Custom for the Customer

This is my new soap dispenser, made for me by ceramic artist Angelo Varsallona, who is based in Caltagirone. In May, I went hunting along the famous stairs of the baroque town seeking two different dispensers for our new apartment. When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, Angelo offered to make them for…

Ascending Into A Different Realm

Today, walking up and down Caltagirone’s Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte felt magical. There is something ethereal about connecting the “upper and lower” parts of town via this 1609 staircase–here with spring flowers decorating it! It’s as if you are ascending into a different realm using the 142 steps that have unique, colorful majolica…

Burgio, Another of Sicily’s Ceramic Centers

Burgio is one of Sicily’s ceramic centers, where for centuries different family studios created distinct pottery. Different from Santo Stefano di Camastra, Caltagirone, and Sciacca, Burgio’s designs are depicted on a tan-colored bed versus white. During our Secret Sicily tour earlier this month, on our excursion led by Val di Kam, we visited Arcuri Ceramics,…

Voilà, It’s Majolica! 

Santo Stefano di Camastra is one of Sicily’s ceramics centers. There is an entire street of the town lined with ceramics shops that are filled with majolica ceramics (maiolica in Italian). Majolica describes a technique of decorating earthenware (ceramics made with red clay, AKA bisque or biscuit) that has been fired at a relatively low…

One with the Tiles

Here I am, one with the tiles of Caltagirone’s Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, which was built in 1609 to connect the old lower town to the new upper town. Since 1954, each of its 142 steps was decorated with a unique design of colorful, handcrafted majolica ceramic tile, a craft for which the…

Another Legend Explaining the Moor’s Head

In the past, I’ve recounted one legend of the origins of the decapitated Moor’s-head vase. Last spring while visiting my friend Sebastiano, co-owner of Gelsomino Imports (Sicilian artisanal products), in Castelvetrano, he told me of a different legend of the origins of these ubiquitous ceramic vases, like these pictured in Taormina. It goes something like…

Fortunate Recipient

This necklace is the creation of two very talented women. The ceramic piece was designed by artist Mirella Pipia in Bagheria. It was intended to be a decorative ornament of some kind, perhaps, for your Christmas tree. In 2014, Barbara Shiller, an American jewelry maker, came with me to Sicily on our September small-group tour….