x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sisters at arms in command

Visitors to the International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition will see some of the renowned firearms of Stefano Fausti's three daughters.

Sisters Elena, left, Giovanna, centre and below, and Barbara Fausti have taken the arms manufacturing business their father started to new successes.
Sisters Elena, left, Giovanna, centre and below, and Barbara Fausti have taken the arms manufacturing business their father started to new successes.

While her mother was busy doing other things, Giovanna Fausti and her two sisters would climb the stairs to the small workshop above their apartment and watch their father building firearms - and his reputation as one of the finest gunmakers in Italy. It was not considered a place for young girls: Stefano Fausti, who founded the family business in 1948, would not even let his young daughters touch the guns he made. "Twenty or 30 years ago it was not considered normal to give a shotgun into the hands of women," Ms Fausti said. "My father wanted to have a boy," she added. "It was not common for a woman to be in this business. It's a male business." But today the three daughters, Barbara, Elena and Giovanna, now with families of their own, are running the business and expanding the Fausti brand internationally. As part of that goal they will be bringing some on their company's handmade, intricately engraved shotguns to the International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition that begins Thursday in Abu Dhabi. Ms Fausti said that watching their father create the intricate trigger mechanisms and craft the mechanical parts of each weapon instilled in them a passion for the artistry involved in a gun's creation. "When you're a child you take everything like a joke. You play with dolls and make like a factory. You play with two people selling bread and meat and say: 'I would like a kilo of apples,'" she said. "For us, it was difficult because my mother was working and did not have time to take care of us. So we would go with our father to the factory and ask: 'What are you doing right now?'" The Fausti Stefano Arms Factory was launched more than 60 years ago near Brescia, an area of Italy renowned for steel and gunmaking. Fausti shotguns often feature detailed metalwork that depicts prey, abstract designs and people. "Shotguns are a nice article to hunt with or make sport, but they're also an artist's object," Ms Fausti said. "Women can have jewellery and men can have many guns." Although Ms Fausti said she considered a career in teaching or writing, she and her sisters "did not want to disappoint our father just because he had no male sons to continue the business". So after finishing their education, the three sisters began working in the factory. They supervised employees and came to understand how each part of the gun was manufactured. "We know how all the people work on all of the machines and how they do everything. We know everything," she said. Ms Fausti said she enjoyed learning about the business from the time she began working in the factory at the age of 20. "It was not a hard time working inside the factory because everyone was used to seeing us when were very young," she said. "When you are young and you start to grow up, then they start to love you." Convincing clients and gun owners was another matter. "People looked at us and we were women and we were young," she said. "They would turn to us and ask if there was a man who could answer technical questions." It took time to earn customers' respect and prove that they were as competent as any male. "When people would ask if there was a man, or if there was a technician, I would say: 'I'm a technician, tell me what you need and I can help you,'" she said."You have to do it with a smile. In time they recognised we know what we were talking about." Fausti guns can cost between US$4,000 and $70,000 (Dh14,700 and Dh257,000). The most expensive firearms feature gold engraving, fine wood and the traditional handmade trigger mechanism her father designed six decades ago. The company also sells guns made using modern machinery. The sisters took over the company when their father retired in 1990. Over a lifetime, the gun factory has grown from a small workspace with four or five workers into a modern facility with more than 50 full-time employees. The women still live close to their work and their father, now in his 80s, continues to visit the factory several times per week. "Our father is very proud of us," she said. All three women, ages 39 to 52, each have one child. Giovanna Fausti's son is 18 and she is trying to persuade him to take an interest in the family's legacy. "I'm working on him," she said. "I'm trying not to push too much." One day, she said her son approached her and asked: "Mama, is this exactly what you always wanted to do?" Ms Fausti responded: "It's not exactly what I wanted. I wanted to teach at the local school. I always had a passion with shotguns, but I also wanted to write books because I love to read." Her son then asked: "Are you satisfied?" "Completely," she said, "because now I can continue the family tradition." And although Stefano Fausti may not have been blessed with sons, he finally has what he wanted all those years ago - a male heir, a grandson. "He says, 'Now I have a boy!'" Ms Fausti said, laughing. "People say to him: 'What have you to complain about, you have three wonderful daughters to take care of the business?' He says he is not complaining. He's just glad to finally have a male in the family." jgerson@thenational.ae