- You will really like what you’ll be spending your money on.
- It’s a good value
- It’s (kind of) for a good cause.
Because today’s post is about hand painted ceramics from Umbria. See. Got your attention, didn’t I? You want shiny, pretty plates, right? You need them (yes, I”m in your head and hear what you are saying to yourself).
A bit of background first. As many of you know, we have a house in Umbria, where we spend a lot of time. One of the first books I ever wrote grew out of a desire to throw light on one of the area’s richest resources: hand crafted ceramics.
Ok. You really want to know how this book, Deruta: A Tradition of Ceramics came about? The designer and producer, Melanie Doherty suggested we do a book that would allow her to come over to Italy for a project. Ceramics from Deruta seemed like a pretty good idea.
And it was, for many reasons. They’ve been making gorgeous majolica in Deruta for hundreds of years. And have pretty much been doing it the same way, with the same materials, techniques and designs for centuries. For a bit of history, see this post. You can also try to buy the book, but unfortunately it’s sadly out of print.
All was going fine in Deruta until recently, when this whole ‘globilisation’ thing started up. And the ‘financial crisis’ thing didn’t help much either. It turns out that workers in Asia can make dishes that superficially look a lot like the ones from Deruta, but at half the price. (but that’s ok, since you probably get twice the lead for free).
So, you can imagine what is happening in Deruta these days. Workshops that have been going strong for generations are closing. Young people are unwilling to learn an ancient craft that has no potential for making a living.
So I’m doing my part here folks. I am shopping. But I certainly can’t be expected to keep the town afloat on my own. You have to do your part too.
The photos you see here, from my personal and ever expanding collection, are but a smidgin of the gorgouesness available at the more than 300 workshops in Deruta.
Like any person with an addiction, I too have my trusted sources. All of the ceramics you see here come from one store: Sberna. I’ve been going here for as long as I can remember. There are lots of other stores too, that I love. But Sberna – at least for me – combines just the right balance of high quality with great prices. I mean really, at the end of the day I want to use these plates. So yes, I want to them to be pretty. But I also don’t want to have a heart attack if one breaks or chips. (see 2 above)
Sberna has become kind of a tradition in my family. When my sister Robin got married, she got a set of dishes. Ditto Jodi and Gretchen. While every trip to Deruta usually results in me bringing home a serving dish or two from Sberna, I recently went all out and bought a full service for 12. (see 3 above)
What I love about my most recent purchase is that I didn’t have to make that difficult decision of choosing one pattern over another. With this fruity design, I got to mix and match. Cherries, pears, quinces, pomegranates, blackberries and grapes ring the dinner, pasta and desert plates. And all play very nicely with the platters, bowls and coffee cups I’ve accumulated over the years.
So, do your part too. (see 3 above) If you’re in Umbria stop by. They ship. If you’re nowhere near, place an order. Here’s their website and email address. Both Anna and Franca speak English.
And while I’m a Sberna girl, there are loads of other stores in Deruta. See below for my list of favorites, as well as some trusted (i.e. purely Italian) sources in the States.
I knew I’d get you on the first two reasons for spending the money. (See 1 and 2 above) but of course it’s the good cause thing that’s the kicker. (see 3 above)
So come on, do your part. I mean really, how often does doing the right thing result in pretty dishes?
Sources in Deruta
There are over three-hundred ceramic studios in Deruta, reflecting a wide variety of styles, merchandise, and quality. A full listing of the firms in Deruta can be obtained at the tourist office in the main square. The following are my personal favorites:
Via Tiberina , 146
Tel: +39 075-971-0206
Ceramiche Chiucchiù Via G.Salvemini
Tel: +39 075-971-0747
Exquisite one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
Via Tiberina Centro 181
Tel: +39 075-971-0201
The oldest ceramics workshop in town. A wonderful place to visit, especially their workshops.
Via Tiberina 214
Tel: +39 075-971-1572
No web site! He barely has a telephone. Just go! But if you can’t make it, Bellezza carries his one of a kind pieces.
Via Tiberina Sud 69,
Tel: +39 075-971-1224
Beautiful and unique highly glossy finish on his modern patterns.
Sources in the USA
All of these stores have online services and ship. So you don’t actually have to go to Deruta. But don’t you want to?