From clay to decoration. Ceramic in Caltagirone

Caltagirone is a town in the district of Catania, in between Iblei and Erei mountains. I arrived there through Ss 124 coming from the innerland. I had a wish: to visit the Varsallona family factory.
I had the pleasure to be guest of the Varsallona family for a day and, thanks to that, I’ve got to know one of the most colourful tradition in Sicily.
The laboratory and the shop owed by the family are one of the most important thing happening in Caltagirone.
Riccardo is the creator of this reality and he started to be a student of artisanal art when he was a teenager.
Caltagirone itself is one of the best place to be when you want to admire and buy fine ceramics from Sicily.
The city of Caltagirone has become iconic for his beautiful and long stair going up to the Santa Maria del Monte church with his 152 steps decorated with polychrome majolicas. This stair represents how affectionate the people are to artisanal handycraft.

When I start the tour with Giuseppe Varsallona I didn’t know how pottery was made and everything was looking weird and cahotic to me and this feeling became the opposite after his relevant and punctual explanations.
Clay is a rock that mixed with water becomes malleable. First step to use this malleability is put it in a mold while is wet. It can stay wet a couple of days depending on the humidity and temperature of the place where it is.

When it dries it’s time to add some details and decorations that would make the piece unique together with the painting process. After details are added it’s time for the Bisque firing (or Biscuit because after this process the clay becomes brown).

After this process the glaze will be applied in a way that pottery can be colourproof and so painted. This is where Andrea Varsallona excells, Apart from his own genuine and “futuristic” project: ceramic sculptures fired on high temperature without oxygen reaction. Andrea talent helped by this special process made a stunning result: iridenscent figures, unique pieces of pure art that has to perform necessarly while there is an active audience. All those beautiful colours can be appreciated only when you move around Andrea’s sculptures.