly love factories, and my studio here looks like a factory. I never got involved with the conventional way of carving — I’ve always use big machinery to carve — I had no idea of being able to work the way the conventional sculptor does with wood. I use grinders and — I’m trying to think of the names in English, because I worked mostly in Italian. But it was open sesame, it was the most divine accident in the world, I mean the accident of me been there, it’s completely formed by life.1 And then for the next 50 years, I have always worked in factories.2
And early on, they had never seen the likes of me in factories, so they would put screens in front of me, so the men wouldn’t be disturbed, I was — I had bright red hair, and there I was doing things that you’re not supposed to be doing, like getting underneath a crane, and maybe there’s a man above me, and I’m on the floor bolting something together. For them it was an education, because we really were not yet in the 21st century, and for me it was a PhD in making steel sculpture.
And then the other part about Spoleto was very important, is it brought me into the art world, because there was David Smith, then there was Calder, and there was Arnaldo Pomodoro, there’s Lynn Chadwick. It was all the famous names. I was the unknown, and I became friends with a number of them, and it sort of — how could I explain? It was like getting those red shoes that Dorothy was looking for. It was extraordinary, I was very lucky. And the one thing, if you’re born in Brooklyn, you learn, at least my generation, is that when you’ll have a little bit of luck, and it’s just a crack in the door, keep pushing till the door opens up.
And so, I did squeeze dry every moment of that experience. And David and I became very good friends, which was very important for me. Arnaldo and I — Arnaldo Pomodoro and I are still good friends, because very few of those guys are alive, and who was it that said that? I guess it was Fitzgerald, “Living longer is the best revenge?”