Montelupo’s 2022 Cèramica Festival: A Monthlong Celebration of Ceramics

The historic ‘Zaffiro’ or Sapphire style in Montelupo ceramics

Cèramica OFF 2022 marks the second year of the completely reconceived Ceramics Festival of Montelupo Fiorentino, a town just 12 miles from Florence that is accessible via the Florence-Pisa train line. This annual event, which only lasted a weekend prior to the pandemic, has now become a month-long celebration of Montelupo’s artistic past and present taking place from June 24 to July 22.

Located near the Arno River and the Pesa tributary with their plentiful clay deposits and surrounded by woods perfect for fueling the kilns, one could say Montelupo was destined to become home to talented artisans. The town’s artisans mastered “Majolica” (painted pottery) which involved intricate details that only the most skilled of artisans could achieve. Montelupo achieved renown for its ceramics during the Renaissance, when many of its artisans worked for the powerful Florentine Medici family. Today, Montelupo’s community of artists and artisans continues to thrive.

This year’s Cèramica Festival will include workshops open to the public, talks with artists, exhibitions and artistic performances, and interactive events for adults and children. Among the many events open to the public are the Market Exhibition (Mostra Mercato), the Opening Exhibition (Opening Mostra), and the “Drink and Draw” evenings.

The Market Exhibition, entitled “Made in Montelupo (& Friends),” will be held Saturday, June 25 from 10 am – 1 pm and 3 – 11 pm and Sunday June 26 from 10 am – 1 pm and 3 – 8 pm. Numerous ceramic pieces in both historic and contemporary styles will be displayed in the historic center of Montelupo, demonstrating the incredible talent of artisans from around Italy. In addition, there will be workshops held throughout the day on Saturday June 25 in which visitors can see firsthand the clay-molding and decoration processes.

The opening exhibition, held Saturday June 25, will feature pieces decorated using the “Zaffiro” or “Sapphire” style that dates back to the early 1400’s. This ceramic style is recognizable by its characteristic dark blue, almost black, hue. “Zaffiro” was deeply influenced by the traditional Islamic ceramic patterns and hues of the 15th century, which the Italian peninsula witnessed as the pieces passed through on trade routes.

“Zaffiro” is particularly special to Montelupo as it marked the transition to greater innovation, such as polychromy, or the use of a variety of colors, in ceramics in the small Tuscan town. The opening exhibition will include contemporary ceramic works, artistic performances, video installations, and open workshops for the public. The exhibition can be visited until July 31 with the art and events spread throughout the Historic Center of Montelupo Fiorentino.

An opportunity for the public to create alongside the many skilled artisans of Montelupo are the two “Drink and Draw” events. Adults will be offered “aperitivi,” a beverage and finger food, and will get the chance to create their own ceramic pieces. Last year, the drawings were reproduced on a collection of plates that are now used in local restaurants. Aglaia Viviani, the Councilor for Culture of Montelupo (assessore alla cultura del comune di Montelupo Fiorentino) commented that this example “captures the sense of the operation that we’re trying to undertake, on one hand that of focusing on high quality production, but on the other that of cementing the bond between ceramics and the region.” The Drink and Draw evenings will take place June 28 and July 5 from 7 – 9:30 pm at Fornace Cioni Alderighi (Via Giro delle Mura, 90).  (ann webb)