If you are touring the Ceramic Cities be sure to visit Italian pottery studios or small manufacturing plants in Deruta. Watch the potter up to his elbows in mud at a wheel pulling up pitchers, dishes, vases and different articles.
The words Italian ceramics mean far more than items made of clay, earthenware or majolica. These words embody history, artistic heritage, regional traditions, the creativity of a people. They touch a chord in our souls. That’s the reason so many people are passionate about Italian ceramics.
Nowadays, in English, the word Majolica is used to refer to ceramic ware in the stylistic tradition of the Italian Renaissance.Italian Pottery, Italian Ceramics or Italian Maiolica.
Hopefully, in time, others will join in the joy that comes from owning examples of magnificent handcrafted Italian pottery that are created by artisans who respect the traditions of the past while being able to incorporate the very best of the contemporary and the modern.
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La semplicità è l’ultima sofisticazione – Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.-Leonardo Da Vinci
We Visit Italian Pottery Studios In Deruta
Step One: The Potter "IL TORNIANTE"
In a process that has been applied for centuries, the art of Maiolica begins with a plain lump of refined clay that will be slowly brought to life by "Il Torniante".
The Potter masterfully transforms the raw chunk of clay on a wheel into a plate, a vessel, a plate or a large urn. The molded clay piece referred to as "In Terra" (Green ware) is then placed in the open air for natural drying. It will dry to a grayish color and is now ready for the first firing in the kiln.
Step Two: The First Firing "LA PRIMA COTTURA"
The naturally dried item is loaded into the kiln to be processed at the "Prima Cottura". The clay item that is taken from the kiln after this first 750-degree firing is referred to as "Biscotto" (Bisque).
Step Three: The Glazing "LA SMALTATURA"
Once cooled, the Bisque has to be dipped into the "Smalto", a quick drying chalky liquid glaze. This
prevents the colors from spreading and blurring into each other during the painting process.
This step is an important part of the entire process since the next firing will melt the glaze with the colors, determining tones, glazing texture, and the uniform quality of the piece.
Every factory has its own secret formula for the chemical composition of the "Smalto"
The Bisque, now completely covered by this white powdery glaze, is ready for painting.
Step Four: (The Painting) "LA PITTURA"
The painstaking process of painting the Bisque is the essence of Maiolica. I like to visit Italian pottery studios just to watch the master painters at work. It’ s absolutely enthralling.
The Painter, "Il Pittore", might paint a decoration freehand, or make use a type of pounce, "Spolvero", to stencil sketches of the final design.
The painter has to fully understand the complexities of coloration because the raw glazes used all have a very similar gray/black tone. The final true, brilliant colors will be produced only after the finished piece emerges from the final firing.
Step Five: The Second Firing "LA SECONDA COTTURA"
This is the final step. The painted piece is loaded again onto the kiln for a second firing at 750-degrees. This delicate step requires great care to avoid touching or scratching any item to be fired.
A final firing at 1690° Fahrenheit will make the glaze interact with the metal oxides used by the painter to create the deep and brilliant translucent colors specific to majolica.
To make sure the item will be perfect and will not be chipped or cracked, some potters expose it to 24 hours of firing where more than 12 hours are exposed to constant high heat?”
At the conclusion of the firing, the ceramic piece, now referred to as Maiolica, may have to cool in the kiln for up to another 12 hours to avoid “thermal shocks.
It may not be possible for you to visit Italian pottery studios but you can start a collection of authentic Italian ceramics right where you are.
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Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto. – Eat well, laugh often, love much.