Where does craft industry stop ? Where does industry start ?Very awkward preliminary question, which we shall answer that when the members of the family and hardly more than a dozen persons are enough to assure the production, we are talking of craft.It would be exaggerated to say that one finds a well established characteristic of craft industry as for the watch-making and the pipe-making in Jura, lace in Le Puy or cutlery in Thiers . For the County of Nice, one could use the formula: a little of everything.It is obvious that oil representing a major production, the artisans who serve it are numerous : At first (from distant past remains rue Barillerie in the Old - Nice) and until 1939-1940, the coopers and the case-makers whose noisy workshops occupied the little urbanized grounds in the districts of Saint Roch / Riquier. Oil having a siccative power, to avoid the seepage from parting the staves during the long stays on the quays of the port and the hazards of railway and maritime transport, one rolled up around the barrels, strong straw plaits which packers' wives and children prepared in their house-courts.
Destinations having to be registered in a indelible way, the use of marks made of soot diluted in vinegar, required the making of a multitude of stencil-plates. Among others, the shop Pin (boulevard of the Italians, today Jean Jaurès, ...) had made a speciality of it.
The natural sourness of oil (1 to 2 % of oléic acid) corroding most of the metals used in classic tap factory, only alloys with a very strong pewter content resisted it. Specialized workshops, in Grasse especially, manufactured containers in small series. The secure expeditions of small quantities (5 to 10 liters), asked for a great number of containers of different sizes, due to the variety of units of capacity in the world (metrics, but also English, American, Australian gallons, in the gross weight for net). The industrial supplier was, especially , Establishments Carnaud (forges of the Basse Indre), but corks should be welded after completion.
Specialized artisan-welders went to the demand at the traders and, to the lamp, on a small portable touret, with remarkable precision and speed, assured the mass scellements • The tinsmiths made also all the tools used in mills (dourca, bidola, broke, roumairòu, sheet...) and for the domestic oil-makers' needs. Today one finds , in mail order trading or in shops for tourists, more or less faithful reproductions, but they are manufactured in... Taiwan!
The domestic care for the settling and the conservation of oil required multiple containers of different capacities. The village of Biot, specialized in the manufacture of jars (varnished inside) supplied the main needs, from 10 to 150 liters. These containers, today used as garden ornaments , with their particularly potbellied shape, showed the advantage to be accessible with difficulty by the rodents, to be stable because of their weight, to be convenient to wash, to be generators of moderate temperatures, to be impervious to light and easily sealed by a wooden lid allowing the multiple manipulations without too much exposure to the oxidizing component of the air (1).
The adjoining village, Vallauris, famous for the great fineness of its clays, was more turned to the production of large, varnished, stone-red tiles used for the baseboards of the kitchens and the circumferences of sinks, and especially for the cover of underground piles where the traders of Nice kept big quantities of oil for the needs of their commercial speculations.
At a time when cast iron cookers, heated by coal and wood, allowed sweet, slow and simmered cooking, pots, pans, stewpots and casseroles made of clay reigned in all the kitchens. The potters of Vallauris assured the needs of the region and largely beyond. The Saltalamacchia manufacture (which still exists) was famous for its pignata3. In the course of the years, we passed from utility to mass decorative use, except for some authentic and original creators.
The forests of cork oaks, plentiful in the nearby Var department, supplied, with large contributions of Portugal and Morocco, the raw material for the manufacturing of corks of various dimensions and in small quantities (for the Anglo-Saxon measures in particular) in which the factories specialized in thr making of corks for wine bottling were not interested. The company Bonnet and Ambrosio in rue Ségurane (2) (today street of the antique dealers " but until 1950 street of the " traders of oil ") developed there, with the sale of sealing wax and pewter capsules, a very important activity.
Unlike wine traders who, even when prestigious, were satisfied with normal paper labels , oil traders, by local tradition and to avoid the runnings of oil from damaging the integrity of the always very suggestive labels of the product with their realistic subjects (landscape of olive grove, of harvest, of dressed up women of Nice, of mills...) saw to it that they were varnished and of heavy grammage. The Gandini printing office, in rue Gubernatis, specialized in this work. They had a considerable reserve of lithographic stones with the brands of every storekeeper.
After the big frost of February1956, the cutting of olive trees the wood of which did not find any more its outlet in the heating (central heating and oil-fired stoves triumphed then) supplied the raw material for a new craft: the digging of salad bowls in big trunks and the making of cheese trays, clocks, salad cutlery etc. . This wood, hardly used in the making of furniture, may be used in the making of fine tablets . A shop, at the corner of rue Pastorelli and rue Dellile was specialized in the manufacture of jewel boxes, pencil boxes, supports for hand-painted local sights, fine marquetries, which are today searched by the collectors.
The sweetness of the climate favored the culture of bigaradiers (bitter orange trees), for the flower and for the fruit. As a result, different crafts developed : production of jams, candied fruits, flower water, different distilleries grouped together in a famous cooperative : Nérolium in Vallauris
Today , because of the effects of economic globalization, perfume activities with all their aromatic constituents were brought to gather in large companies., Let's remember that in the past, as for oil activities in Nice, a crowd of small artisans (tinsmiths, mechanics, cardboard factories, packers, specialized glassworkers) formed a tight network serving this prestigious production.
The arrival of the railway at the end of the XIXth century and the increasing multiplicity of the connections opened more and more outlets to floral cultures, carnations of Nice in particular. The necessity of keeping the flowers in an airy atmosphere led to the making of light, solid, openwork baskets. The fine small strips of reed were interwoven by skillful hands. This often secondary and domestic activity was a noticeable source of income . Before containers, wagons and refrigerated trucks appeared, one could see, on the quays, vertiginous piles of these nice-smelling baskets in waitof departure towards distant capitals.
More prosaically, the reeds, growing in the nearby water sources of the domestic gardens, besides their use to maintain in height, tomatoes, beans and gherkins for good ripening, were used as wattles and for the construction of ceiling s.
1) For a good conservation, the temperature should be around 18 °, without important and frequent variations; vivid light should be avoided, sunbeams acting on the rate of sourness or favoring the oxidation. Opaque or dark colored containers should be recommended
2) See: Ségurane ( street), note 1
3) Pignata: pot, casserole dish, terrine, pan, in clay. There are various sizes, for the different uses, the smallest being called lou pignatoun.