Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tuscany, Day 3: Tuscan Terracotta

On Tuesday we woke up to a fine drizzle of rain. While the Brock family was returning to Florence, we knew we didn't want to do that. We talked with the owners of the Villa where we stayed and asked them if there was anything nearby they would recommend. Lisa suggested visiting a local Terracotta studio, she said we would even be able to make our own piece! We loved that idea so we quickly got the kids ready.

The studio/work shop is in a small town called Montespertoli. We weaved up and down, in and out, on all of the hilly roads and made there in one piece (though very nauseous!). First we got a tour of the place and shown pieces that they have made and the process involved for making terracotta.

 All the animals are made using molds, but all of the pots/planters are 'fatto a mano' or made by hand. There were racks and racks of pieces drying. The clay is gray when wet but once it's fired in the kiln, turns to the recognizable orange shade of terracotta that we all know.
 After the tour, the kids were invited to make a piece with Marco (the owner) on the wheel. Marco speaks no English but was the sweetest guy. (I should mention that the tour, the lessons and the pieces we made, were all FREE).

Bubba loved it. He wants to be an artist when he grows up, so this was very exciting to him. Pooks however wanted a vase like Bubba made, but DID NOT want to touch the clay. He didn't want his hands dirty, he "didn't know how to do it", and as Marco tied the apron on him he began to cry. I however, told him that I was not giving in. He was going to try to make a vase whether his hands got dirty or not. He would be able to wash his hands later but once we left that studio, that was it. He wouldn't get another chance to make a vase.

Once he finally did it, got his hands dirty and saw that when he pushed or pulled the clay..that it got taller or shorter, thicker or thinner...he had a blast!
After Bubba and Pooks, it was the grown up's turns. (Sissy was too little and Peanut refused. Not ''refused'' like Pooks did but down right, tried to run away screaming that he didn't want to do it). I went first and it was SO nice to get to use a ceramic wheel again. I loved ceramics in high school and while I'm not great at it, I've always loved making things on the wheel. Previously I made mostly bowls but with the instructors help, I made a little vase too!
B had also had experience on a wheel before, so he was super excited to get to make something again. Look at him, he's a natural!

While we worked on the wheel Marco set the kids up with some clay. All of the kids enjoyed the clay when it wasn't so ''messy''. Peanut made a snowman!

After we each made our piece, Marco set them to dry. It was agreed that Lisa would pick them up and deliver them to us on Friday, after they had a chance to harden up a bit. They wouldn't get fired in the kiln as they fire hundreds of pieces at once and it wasn't time yet. Marco assured us that if we let them dry in a warm place, they should eventually turn orange as well. I asked if he could please stamp them so we would remember exactly where we got to make them and he happily obliged.
Bubba's, Mine, Pooks' and B's all drying on top of the furnace in our laundry room
Once we were all cleaned up, we were given a tour of the show room. Marco explained how they are trying out new colored glazes and how one shade of teal, took to all of the pieces differently. These particular tiles are for a bathroom. 

At this point, B and I were ready to buy. We knew we wanted to bring some Tuscan terracotta back home with us, but we would have never imagined getting a full tour and a lesson. We ended up purchasing 3 outdoor planters with handmade handles (only €4-5 each) and then 2 decorative glazed pieces for our house. (€15 and €20 but solid, beautiful handmade pieces). 
 We got the green one above (€15), which keeps changing places from the staircase to the living room, as I'm trying to decide where I like it best and a bright orange one that is in our bedroom. It's shaped like an old wine container (I'd take a picture but B is sleeping).

All in all, it was an amazing morning! After the pottery, we took the kids to a near by park then back to the Villa. I was really feeling sick from all the hills and on the way back, actually had to have B pull over so I could puke. But I got to look at vineyards while doing it, so it wasn't too bad, lol! We had soup for lunch and relaxed the rest of the day at the Villa.

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