Made in Umbria: “Fired Up” in Deruta!

Photo and article by Victoria de Maio from PostcardZfromVictoria
Umbria: Photo and article by Victoria de Maio from PostcardZfromVictoria

Let's Go to Italy Together!I have always loved ceramic ware. I grew up with the vibrant colors and hand painted decorative designs around me and my attraction to and weakness for it has never diminished…It’s even more special when you meet or visit the talented artisans who have created your pieces and during a recent visit to Deruta in Umbria, we were fortunate to enjoy one of those special visits.

In case you didn’t know, Deruta has long been renowned for its superb earthenware or, more specifically, majolica…

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Let's Go to Italy Together!

What is Majolica?

(Also spelled maioliche or maiolica, pronunced may-oh-lee-ka)

Majolica is earthenware that has been fired twice. The technique originated in the Middle East in the 9th century and, by the 13th century, was brought to Italy via the Isle of Majorca. Majorca was a trade center between Spain and Italy and the Italians called the earthenware Maiolica thinking it was made in Majorca.

Enamored with this new process and the brilliant colors, they copied and adapted it. Incorporating their own creativity, Italian majolica quickly became popular during the Renaissance, particularly throughout central Italy.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

At one time the clients were noble families, the church and convents while today majolica is commissioned by individual clients (George Clooney had his wedding dinnerware designed and created here – see below right) and found in high end retail stores (e.g., Tiffany & Co., Neiman Marcus, etc.).

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Let's Go to Italy Together!An Umbrian Tradition – A Grazia Tradition

Official records show majolica manufacturing in Deruta during the second half of the 13th century. The production of majolica by the Grazia family dates back over 500 years.

Over the centuries, with some obvious concessions to modernity, the same techniques and dedication to the craft has been handed down from generation to generation, father to son…

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

From sourcing the clay from nearby quarries in the Umbria hills to shaping the forms, firing, hand painting and presentation in their lovely showroom, the Grazia family continues to carry out every of stage of the entire process in-house.

Photo Courtesy of U. Grazia

Photo Courtesy of U. Grazia

Photo Courtesy of U. Grazia

PPhoto Courtesy of U. Grazia

Let's Go to Italy Together!The Technique

The techniques for producing majolica have remained the same throughout the centuries. At Grazia, every step is executed by hand by their own artisans.

Photo Courtesy of Grazia

Photo Courtesy of Grazia

Photo Courtesy of Grazia

After the clay is prepared by hand it will be made into shapes/forms in one of three ways: using a potter’s wheel; manually formed using plaster cast molds; or, for more complicated pieces, liquid clay is poured into plaster-cast molds.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

The forms are then allowed to dry out for approximately 20 days. Each piece is hand finished and detailed before it is fired in kilns at 1020 degrees centigrade. Now the pieces are called “bisque”.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

The bisque ware is then dipped into a mineral oxide bath which covers the porous terra cotta. This provides the required base the special glaze colors, also mineral based, with which they are hand-painted.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

The patterns are then applied to the bisque ware using an old technique called “pounce”.

The pattern, in the form of a stencil, is pierced with very tiny holes. Then a cotton ball with very fine carbon is gently applied transferring the design to the piece. (The carbon burns off during the second firing.)

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Using very fine brushes, depending on the design, the artists then carefully follow the lines and then finish painting the design.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Once painted, pieces are sprayed with a special liquid glass before being fired at 930 degrees centigrade for a second time.

It is here that we can appreciate the luster and beauty of majolica.

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Let's Go to Italy Together!It is this process and dedication to time-honored techniques that guarantees the traditional vibrant colors and deep glaze which are the hallmarks of genuine majolica and the perfection which the Grazia family is known for.

While firmly grounded in tradition and faithfully producing centuries old designs, they continue to seek antique designs to add to their collection as well as supporting modern artists and designs…

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Let's Go to Italy Together!Grazie to the Grazia family for this guided tour, intimate look behind the scenes, and opportunity to spend time in their the stunning showroom.Warning: You will be tempted! Even though I resolved to not add to my collection, who could resist?

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Photo by Victoria De Maio

Let's Go to Italy Together!

Read more about Grazia Maioliche and if you’re in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to visit their showroom:

Grazia Maioliche s.a.s., via Tiberina 181 -06053 Deruta (PG)
www.ubaldograzia.com

Let's Go to Italy Together!

Originally posted on December 15, 2015 by PostcardZ from Victoria

2 thoughts on “Made in Umbria: “Fired Up” in Deruta!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: