Just the Facts
Faenza clay, fired to 1796°F (980°C), and porcelain, fired to 2282°F (1250°C)
Primary forming method
slabs, extruded coils, plaster printing, and handbuilding
Primary firing temperature
glaze firing to 1688°F (920°C)
Favorite surface treatment
many different techniques mixed together including; painting on majolica, decals in a third firing, colored glazes applied with a brush
extruder and brushes
I searched for my current studio for a long time and have been working there for two years. I wanted it to be in the old town of Faenza, to be bright and visible from outside, while also having a private working space. Additional criteria included being affordable and having a certain “flavor” and atmosphere. So, I asked Phanos Tsolakos, a Greek-born potter, awarded the Premio Faenza award in the 1970s for advice and ideas, and he gave me his old studio, which was closed up for a long time.
Tsolakos’ studio, now my studio, is the former sacristy of the San Filippo Neri Church. It is comprised of two rooms, with five steps separating the two rooms, and extremely high ceilings. At the time I took over, it was very unkempt; however, when I saw it, I thought that my soul and my work could grow there.
The only negative aspect of my studio was the high initial costs cleaning and partially renovating it. Because it is an older space, my studio has no protection or security system, I trust my neighbors—maybe too much.
Paying Dues (and Bills)
In terms of my education, in the beginning I was not supported by my family. Therefore after middle school, I made the decision to attend a technical high school where I gained a specialization in economy and administration in addition to a wide theoretical education.
After obtaining my diploma and having some short and disappointing work experiences, I quit everything and started attending the Albe Steiner school, a vocational school for potters in Ravenna.
Next, I worked for two years in a traditional pottery studio in Faenza owned by Antonietta Mazzotti, a very good but strict potter. The studio was located in an ancient villa full of history and art. Then, I worked for almost five years in the Morigi studio, a workshop producing contemporary, handcrafted ceramics. The studio was full of artists with creative input.
In the evenings and during the weekends, I worked in my garage. In the end I left my job, and worked from my garage studio making my own work. I started to find my artistic voice and my first galleries, with whom I now have worked for many years.
I believe that making art requires discipline, therefore I maintain a consistent schedule in my studio. I spend 5–10 hours per day there and sometimes I work more in the evenings and on the weekends as well. I rely on my business consultant to take care of my tax and accounting obligations as I don’t fully understand those processes.
First of all, I prefer silence in my studio. To recharge I read, visit art exhibitions, watch movies, speak to colleagues and exchange ideas, browse the Internet, and above all I travel. I care for my body but I am not very consistent. I practice yoga, massage therapy, and when I have time, I meditate. But travelling and holidays are always the best way for me to recharge.
I have always enjoyed reading: I like fiction, psychology, art therapy, religion, pottery history, artists’ biographies, and much more. Right now I am reading: Edmund de Waal’s The White Road, a wonderful book written about the history of porcelain; Chiara Gamberale’s Adesso, an Italian fiction book; Hernán Huarache Mamani’s Pachamama te habla, a book about spiritual initiation; Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Tre Storie Magiche, his last work in a long series—I love this crazy day-dreamer; James Redfield’s The Tenth Insight, a book found at a flea market; Claudia Rainville’s Métamédecine, according to this book every symptom is a message and I refer to it often; and Aki Shimazaki’s Le poids des secrets, she is a Japanese writer living in Canada. I bought this book after my journey to Japan.
Someone once told me that I use an unconscious marketing technique. I know how important it is to sell my own work, a skill that I feel has nothing to do with the real creative stage. I have always promoted my work, exhibiting in art galleries in Italy and abroad, taking part in ceramics competitions, attending meetings and workshops in Italy and abroad, using every available tool to promote the images and the contents of my works, on sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and articles in specialized magazines. I also produce a less expensive line of pottery to help pay the bills, and use word-of-mouth advertising to bring people to me.
I am learning how to use social media more effectively. I never lose interest in travelling the world to promote my work. Right now I am happy about the Italian market because, after many years of work marketing, publicizing, and building a client base, finally people know what I do and they often search for me.
Communicating virtually is very frustrating because I cannot effectively convey my emotions this way. This is a very negative aspect because people’s passion is the fuel of the world. In the end you work with peopled you like and who like you. I prefer knowing in real time how much events are appreciated and how many people actually like and follow my work. That said, I appreciate the extended reach that having a digital presence provides, because clients from Milan, Turin, London, and other cities have contacted me through my website.
My pottery is most commonly purchased by Italians who have heard, read about, or have previously seen my works. I try to create customized pottery. As a Neapolitan critic, Alamaro, wrote some years ago, I am a psycopotter and I love to create a tailor-made service for my clients, to create something similar to a portrait that reflects their personalities. Important works are purchased by private clients and collectors, who know my work very well. I have also worked with banks to create site-specific installations.
I sell through art galleries and right now I am working with the London gallery Madeinbritaly. Sometimes clients get in touch with me through my website. I have created a number of outdoor works in collaboration with architects. One of my last works was commissioned by a lido. I created two site-specific works that have been installed on the walls and 80 plates that are all different from each other and personalized. These plates will be used during dinners.
When I sell work in my studio, I love meeting with people, even if it’s sometimes difficult, because more often it’s enriching. When you sell through an art gallery, the commission is often very high, but if the manager is good at his/her job and is really able to promote your work, it is absolutely worth it. When I took part in markets abroad, travelling and setting up the stand was too demanding for me at a physical level, therefore I do not think I will continue to do that in the future, even if these are always wonderful experiences, where you meet other colleagues, see, and learn a lot.
Most Important Lesson
For me art is a deep and difficult journey in life. I have learned to be humble and to look at the work of others with respect. I have learned to not think about money but to commit myself to communicate something that makes sense not only for me but also for others. I have learned that it is extremely important to choose a field and a job that you love, and that you want to do for a long time. I have learned to cultivate passion and to have fun while working. I have learned that, beyond what we see, there are different places that are extraordinary and important, and art is one of those.
The Future of Ceramics
Finally the art world is opening up and growing thanks to the Internet. Ceramics is becoming a medium as any other that allows the artist to express themselves and has the great advantage that it can also be used in everyday life.
In this historic moment many people are working hard to break down the barriers between the traditional find arts and craft media, that are still very strong in Italy unlike in other countries. But in the future, a good artist will be appreciated regardless of the medium he/she uses. I think that, like in the past, ceramics will always have a place and an important value in our lives.
Facebook: Fiorenza Pancino