I love Italian ceramics, and in fact have collected pieces from Sicily to Liguria, but my favorite place to shop for Italian ceramics or Maiolica (also known as “majolica”) is in Deruta, a small Umbrian town less than 15 minutes from our farmhouses. I can honestly say that we probably fell in love with Umbria, and this area in particular, after making repeated trips to Deruta to buy ceramics.
Maiolica, is the name given to the style of glazed, decorated pottery that is still is produced in many Italian towns, including Faenza, Orvieto, Castelli, and Sicily’s Caltagirone. But true maiolica devotees ultimately seek out Deruta, where 250 factories still produce the colorful ceramic wares shipped worldwide. I honestly haven’t counted the number of pieces of Italian ceramics we now own, both here in Umbria as well as our home back in North America, but I do know we treasure each piece from the large colorful outdoor pots, to the tiny, exquisitely hand painted espresso cups.
Deruta is located less than 20 kilometers from Perugia, but probably would be just another small Umbrian hill town boasting a handful of master artworks as well as the Romanesque-Gothic church of San Francesco with it’s 14th century frescoes if not for its reputation as ceramics central. Deruta has been famous for it’s ceramics for over 300 years, and although the industry there may have developed due to the abundance of quality local clay, that supply has since been extinguished and most Deruta artisans now purchase their clay from Tuscany, particularly from the area around Sansepolcro.
After all these years, ceramics are still the town’s calling card, and they attract visitors from around the world who come to browse and buy in the dozens of small shops tucked along the cobble-stoned streets in the upper part of Deruta, or the array of larger-scale factories lining Via Tiburina at the foot of town. For those with an interest in ceramics beyond simply buying them, Deruta has a nice regional museum of ceramics and even a school where amateurs or professionals can learn and perfect this amazing centuries old craft.
Through my website, I was lucky to meet Manuela, who along with her business partner Tiziana, own thatsArte.com, a company that sells Italian ceramics from Tuscany, Sicily, and both Gubbio and Deruta here in Umbria. ThatsArte has an extensive catalogue of gorgeous ceramics, and ship their products to the US, even offering free shipping on large orders. If you cannot get to Italy to shop for ceramics yourself, buying from thatsArte might just be the perfect option.
I met up with Manuela for coffee on our last trip to Umbria and she recommended I visit the Fima factory in Deruta the next time I was shopping for ceramics. Fima Ceramics is a small, family run company founded more than 40 years ago. The company has great respect for the most traditional techniques, and combined with their creative approach to majolica, and their talented artisans, their designs such as Raffaellesco, Ricco Deruta and Arabesco are well known around the world. I was to learn later that Fima ships to a number of US stores who sell their wonderful pieces stateside.
After Manuella recommended that we visit Fima, of course we were intrigued, and just days later headed to Deruta to visit the shop. Michelle, the present owner, graciously welcomed us and insisted on taking us on a tour through his factory. Fima has just one extremely talented potter named Massimo who has been with the company his entire life. I believe in fact that we were told he has worked for Fima for 37 years.
He is responsible for creating all of their greenware apart from the few specialized pieces that are created in molds. We watched in amazement as Massimo created one jug after another until he had 8 all lined up that were identical in every description. He did this in mere minutes while we stood admiring his expertise. Michelle next took us to see the ovens where the clay is baked and described the complete process from how a ball of clay becomes a work of art step by step.
We also visited their paint shop where 10 artists as well as one master artist hand paint each piece of ceramics. Michelle explained to us that he liked to bring his customers on a tour through the factory so they understand just how much work is involved in creating each and every piece. We have been back to Fima a number of times since our first visit there, and have taken many of our guests there as well who have all been very happy with their purchases.
Fima also does custom work and created a personalized clock for our kitchen, and is now creating a bathroom mirror for us that will be outlined in Deruta tiles. Michelle is passionate about the product Fima sells and it is difficult not to be inspired when you hear him speak about the work they do. If you have a chance to visit Fima, I am sure you will not be disappointed!
I highly recommend thatsArte’s website – Do tell Manuela or Tiziana that you heard about their site from IFF!
Two Sets Of Plates From ThatsArte.com
The Town Of Deruta
The Fima Shop & Factory
Massimo The Potter Hard At Work
The Greenware Outside The Ovens
The Paint Shop
The Artists Hand Painting The Ceramics
A Selection Of Ceramics On The Shelves At Fima