Friday, October 27, 2017

Traveling in Italy - Impruneta - not just your ordinary clay pots!

Impruneta and Terra-cotta, not just your ordinary clay pots!

Another beautiful day.  Clouds and sun, temperatures in the low to mid 70s and Demetria is driving the other two artists and me to the Masini Fornace Terrecotte in Impruneta for a tour.  This is a wonderful surprise to me as years ago I used to be a potter and we’ll be touring a facility of great history.


The town of Impruneta, north of Greve and just south of Florence, has been known for 500 years as the center of the terracotta craft. There are many groups creating terracotta here as well as around Italy and other parts of the world, but the Masini workshop here in Impruneta is the oldest and best and where Filippo Brunelleschi selected his clay and fired his finished tiles for the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence – otherwise known as Il Duomo, begun in 1296. As a potter once myself it was fascinating to watch today as their work is not thrown on a wheel but built by hand using the most difficult method of building up, the "coil method."  No moulds are used for the largest jars and pots, some of which must weigh hundreds of pounds before and even after firing.  To start a pot they rely on ages old drawings and measurements. The process for the largest pots like the one below takes weeks to complete.  We actually watched one craftsman putting the finishing touches on a very large pot.  The clay used in Impruneta pots is mined from quarries only found in this area and only the pots created in Impruneta can have the Impruneta stamp on them.  Right from the earth it looks like a fine gray gravel.  Only when fired does it take on the characteristic rusty red color we're all used to seeing in terracotta pots. The Massini terracotta is so durable it can withstand freezing, damp, scorching sun without so much as cracking, but here in Italy people apparently never discard an old pot. They just wire, wrap, drill, reconstruct around it to hold them together if they should become damaged.  These take on even more character and appeals to my sense of never throwing out anything beautiful.

The drive to and back from Impruneta was on twisting, turning roads across what they refer to here as the hills of Tuscany.  To me they are small mountain ranges, much like the southern edge of the Green or White mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. Everywhere you look are vineyards and olive tree groves.  All the homes, especially the very old, are made of either local stone or finished with a pale yellow ochre paint or stucco.  I've not seen any variation in this which makes building and designing a house a lot simpler.

This afternoon the jet lag I thought I'd avoided finally set in.  At the same time so did the rain.  So with this perfect timing I decided to rest and return to more walking and sketching later.

This evening one of the other artists, the writer Agnes Marton, gave a poetry reading.  Very interesting, lyrical and imaginative poetry.  Agnes works for the courts in Luxumborg and speaks/understands more languages than she can count. Wonderful fun with others attending and a birthday party for another artist, a Korean painter studying in London.  This turns out to be the one time I have seen, met and interacted with the other artists!