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What is Majolica?

What is majolica? Majolica is glazed pottery often associated with certain regions of Italy, although it also is produced in other parts of the world. The name majolica was derived from Majorca, the port from which majolica originally was traded. Italian majolica and italian ceramics are world renowned because of their master craftsmanship and durability.

Italy has a long-standing tradition in the production of ceramics and pottery dating back to the 13th century. During the Renaissance, a small town in Umbria called Deruta, made use of the special clay from the Umbrian hills to establish itself as the center for the production of majolica and italian pottery. The superior majolica produced at this time, gained respect as an art form, even though many pieces were intended for everyday use. The majolica tradition continues in Deruta today, as well as in other parts of Italy.

From start to finish, all of Bellezza's italian ceramics are made by hand. Our artists extensively research forms, designs, and recipes from the Renaissance and continually are inspired by old designs to create new majolica patterns and forms. The technique used in producing italian ceramics, however, has been passed down from generation to generation and can be summarized in four steps:

  • To begin, the artist cleans the clay to eliminate impurities. The clay then is shaped by skilled hand into various forms, usually on the potters' wheel. The horizontal imprints on a form denote its origins on the potters’ wheel. The forms then are dried and fired for the first time. Work in Progress
  • The cooled form is dipped in a mineral oxide bath, creating a white opaque background on which the designs may be precisely painted, without the risk of the glazes bleeding into one another. The mineral oxide base distinguishes majolica from other ceramics and creates the intensity of color for which Italian majolica is known.
  • The glazes are mixed according to old recipes and the form then is hand painted, often by free hand and always meticulously, for mistakes cannot be corrected.
  • The painted form is fired for a second time, this time for up to 24 hours. This second firing gives the piece the luster that authenticates genuine majolica.

For an excellent comprehensive history of Italian ceramics and italian pottery, including some really spectacular photographs, read Deruta: A Tradition of Italian Ceramics by Elizabeth Helman Minchilli.

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