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Giovanni (John) Tiranti founded the Company in 1895, as John Tiranti & Co., in High Holborn, and within a year moved to Foley Street, London W1. He later moved to 13 Maple Street, W1, where the Company became John Tiranti Ltd. The Company remained there until 1941, when the building was destroyed by a direct hit with a bomb.
Giovanni Tiranti died in 1926, and his two sons Alec and Dom carried on. Throughout all this time the Company sold sculptor's tools, materials and equipment as well as new and antiquarian books. They also published art books. Alec designed the folding modelling stands and concentrated on the tools and publishing. Dom specialised in rare books (not just in the art field).
When World War Two started, Dom, not eligible for service because he was blind in one eye, went to America for the duration. Alec went into the National Fire Service and carried on the business in his spare time. When the Maple Street shop was blitzed, Alec moved what was left of the tools, books and equipment to Fitzroy Street. He was helped by customer Ron Dunton, who went into the ruins to help salvage what was possible before the building collapsed completely. Within six months the business was blitzed again and very little indeed was saved. Alec then carried on in a limited way at 137 Albert Street in Camden Town where he lived and converted the front bedroom to a shop. The story is told of how, in 1945 at the end of the war, sculptor Sean Crampton arrived, in uniform, to buy some tools, just in time to help unload some materials being delivered. During the Albert Street period, Alec's wife joined the business, and in fact she was a director until she retired in 1991, aged 84.
In 1945, Alec purchased the premises at 72 Charlotte Street, and what little there was of the shop in Camden Town was moved to the new premises. At this time, Alec's mother came back into the business for several years until she died. Being still Italian (and so an alien during the war) she had not been allowed to be a director of a British Company during hostilities. In 1947, Dom, back from the States, was still only interested in rare books, and so the two brothers went their separate ways. Alec let Dom have the John Tiranti Ltd name, and he used the name Alec Tiranti Ltd, the two directors being him and his wife. Within two years Dom tragically died. Meanwhile the business of Alec Tiranti Ltd flourished in Charlotte Street on all fronts, involving a lot of hard work on the part of Alec Tiranti and his wife. Bookcases were made out of packing cases due to post-war shortage of materials; boxwood tools were made on the premises entirely by hand; and, in addition to selling our own titles to the trade, we acted as trade distributors for a few other publishers with like titles.
After National Service in the RAF, Alec's son, John Tiranti, joined the Company in 1955. He worked primarily in the bookshop and developed new materials, whilst Alec concentrated on the manufacturing and publishing. Mrs Tiranti was in charge of the accounts. Parts of the Charlotte Street premises were let to other companies, but due to expansion throughout the fifties we gradually took over the whole building as well as an adjacent mews building which was used for manufacturing.
During 1958-59 John Tiranti developed the "Cold Cast Resin Metal" process which was to make such an impact on producing sculpture that was affordable. It provided an alternative to expensive bronze casting, and was available to any sculptor, amateur or professional, without the need for special equipment. It provided an improved technique to that of bronze coloured plaster casts. Gradually we offered new mouldmaking and casting materials, including, in the mid-sixties, silicone rubber. We now offer an extensive range of tools, materials and equipment for various forms of sculpture.
The bookshop was by now prospering very well and was split into a separate Company "London Art Bookshop Ltd". On the publishing side, retained by Alec Tiranti Ltd, the "Alec Tiranti list" enjoyed a very good reputation. In the late sixties, Alec developed heart trouble, but would not ease back from working. He was also a professional musician with a musical degree and between the wars did a lot of film work, as well as playing at balls and dances. After years of working hard at two jobs, the war years in the Fire Service in London, and then working all hours after the war to build up the business again, his heart finally gave way and he died suddenly in the Summer of 1971.
This was another watershed in the life of the family business. In those days, a widow had to pay death duties on her husband's estate. As Alec personally owned the building at 72 Charlotte Street, we had to vacate it in order for the building to be sold. This posed many problems, and it was eventually decided to sell off the publishing and bookshop, and to concentrate purely on the sculptors' tools and materials side of the business. This was of course how, in 1895, Giovanni Tiranti had started off, being a gold medallist woodcarver from Turin. We leased a shop in Goodge Place and moved the majority of the business to Theale in 1974.
In 1981, John's daughter, Susan Tiranti, joined the family business, gained her ICSA qualification and became a director and later company secretary. In the mid-eighties, both Jonathan Lyons (Susan's husband) and Robert Chenery (John's stepson) joined the company. In 1997 Jonathan became a director of the Company. In 1999, John Tiranti decided it was time to semi-retire, and Susan Lyons took over from her father as Managing Director. Following a change of ownership in 2005 the Company relocated its headquarters to Thatcham enabling it to expand and develop new product lines. In 2006 the Company expanded its range to include new clays, glazes, kilns and equipment to meet the growing demand from ceramicists.
Alec Tiranti Ltd still aim to provide an extensive range of tools, materials and equipment for carving, modelling, mouldmaking and casting. We are always looking to introduce new materials that we feel might complement our range.