Meeting Italian ceramic artists: Mirta Morigi

Italian Ceramics - Works by Mirta Morigi - Photo credits: www.racine.ra.itWhen I stepped through the old door into Mirta’s bottega it felt like I was traveling back in time, when technology did not own our lives and working meant “laboring”.
Biscotto piled up on every shelf, sketches pinned all around, brushes, easels, pieces at different production stages, busy people sitting at small desks, the perennial grayish dust of clay everywhere. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to me, and I was really wondering if I had misinterpreted the indications I’d found on Mirta’s showroom window in the main street of Faenza.

Then a nice girl looked up from her half-painted plate and asked me if I was looking for Mirta. A hesitant “yes, I am,” and I was told, “She’s in the back room”. Impossible not to feel at home!

Mirta is a force of nature.

Italian Ceramics - Mirta Morigi in her workshop molding a clay owlFor the hour or so I stayed in her bottega, she was everywhere and with everyone at the same time, molding clay owls, teaching her daughter to do the same, helping Customers with their choice, eating watermelon, chatting with me, making arrangements for lunch with a friend of hers…
Strongly opinionated, full of energy, authoritative yet motherly, she runs her studio with passion and resolution.
She founded her bottega more than 35 years ago when making pottery in Faenza seemed to beat a dead horse. Many ceramicists were closing down, and many others were downgrading their production. She bet on her talents, her ability to innovate and her common sense and she succeeded.
Her bottega is still there, in the court of the Barbavara House, a charming old building in the historical district of Faenza.

Mirta proudly refuses the distinction between artistic ceramics and art ceramics. To her, pottery making is first of all a “mestiere”, a craft, to be lived with discipline and passion. Its aim is to provide the Customer with functional objects, that’s why she is so hugely proud of her recently launched and very successful dinnerware. However, functionality has a very broad meaning in Mirta’s opinion. She shot me a cute, rascal-ish glance, showing me some small, irregular bowls and she told me they were “smile holders” …”you know, before going out in the morning or whenever you need it you can always find a smile in here”. Those bowls… aren’t they the most functional objects you can think of?

Italian Ceramics - Works by Mirta Morigi - Photo credits: www.racine.ra.itIf I were to describe a bottega from the Renaissance, I’d get my inspiration from Mirta’s. As announced by cardboard on her door -”Mirta and her girls”, five or more young and talented pottery makers and a wheel thrower work together with the artist. They are there to work and learn, and they actively contribute to the success of Mirta’s production. I was truly impressed by the harmony and the cohesion of the organization.
In a beautiful text that I found in the catalogue of an exhibition of Mirta’s work in Naples, she writes: “Special thanks to my girls, Edda, Serena, Francesca, Mi Hee, Erica and my daughter Gaia, because together we make “Bottega Morigi”. I share with them my ideas, my projects, my emotions and problems, with their help I can face and solve them … it’s also thanks to their patience and love that I did the trick!

The old-fashioned organization of Mirta’s bottega can be easily labeled as a contradiction in the attitude of an artist who is very innovative. Indeed, it is not. Mirta has always taken from the past whatever she liked or thought useful to her art, cleverly turning it into something new, unheard of, often with an abundant dose of irony.

Italian Ceramics - Detail of Mirta Morigi shattered vase - Photo credits: www.amicidellaceramica.comThe perfection of a classic shape often is broken by protrusions and warps. Flippant chameleons, long lizards, buoyant frogs complement the elegant design of tall vases, contorted platters and large bowls. Wrinkles and folds shatter her collection of “vasi sconvolti” – shattered vases – sculptural pieces that refuse to oblige the rules of symmetry.
Mirta’s colors are always uncompromised. No shades soften the surfaces, with the exception of her hyper-detailed fabulous animals. If it must be green, then it’s pure, bright green. Her favorite? Right now she’s working a lot with red: a compact, imposing red.

Her friend and great artist herself, Elisabetta Bovina, commented: “Mirta imposes pottery as a popular and illustrative language. Her genre is borderline, between sophisticated tradition and unconventional innovation”.

What more can we add?

Mirta Morigi
Via Barbavara 19/4

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