Once upon a time, in a small town named Foggia in southern Italy, lived a man called Nicola Vinciguerra. Signor Vinciguerra was a well known woodworker and furniture craftsman. In 1876, he married and later became father to three children. Much to the dismay of the parents, one of their children, a daughter, Nunzia, grew up and fell in love with Giuseppe Giampietro. As a young man, Giuseppe was a classical violinist and an artist. Nunzia’s parents were concerned that marrying a man who was a musician and an artist meant no money and no future for their daughter. However, because Nunzia and Giuseppe Giampietro were in love and did not have the blessing of their parents, they eloped.
During the years of their marriage, Giuseppe and Nunzia had nine children. One of the children was a boy named Nicola, after his grandfather from Foggia. Nicola, known as "Nico" to all, began his life in Bari, in southern Italy. Nico swept porches and built brooms at the age of 10 to earn money which he always gave to his mother. Because book learning was not his favorite pastime, he often played hooky from school. Nico, who preferred hands-on chores, loved to build and work with his hands. At seven, he carved his own flute from a piece of wood that he found in the trash. When Nico was older, his family moved to Turin in northern Italy. Using the skills that his grandfather had taught him, Nico built a bedroom suite complete with an armoire for his parents before he completed high school. After high school, he served in the Italian Calvary and did woodworking on the side.
Because Nico was so good with his hands, his father bought him a drum set, and he soon became a talented player. Playing drums and working with wood became Nico’s life. By this time, Nico's father was a prosperous banker who played his violin only for his family at the supper table every evening after dinner. Nico played the drums while his father played the violin. It wasn't long before Nico was asked to play in a jazz band, and he began to tour Europe with the band. Woodworking temporarily took a back seat.
Life continued with many twists and turns in the road for Nico. He started a family in Germany. He learned the woodworking craftsmanship of the Germans. Nico was now enriched with knowledge of both German and Italian woodworking.
In 1984, Nico left Europe and came to America. One of his sisters who lived in the United States had married an American citizen. Her husband was ill and she needed help. Nico and his sister started a woodworking business together in 1988. Nico later married an American and ventured out on his own. This business, located in Selma, Alabama, is called Nico's Custom Woodwork.
Nico’s woodworking skills have been featured in several magazines in the South. His craftsmanship has been photographed in Southern Living as well.
Nico and his friends in the Upper Lower Society play for visitors at Selma's historic Riverfront Market Day (10/9/04).
The Butterflies of Selma
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Nico's wife, KellySue is a member of the Dallas County Arts Alliance (DCAA), an organization that promotes tourism to Selma and Dallas County. The Alliance had a member of another tourism group from Gadsen speak to them about symbolism and putting it all around Selma. Steve Grossman is Chair and Fran Pierce is Co-Chair of the DCAA. Since Selma is the butterfly capital of Alabama, it was chosen as the symbol. In a meeting Steve said, "How are we going to make a butterfly?", it was suggested to use treated wood because all other materials decay so quickly. Later, after the meeting KellySue called Steve and said that Nico can make anything. He said this is wonderful. She got on the Internet and printed like 50 different kinds of butterflies. Steve went to the shop and picked one to make. Nico made it and some engineers came by to see if his design would hold up and work. They were all impressed with Nico's design and no one had any thing to say or change, other than it was stupendous.
The DCAA decided on the Swallow Tail as it's image and Nico designed how to put it together and make it last out in the rain for months, maybe years. Only local artists were allowed to paint the butterflies which Nico also delivered. Nico and his shop put together a total of 47 butterflies from June of 2008 til Sept. of 2008. They are over 6 ft high and are made of solid treated wood. Marketing played a big plan in kicking this project off successfully. Working with the City the butterflies were strategically placed around Selma so tours could be given during Selma's Market Day event as the kickoff date. It was a huge success and lots of people came from all over to view the butterflies. Today, schools are still touring them and they are standing beautifully arched with their colors exuberating the City of Selma.
Nico and Tranquility artist Nate Brown
See more of the Butterflies of Selma