The city of Deruta has a unique tradition. It’s the Deruta Ceramics, a craft of pottery making.
In a spacious room enhanced by sunlight, Delia Binaglia methodically adds brushstrokes of color to a fired piece of pottery. Her details are the final touches. She had learned from the antique tradition of majolica ceramics. This craft has been practiced in the Umbrian town of Deruta. Hence, Deruta Ceramics.
A tradition begins
Binaglia, and her husband Antonio Ranocchia, have been creating ceramics for over 60 years, and are the founders of the ceramic factory MOD. The town of Deruta is defined by the ancient craft of pottery making. In fact, historical documentation showed that majolica ceramics were produced as far back as the late 13th century.
Already in 1290, the potters of the city were commissioned by the local church San Nicola to paint pictures on vases. However, the culmination of Deruta’s popularity for cerami came during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Local potters applied old techniques to new forms. The lustre technique began in Arabia. Later, it reached Europe trough the Moorish Spaniards. Here, potters used it to make double handled vases and to display plates. The Derutan potters’ mixing of tradition with innovation resulted in the highest quality of Italian pottery.
Binaglia and the other painters at MOD use a “spolvero” (dusting technique) to stencil detailed patterns onto terracotta. But it is only through practice, experience, and a keen eye that the painters succeed. That’s how they can reproduce the uniform colors of classic motifs, such as the “Raffaellesco” pattern.
“We use traditional methods to reproduce patterns from the 13-to-1500’s, by studying ancient books and antique artifacts”, said Antonio Ranocchia.
For example, the “Raffaellesco” design was born in Deruta in the 16th century. Since then, it has become the town’s signature style. The pattern centers on an iconic yellow dragon with blue tipped wings. Today, the motif graces numerous objects, including flooring and tableware. Indeed, it’s perfect for both decoration on daily use.
MOD’s factory embodies the hand making process that characterizes Deruta’s pottery. Every part of the process is handmade. From the throwing to the firing. Of course, even the painting. When possible, artisans use earth from the local area. Otherwise, if local clay is not available, they use Tuscan clay. Still, it’s all 100% made in Italy.
The imitations of Deruta Ceramics
The comparison with Chinese imitations is a concern for local artisans. In fact, the local ceramics are durable, while counterfeit copies can be flawed. In recent years counterfeit ceramics claiming to be “Handmade in Deruta,” have been appearing on the market.
To combat fakes, Verbena has implemented actions that provide economic assistance to the local artisans, introduce the world to Derutan artworks, and holds local initiatives related to the town’s artistic heritage.
The town supports artisans and companies to promote their products overseas. That entails a consortium of craftsmen, and an official trademark that allows customers to recognize a genuine piece of Deruta pottery. The trademark is on authentic pottery and visible on the windows of local stores and factories.
The city also holds events to raise awareness and to attract talent. Like, the summer festival Magia di un’Arte.
Ceramics drape the town. The locals are a testament to craft and artistry. Indeed, this is the perfect destination to learn more about this art. And to bring home the perfect souvenir.
By Natalie Trusso Cafarello