Despite a long winter, in the meadows of our valley, the grass has grown and, here and there, we can hear a few cows’ bells. In a few weeks, all the cows will be gathered on both sides of our Bagnes valley on mountain pastures, at the Mille, Sery, Grands Plans, Marlene…
A young Bagnard, Nicolas Vaudan is starting to make bells.
At the dawn of these inalpes, the owners of cows are busy so that they have a new bell or one in good condition. Formerly, in Bagnes, there were the Besse, Oreiller, Melly and Karlen families who were manufacturers of well-known bells. Here is a young man who is reviving the old forge of his grandfather in le Châble. Nicolas Vaudan, mechanic and young father of a little boy of a few months, started manufacturing bells three years ago.
From one adventure to another
After many trips and bike rides around the world, the young man regularly hung around in his grandfather’s forge. Everything was there: the anvil, the oven and some tools. Then he emptied it, cleaned it and, little by little, became interested in finally trying to build his first bell. All that was needed was a spark and the magic started to work on this young enthusiast.
Will and perseverance
To start he spent a good hundred hours with his friend mechanical engineer friend, Sebastien Luisier, to design his own mould in 3D. Once the mould was in the forge, it was necessary to practice! Building the perfect bell, however, the bell that strikes hard and peals as it should, is not easy. It takes hours of work, reflection and adjustment. “Above all, it requires a lot of patience and perseverance,” he says. He gained his expertise by the strength of his will and his arms. He had little advice because the rare bell makers do not reveal the secrets of the trade. He also used a ton of sheet metal before making his first “good bell”.
From passion to craftsmanship.
Nicolas Vaudan, mechatronic specialist, today spends 20% of his time in the Catogne garage in Vollèges and 80% in his forge. From a passion, he became a craftsman. He makes everything by hand from his own tools to the parts that make up his bell: the bowl, the clapper and the handle. At the moment, it takes him about fifteen hours to make a bell. “I will surely improve with time,” he admits.
The “Vaudan” bells
Today Nicolas has already formed a small network. His customers come from everywhere. Valais, Fribourg, Valle d’Aosta … When the bells are not hanging on the necks of cows, they also represent a very important Swiss symbol. Moreover, these bells are starting to get noticed not just by collectors but by other groups in society who consider them as a good choice of gift for weddings, birthdays or retirement. You can recognise them by his signature “Vaudan”.
At Besson Immobilier, we pay particular attention to Swiss traditions and symbols. Eager for hiking and walks in our Bagnard countryside, the sound of the bells also transports us into a mystical dimension above the mountain pastures.
If you want to know more, check out other portraits, meetings with artisans, ideas for walks or tips about the region on our blog.
You can see more pictures of Nicolas and his work on his Instagram account sonnettesvaudan