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TUSCANY VISIT,    “An employee of Wild Olive Company takes her first trip to ...more...

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The majority of our ceramic pieces are replicas of original pieces discovered in the Tuscany region of 16th century Italy. All pieces are made strictly by hand, and can take many days to complete; our Italian artists don't rush for anyone! The authentic finish is purposely manufactured using an exclusive formula utilizing sand, (We can't put the exact process into words, it's somewhat secret.) Many countries have tried to copy this particular look, but none have actually mastered the ancient Italian teqnique. All clay substances vary in quality, over the centuries, Italian artists have strived to use top quality grade 'A' clay for their work (The quality of clay is crucial to achieve a fine piece of finished ceramic.) The ceramic crests have been hand carved out of wood, then developed into a metal stamp in which the clay is then moulded, some of these family crests may be seen in various museums throughout Italy. We are very fortunate to posess some of these original crests.

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1. Ceramics
Ceramic art concerns the creation of products made from earth, hand moulded, or mechanically moulded, and fired. The word 'ceramic' derives from the Greek name of clay, and is used in modern languages meaning the word 'fictilis' in Latin, this indicates any object made of clay. According to this original meaning maintained in many modern languages, ceramics include crockery, statues, statuettes and building elements. These objects differ in their technical features: a) depending on the nature of the earth and of the ingredients that are sometimes added to make the body, as each variety requires a specific temperature. b) depending on their coating on the decorative elements, and on the type of decoration.

2. The Body
The first greenware, already relatively hardened and then expressly dried, must be exposed to fire allowing it to shrink the earthy body (paste), also to harden it and permanently fix it. According to its chemical composition, this will more or less transform it and change its color. Unlike what happens with glass production, a similar art, it does not melt (as it would deform the product) but, for some kinds of ceramics, it leads to the beginning of vitrification. After firing, the body can be considered either according to the different degree of compactness, or according to the color it has taken on. These different results can already be useful for an initial classification of ceramics pastes, because each class of products has its own fundamental characteristics. There are porous or compact paste ceramics, colored or white paste ceramics, but the final classification must take into account another element that is usually constitutive of a given kind of ceramic: 'Coating.'

3. Terracotta
The simplest expression of ceramics are the objects made only of the body: Terracotta, that is also the name given to the first class of a rational division of production. All manufactured products made from clay that is porous or colored when fired, does not have any coating (from bricks to ordinary garden vases, from statuettes to decorative terracotta). Using requirements and aesthetic feelings suggested since the most ancient of times, (see further) the adopted process to adjust the porosity can change the color of the paste. This process involves the application of a thick wrapping, either transparent or opaque, this makes soft pastes non waterproof and polishes the hard ones.

4. Coating
Apart from the alkaline coating used by ceramists in the past, the earthy slip, made of a white earth cover (that we call Siena or Vicenza earth), is applied on greenware and requires another waterproof wrapping (called “bianchetto” at the time, a term still used in many Italian workshops and used in particular for ceramics to be decorated with graffiti) There are two main types of coatings: 'Paint and Glazes'. The first is transparent, and the lead based one (lead-bearing paint) is also called glaze (vetrina) or crystal, and is typical of soft pastes because it melts at relatively low temperatures: The boraciferous and felspathic ones are called coverings, and they are more typical of China because they melt at higher temperatures. The most common and well-known glaze is the white and shiny one, pacified by stannous oxide, the traditional coating of majolica. Both types can be painted with vitrifiable colors made of metal oxides, that together with the necessary fluxes, behave differently and lead to different results according to the temperature and to the atmosphere of the kiln (oxidizing or reducing atmosphere).

5. Painting
Painting or color décor is, in most cases, made of vitrifiable colors produced by these oxides. According to the temperature they must be submitted to, the colors can be called low flame or muffle flame (to be applied only on coating about 600°) and high fire (to be applied under the coating and inside it, from 900° to 970° and above). The names of coatings vary not only from language to language, but also in Italian. The vitreous one are usually called in France. Glacure; Spain. Vidriado; Germany. Glasur; England. Glaze, words that do not match the term invetriatura, that should only refer to colored glaze coatings (like the Della Robbia: so terrecotte invetriate- glazed terracotta). The earthy coating (that needs another metal wrapping to make the object waterproof), that we call “ingobbio” - “bianchetto”, “mezzamaiolica” (this words actually refers to stage in-between the two techniques, the addition of a small amount of stannuous oxide, to make the slip richer) is called in Fr. Engobe, in Sp. Englaba, in Germ.Halbamiolika, in Eng. Slip. If a coating is applied to traditional terracotta (called in this case biscotto), the second big class of ceramics is produces, the Faience, the most common of which is majolica. The other types are related to the different kinds of coatings (earthy or metallic, opaque or transparent) .

6. Special Clays
The use of appropriate clays and of special ingredients allows us to produce other big ceramics classes, such as ; Fr. Grès; sp gres,Ger. Steinzeus, Eng stoneware), that has a compact, usually colored paste (it can also be white, and then the opaqueness distinguishes it from porcelain, that is translucent), it is fired at high temperatures and can either be coated or not; terraglia (see Fr, Faience fine, terra de pipe, cailloutage; Sp. Loza fine, loza inglesa; ger. Steingut; Engl. Earthenware) This has a white paste when fired and has different stages of compactness, therefore requiring either a lead-bearing paint or a covering according to the temperature; porcellana (see) Fr. Porcelain, Sp. Porcelana; Germ. Porzellan; Eng. Porcelain,), this is fired at a high temperature, has a white, compact paste and needs a covering. When it is produced without a coating (especially in small art objects) it imitates the marble grain called, in French, biscuit (Sp. Bizcocho). All the kitchen and table pottery are called with the collective name stoviglie, a word that indicates the use, rather than the material (cf. Latin testum, Fr. Poterie; Sp. Vajilla; Eng pottery; Ger.Topferei)

7. Classification
In all cases, to fix the coating and the décor, it is necessary to carry out one or two firings after the one necessary to make the biscotto, and only then the product can be considered a finished product. Therefore, there are two essential processes for the production of ceramics: The manipulation of materials and firing: During this last stage, changes in the physical state and the progressive / continuous chemical reactions make the ceramic. (See what is written about the ceramic industry and manufacturing.) The attempts made to classify ceramic products have been very laborious, but the terminology is still dubious, the single nomenclatures are still debated, and the words in different languages do not exactly correspond . . . Regardless, ceramic art is a beautiful creation to be admired by all.