Give Mimosa on Women’s Day

As a business that was founded by two women and is managed by women, thatsArte looks forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, a day to honor, support, and celebrate women the world over.  

Blue Sicilian Moorish head with a crown featuring a female character. The vessel contains a bunch of yellow mimosas.

We enjoy taking a moment to reflect and share stories with you about different aspects of this holiday, especially those pertaining to us and our corner of the world at thatsArte. This includes the talented female ceramic artists we feature, the world of Italian ceramics and sometimes even special traditions that are a part of Italian life.

The main symbol of Women’s Day in Italy

In Italy, la Festa della Donna is best symbolized by yellow mimosa (aka acacia). The mimosa flower is like a burst of sunshine in the midst of winter, with bright, cheery yellow buds. And on March 8 in particular, yellow bouquets appear everywhere throughout Italy.

Sicilian Moorish head with lemons. It features a female character decorated in rich shades of green and orange. It is handcrafted in Caltagirone, Italy. Large

Bunches of mimosa flowers are gifted to women of all ages from all walks of life.
This tradition dates back to 1946, when political activist Teresa Mattei and women’s rights campaigner Rita Montagnana started giving out mimosa as an act of solidarity to celebrate IWD. They chose the mimosa as opposed to other flowers because it is humble and inexpensive, common throughout the Italian countryside, and consistently blooms in late February-early March (just in time for IWD). In the post-war country, it was therefore a practical choice for women from all socio-economic backgrounds.

A resilient, multitasking flower, just like women

Symbolically, the mimosa is the perfect choice to represent women on this special day. It may look fragile, but the mimosa is actually very resilient and can survive in difficult conditions – just like women. The roots, bark, and flower have been proven to have numerous pharmacological benefits for everything from treating snake bites to depression. What’s more, the wood makes into gorgeous furniture and the sap can be used for glue. All in all, the mimosa can certainly be called the ultimate multi-tasker!

Sicilian Moorish head with a crown featuring a female character decorated in shades of antique ivory. It is handcrafted in Caltagirone, Italy.

Sicilian lady head vases & mimosa: a perfect match

So this IWD, as we gift a bouquet of mimosa to the women in our lives, we praise their special qualities: delicate yet tenacious, versatile and well-rounded, just like the Sicilian woman immortalized in our stunning handmade head planters. Each is as unique as the women they honor – be it traditional or modern, courageous or shy, bold or refined. We are all united in the beauty and joy of being…women.

Handcrafted Sicilian Moorish heads by Ceramiche Sofia with female subjects.

St. Valentine’s Day: la Festa degli Innamorati

How many aspects of your daily life can be traced back to Italy? We all know the obvious ones, like pasta, pizza, espresso, and beautiful handmade ceramics. But many modern-day traditions and holidays also have Italian origins, just like upcoming St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine, an Italian saint

It is all thanks to a saint named Valentino (although there was likely more than just one) whose life contributed to this celebration of love in February.

Red Sicilian Moorish Heads by Ceramiche Sofia

Some accounts talk of a Roman priest and physician, or perhaps he was a bishop born in a place that today is Terni, Umbria. Valentino secretly protected couples and married them, in defiance against orders from Emperor Claudius the Cruel who had banned marriages in hopes of strengthening his army.

It didn’t end well for poor Valentino; he was jailed and then beheaded on February 14 around the year 270 CE. In 496 CE, Pope Gelasius declared that this date be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day.

How do I love thee

Nowadays, especially in America, St. Valentine’s Day has become a day to celebrate all the people in your life whom you love. Charming heart candies, cute stuffed animals, and sweet little cards are given to everyone from classmates to co-workers. But in Italy, this day is strictly reserved for innamorati – lovers.

Lovers - Italian ceramic wall hanging by Francesca Niccacci, Deruta

Perhaps this has to do with the meaning of the word love in English versus Italian? In English, love encapsulates the passion and affection you have for another person, whether it be a spouse, parent, child, friend, or even pet!

However, in Italian, there are two verbs that offer a distinction between different forms of love! Voler bene is used for those you care about, like friends and family, while amare is strictly used for romantic love. And the day of San Valentino in Italy is also called la festa degli innamorati – the holiday of lovers.

How Italians celebrate St. Valentine’s Day

Ars et Amor - Italian ceramic wall plate by Francesca Niccacci, Deruta

So then, how do Italians celebrate this romantic holiday? In the northern city of Verona, most well-known for its fateful lovers Romeo and Juliet, February 14 is a part of week-long events and decorations inviting couples to come take in the amorous atmosphere.

But most couples will settle for a romantic dinner in a local ristorante and also give their special someone a heartfelt gift that expresses their passion.

And for that, the best bet is to go with something that represents amore: a unique piece of quality Italian craftsmanship that will last the test of time.

St. Valentine’s Day Italian gifts

Head over to our special page of Italian Ceramics for Romantic Souls, with a wide assortment of beautiful gifts to choose from, where you are sure to find the perfect fit for your special someone no matter their style or taste. A stunning, handcrafted token of love from thatsArte – that’s Amore!

Plants & Planters – Bring Your Home Décor to Life

A new word is trending in interior design: biophilia

Mustard footed planter with blue drops. Handcrafted by ND Dolfi in Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany - Italy

Although the term was popularized in more recent times by German-born American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, the concept of biophilia has been around since Aristotle. 

The word originates from bio-, meaning life, and –philia, meaning the love of, and describes the rich pleasure that comes from being surrounded by nature.

Biophilic design recognizes the physiological benefits of incorporating plants into our homes, in addition to the psychological and visual advantages.

Why is plant therapy now officially a thing?

The key reason is that houseplants help create a clean and healthy environment by producing high levels of oxygen and purifying the air.

Italian ceramic planter handcrafted in Caltagirone, Sicily, by Ceramiche Sofia.

Many studies have now confirmed the multiple benefits of having indoor plants:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Increased productivity and creativity
  • Better sleep
  • Cleaner air and less harmful toxins indoors (a natural air filter!)
  • Increased humidity and less dust, thus helping fight against colds and allergies

And quite simply, houseplants and planters are also aesthetically pleasing.  They are a great way to add liveliness, personality, and texture to any room of the house, big or small.

Each type of plant adds a distinct personality to any room with its unique leaf shape, color, height, and volume.  Houseplants become invaluable decor pieces and give you endless possibilities to create interior spaces with special charm.

Here are a few interior design tricks to decorate with plants:

Assess your space to determine which plant type and size will work better in your interior based on the size of the room, amount of furniture, and direct light. Consider arranging your plants in clusters if you have a large space to decorate.

Sicilian ceramic planter with sunflowers and grapes, handmade and hand-painted by Ghenos in Messina - Italy.

The level of maintenance required by houseplants varies significantly. Determine how much time and attention you are prepared to devote to your plants!  Then you can find the right fit for your home and your lifestyle.

Make a list of the plants that match the above criteria before going to the garden center to choose your plants. You want your design to drive the choice, not the other way around.

Choose a pot or planter that goes with your design.  This will make all the difference when trying to create your dream look. 

You’ll be surprised at how these few simple additions can completely transform your living space. Now, take a deep breath and enjoy the benefits of nature indoors. 

A selection of six hand-painted Italian ceramic planters from collection.

Custom Made Show-Stopping Ceramic Floor

Sometimes, the most show-stopping design element in a room is beneath your feet.

Our Client was looking for a custom-made floor for his study. He was building to home to go and spend time in after his retirement, surrounded by his most prized possessions.

His Italian dream floor would have to be hand-painted in golden and green hues, with the most intricate elements of the pattern set along the perimeter of the room, leaving the centerstage to a large antique desk. His source of inspiration was Rosa Azul, a Sicilian tile panel hand-painted by Ghenos.

Italian tile panel or side tabletop Rosa Azul hand-painted by Ghenos in Messina, Sicily

We discussed the project with Ghenos and presented the Client with a preliminary sketch.

Custom made flooring base on the Italian hand-painted panel Rosa Azul from Sicily- sketch
Custom made flooring base on the Italian hand-painted panel Rosa Azul from Sicily - sketch detail

The Client absolutely fell in love with the design and the artisan set to work. here is a glimpse at the unfired tiles.

Italian hand-painted ceramic flooring before the final firing - 1
Italian hand-painted ceramic flooring before the final firing - 2

The production took 3 full months, but the wait was worth it!
Enjoy a few details of the final flooring.

Italian hand-painted ceramic flooring after the final firing - 1
Italian hand-painted ceramic flooring after the final firing - 2

How to Decorate with Handmade Italian Wall Plates

Wall plates are back big time!

A popular staple on the Italian dining and living room walls in the 50s and 60s, they disappeared for a few decades, only to return in curated compositions of deftly mixed colors and textures.

Geometric Wall Plate by D&G Design handmade in Deruta, Italy

Decorating with wall plates is exciting in so many ways.

And, if you love Italian ceramics, there are so many colorful, artisan-made wall plates to choose from.
The first step is creating a collection of Italian wall plates for your display.
If you start from scratch, you should define a theme before you start searching. It can be a color scheme, a particular style or a period in time if you decide to go vintage.

Geometric Wall Plate by Francesca Niccacci handmade in Deruta, Italy

Once the treasure hunt is finished – is it ever? – the fun of figuring out how and where to display your collection begins. You can really go wild!

Any room in the house will do, starting from the bathroom. A display of wall plates will add a charming, eclectic touch to the bathroom wall, where traditional artworks struggle to stand up to humidity or steam.
Using creative combinations of colors and sizes, you will be able to add character and dimension to odd walls, too vertical, too narrow or just too dark for conventional art pieces.

No display rule should limit your creativity: you can place your wall plates in line, use decorative wrought iron supports, wooden racks, or just cluster them together in a fun hodgepodge.

Geometric Wall Plate by ND Dolfi handmade in Montelupo Fiorentino, Italy

A quick guide to handmade Italian Dinnerware

Italian dinnerware set - Raffaellesco by Fima (Deruta)Choosing a dinnerware set is no easy matter. Hundreds of different brands, designs, materials to choose from… and such a large amount of money involved in the purchase that a mistake would be much regretted.

Well, I cannot help you to make your choice. However, if you decide to stand out from the crowd and go for something really different and unique such as handmade Italian dinnerware, you’ll find some good pieces of information here.

What is Italian Dinnerware usually made of?
Italian dinnerware sets are usually made of ceramic, a word derived from the Greek word keramos, meaning “clay”. Commonly used, ceramic is a most general term, which can be applied both to porcelain and pottery.
Continue reading

Buongiorno Ceramica!

The organizers of Buongiorno Ceramica have taken the festival of traditional Italian pottery online.

The festival will be free and broadcast on the Association’s Youtube channel from 16 to 17 May due to lockdown restrictions.

The AiCC, Italian Ceramic Cities Association, includes 46 cities with a “tradition in artistic pottery making”. The artisans of each city will contribute videos and pictures showing us the secret life of Italian craftsmanship. The material will form an ideal tour of our centers of excellence.

The workshops have just reopened after two months of lockdown. It is the best time ever to celebrate the creativity, talents, and inspiration of our craftsmen and artists!

Re-opening the workshops of Italian potters

Italian ceramics from the British Museum

I went back to the British Museum just a few days before it closed due to the epidemics.

It was not as busy as it used to be before the virus changed the limits of personal space. This was not unpleasant, though.

I could take it slowly and enjoy my favorite pieces of Italian pottery, time-traveling back to the Renaissance.

The collection of Italian ceramics hosted by the British Museum is of the utmost importance: most of the pieces date back to the golden age of Italian majolica, the 16th and 17th century, and they come from different regions, offering a rare perspective on the differences in pictorial styles, shapes, and glazes.

I did not take pictures, but I’m copying below a blog post from 2015, with some highlights from the collection.

…. November 2015

A few pictures from my last visit to the British Museum, where a significant collection of Italian ceramics is hosted.

The display is quite unattractive and, in my opinion, not very well organized, but the quality of the pieces is really good and definitely worth a visit.

I took some pictures with my phone – not good quality, but enough to whet your appetite.

Two plates or bowls made in Deruta by Nicola di Pietro Francioli in 1515-1530 2015-10-28 16.19.11-1

Continue reading

What are the most popular Italian dinnerware patterns?

What are the most popular Italian dinnerware patterns?

Ask the question to a hundred Italians and you’ll get a hundred different answers. We have so many regional designs, all deservedly popular thanks to their beauty and their century-old heritage.

However, I do wish to try and answer this question, without claiming that this is an exhaustive list of all the best Italian dinnerware patterns, of course. It’s just a brief guide to help you choose.

1 – Classic Italian dinnerware patterns

Three designs stand out here: Raffaellesco, Ricco Deruta and Arabesco.

They all originated in Deruta between the 15th and the 17th century. Their classic beauty makes them versatile dinnerware sets, whose exquisite elegance and subtle refinement are never commonplace. Here is a short description.

Continue reading

The three-legged symbol of Sicily: Trinacria

Trinacria - three legged symbol of SicilyThe Trinacria, also known as Triskelion, is the familiar three-legged symbol of Sicily, Italy’s unique little nugget.

If you visit the island you will be sure to see a Trinacris, symbol of Sicily, everywhere and if you wish to take one of them home you’ll have a large choice, from sophisticated ceramic Trinacria plaques to inexpensive fridge magnets. Of course, we do hope that you’ll go for one of the stunning Sicilian pottery pieces that are handmade for you by local artisans.

Anyway, regardless of your choice, you may want to impress your travel companions and learn something about the origins of the Trinacria or Triskelion and some fascinating stories surrounding the birth of Sicily and its three-legged symbol.

Allow me the pleasure to start from what I like best: the stories.
Continue reading