Commissioning an Italian artist with a site-specific art project
The first time I saw ND Dolfi’s amazing Tuscan tiles, I was visiting the artist’s studio in Montelupo Fiorentino. It was over 15 years ago.
Silvano Dolfi had created large tile panels supported by free-standing iron structures. The multi-colored installations dotted his lawn, positioned so he could see them from the large windows of his beautiful Tuscan casale. Similar to giant paintings, they acted as a strange reversal of the common indoor-outdoor decoration.
I saw them again a few years later in his daughters’ workshop. They were grouped to form large, textured surfaces – each tile fighting for attention with its bold colors and unusual patterns.
By then, Natalia and Daria had followed in the steps of their famous father and started contributing to ND Dolfi’s collections.
I knew I wanted those tiles in my life, but I had to wait until I had the right space and an inspiring décor idea. A few years later, I completed the renovation of my family’s country house and realized that the living room – its 15-foot high ceilings and large windows overlooking the garden – was the perfect space for a large tile panel.
However, it took me a few years of living in the house to know exactly what I wanted and how to achieve it. At that point, I was ready to commission Natalia and Daria Dolfi my ceramic wall panel.
The creative idea
I had designed and planted most of the garden myself, taking great joy in its growth and constant evolution. I wanted the tiles to bring the colors and textures of my garden indoors. Made themselves of earth, the tiles would echo and expand the garden and celebrate the relationship between nature-made and man-made.
Having determined the shape and size of the panel and therefore the number of tiles I needed, I proceeded to take pictures of my living room and garden. Then I drove the Montelupo Fiorentino and met the artists. Starting from the tiles in their studio, we selected some of the patterns and colors for the project. For the rest, I left them free to create the best combinations.
Then Covid struck, life switched to slow-motion, and I had to wait a whole year for the good news: the tiles were almost ready and did I want to see pictures? I did! I was moved by their beauty…
The tile panel installation
The next step was to commission an ironmonger for a bespoke iron frame. I settled for an L-shaped mount with a rust finish, thick enough to provide structure but not too much to distract from the tile arrangement.
When the tiles arrived, I moved a few pieces of furniture to make a space large enough to unpack the tiles and arrange them on the floor. It took me a while – lots of shuffling the tiles around – to find the color and texture balance I wanted. When I was happy with the composition, I took pictures and re-packed the tiles while waiting for the installers.
It was amazing to see the panel form on the wall. A dream slowly coming true. The installers were so happy to be part of the project that they asked me to take their pictures in front of the wall they had contributed to make so special.
A daily dose of Italian ceramic art
Every day I look at it and take in a different detail: a shiny pink droplet, a green bubble, a rusty curl. The panel is now and forever a part of the house – it cannot be removed. It’ll breathe and live within it, part of the spirit of the place. I hope it’ll get to see my grandchildren and theirs as well. Who knows!
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