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When ceramics becomes an art


When ceramics becomes an art Rome - (Ign) - Around 8000 jobs and an overall turnover of over € 700 million, almost a third of which is realised on industrial markets. These are not the statistics for a major manufacturing company, but those of a dense network of companies of every size, dedicated to artistic ceramics (www.ceramics-online.it), which are part of the manufacturing fabric of every region of Italy. Not only tiles, then, or bathroom fittings, or dishes and everyday crockery. And the Italian ceramics industry is not only made up of major international market leaders, but includes a large number of craftsmen and artists who use ancient traditions and a unique ability to realise real masterpieces from simple terracotta. They have contributed to building up the image of Italian products in the world, keeping alive a widespread production capacity, which every year achieves significant economic results of national importance.

We should perhaps even acknowledge that the great Italian ceramics industry is perhaps the daughter of this tradition, one of the oldest in Italy's history. It is back in the late Middle Ages when we first hear of workshops introducing multiple firing and thus the possibility of performing subsequent decorative phases and final enamelling, in what was then still known in Arabic as Kalat el Giarun, "Stronghold of the Pots", i.e. present-day Caltagirone, in Sicily, considered one of the four Italian capitals of artistic ceramics. And the history of the other four most famous centres of Italian ceramics appears to be equally old. This is the case of Vietri sul Mare, in Campania, Deruta, in Umbria, Faenza, in Romagna, and Nove, in Veneto. These are all realities which over the centuries have preserved that artistic tradition intact, perhaps taking advantage of mass-production processes, but never losing the secret of those techniques which make every piece unique and unmistakable. This is above all the case of Nove, near Vicenza, where the potting tradition has been transformed into a real industry, with a deep-rooted manufacturing fabric, composed of various medium-sized businesses, some even having as many as 100 workers, and a network of small and very small businesses. The latter are dedicated above all to finishing and manual decoration, or to multiple firing of the pieces of greatest artistic worth. And the sector as a whole now represents a real industrial district, with 600 companies, and over 4000 jobs, for a turnover of almost €300 million, two thirds of which is realised on international markets.

Smaller, but not for this less famous internationally, are the other Italian industrial districts in the sector. This is the case of Caltagirone, where 150 small businesses, for a total of around 600 employees, every year realise entire collections of decorative pottery using working techniques which have remained unique and inimitable over time, made possible by the use of various mineral ingredients which are only found together in this area of eastern Sicily. And this is also the case of Deruta, where in the 16th century unique ceramic production techniques were perfected, which gave local products their characteristic "lustrous" opaque sheen, still in use today. Nor, of course, should we forget the industrial agglomeration of Faenza where 70 businesses, accounting for over 350 jobs, today represent an important production centre, also entirely dedicated to artistic ceramics, using exclusive firing techniques perfected over the centuries and which are still fully applied today, despite industrialisation of the processes.

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