What It Takes to Build a Beautiful Bird Aviary
Interview with Italian master craftsman Maurizio Betti
Maurizio Betti is a master bird aviary craftsman who brings fantasy to life in homes and gardens through his elaborate works. Within his idyllic workshop, Betti spends peaceful days working on classical restoration projects, lacquering, wall decoration, personal creations, and more. He inherited his passion for fine craftsmanship from his father, Pasquale, who worked to restore art and buildings in the beautiful town of Rimini, Italy. Betti has since passed those skills and values on to his son, Jonathan.
Today, he and his partner Loredana Cangini work together at their workshop in Santarcangelo di Romagna, an ancient town steeped in a love of nature and tradition.
Please tell us about your workshop of bird aviary.
I’ve wanted a workshop ever since I was a child. I dreamed of having a space of my own where I could test out ideas and skills. I’ve had various work spaces over the course of my professional life, but this one is truly special to me. It’s an old stable that I wanted to restore without changing its appearance. It used to belong to a butcher but now it’s the magical space of two vegetarians, a place that respects every creature populating its small garden.
What role does the garden play in your life?
The most beautiful part of my workshop is the surrounding garden, and it reflects my ideas about life and what it means to live in this world. It’s rustic and full of wild plants. There’s a beautiful vine growing on the pergola, and I’ve hung many bird feeders there for scores of birds to visit every day. This environment gives me a feeling of freedom and ease, inspiring me in my work and life. In fact, when the weather allows, I love to work in the garden where nature gives me the rhythm to tackle any challenge.
How do you create such beautiful bird aviaries?
The aviaries first come to life on paper, and there’s a long process of planning and collaborating with my partner Loredana. She makes scale sketches and then paints bird aviary in water colour. We are inspired by the art of painters and architects from the past. I particularly love Asian styles and Italian Renaissance art. I decorate the aviaries using the skills I’ve developed over 40 years of working in restoration and interior decoration.
That said, aesthetic inspiration never prevails over functionality. My first priority is to consider the needs of the birds that go there. Each aviary is designed to suit a particular bird species and the surroundings where it will be placed.
Why do you spend so much time observing birds and building homes for them?
I’ve always been fascinated by birds. Maybe it’s because they know how to fly and I’m afraid of flying, but it’s also because birds are creatures of habit and I’m the same. Whenever I take care of a little bird that’s in trouble or a chick that has fallen from its nest, I suddenly stop everything else and become its friend, its father.
I hold the bird in the palm of my hand, feel its little heart beating hard, and speak soft words to it while stroking the feathers on its head. After a while the bird calms down, its heartbeat slows down, and I realize that it’s no longer afraid of me. It’s wonderful to admire and take care of a bird, helping it to heal and then letting it go free. In my bird aviary workshop garden there are so many birds, and their constant chatter gives me peace and motivates me to build beautiful things.
How would you describe the benefits of having a strong connection to nature?
To answer this question, I have to look at the past 63 years of my life. There’s a very special year that changed my way of thinking and living. It was when—out of love for animals—I decided to stop eating them. As time went by, I felt calmer and calmer and observed the animals in my workshop more carefully. I noticed that there were also two very small mice, and a cat was always trying to catch them. So I built a small wooden house for them and left them food. The mouse family has lived there since, and a mouse even comes to eat out of my hands.
These days I no longer feel the need to wear a watch—I tread the time by observing the movement of light and the behaviour of the birds. In my workshop garden I’ve hung many bird feeders on the pergola, and I realize that it’s 11:30 in the morning when a small flock of sparrows suddenly arrives chirping. They eat for half an hour and then return in the evening, an hour before sunset.
Please describe a typical day at your bird aviary workshop.
One working day follows another. I go to my workshop every day. It’s wonderful to open the gate, walk through the small tunnel of greenery and find my bird friends waiting for me in the garden. I take care of them and then I start my work. Time moves slowly because I make sure to avoid the daily stresses and fast rhythms that hurry the work. Instead, I focus on taking care of every detail until I’m satisfied.