Come and See How Majolica Pottery is Created
The path leading raw clay to become valuable faience ceramics is long and laborious. Indeed, the majolica production consists of many different steps, some of which are fully based on manual work that requires unique craft skills, but above all great passion and enthusiasm to devote to creating a perfect hand-made work of art.
As at the beginning of the history of ceramics, the manufacture of a ceramic item still begins with the shaping of the clay on a manual potter’s lathe.
The potter handles and shapes on rotating lathes a particular type of Italian clay, which was easily found in the hills of the town of Faenza since the Middle Ages.
After the pot is completely dry, it is ready to be bisque fired in the oven, at about 1000° C (1832 degrees Fahrenheit). The purpose of bisquing is to change the clay into ceramic material, and the pottery created during this process is called bisque, or “biscuit”, because it is usually fired again after decoration, to melt the glaze and fuse it to the clay body.
Dip Glazing Pottery
The “biscuit” or bisque ware is then dipped and soaked in special tanks containing majolica glazes (glazes composed by a particular kind of liquid ceramic).
This process makes it so that, once dried, the glaze will not move and will create a colourful, smooth surface ideal for decoration and detail work.
The typical ceramics of Faenza are in fact of the so-called “Majolica” or “Faenza glazed” type, for their distinctive opaque glassy coating.
On a general basis, a white base glaze is used for the first coat. But, in fact, each decoration requires a different and particular colour glaze, which is obtained by mixing mineral colours with the liquid majolica gloss. This process is applied, for example, for the glazing of the precious “Berettino” type pottery, a typical Renaissance majolica characterized by a blue-grey background coat, created by adding cobalt oxides to the glaze.
The dip glazing technique requires acquired skills of dexterity and precision, to make it so that the bisque perfectly absorbs the majolica glaze. In this way, the bisque ware will be smooth enough for decoration, and the potter will be able to easily move the brush during the colouring.
Hand Made Decoration
The ancient art of majolica creation reveals all its charm during the handmade decoration phase, when the potter uses fine-tipped brushes, dipped in a colour powder dissolved into water, to create beautiful ornaments on the pottery.
This is thus the most vibrant and fascinating time in the workshop as, under the expert guidance of the master potter, the decorators draw on the ornamental designs and patterns of past centuries’ history and trends to recreate gorgeous decorations on the glazed pottery.
In Lea Emiliani’s Master Potters’ Majolica Workshop, in Faenza, the decoration of majolica pottery and faience ceramics is still entirely performed by hand by master craftsmen with high technical skills, who are able to create polychrome drawings of great refinement, with clear and fluent lines.
As the decoration is performed, our majolica pottery comes to life through the art of highly specialized, skilled decorators, who follow the finest tradition of faience pottery decoration. The typical faience ornament is marked by bright, warm colours that give the ceramic a final effect of great elegance, showing these pieces’ high quality.
Finally, the signature of the potter and trademark of the workshop are marked on the foot of the pottery, as a guarantee of its origin and prestige. On specific request, each piece can be customized by adding the name of the buyer and/or the one of the person who will receive it.
Crystal Glaze Application
The last step before firing pottery for the second time is the application of a crystal glaze. Characterised by crystalline clusters of various shapes and colours embedded in a uniform and transparent glaze, this final coating makes the porous clay waterproof, so that the pottery can later be used to contain liquids.
The crystal glaze is sprayed over the entire ceramic surface by using a potter’s lathe and an airbrush. Thanks to this fundamental operation, after the final firing the majolica pottery will acquire its unmistakable brilliance.
Glaze Firing in a Pottery Kiln
The long path leading to the production of state of the art majolica pottery is about to end. Indeed, the final firing in a pottery kiln is the last step to achieve the creation of faience ceramics. Therefore, the oven always has the final say on the pieces’ quality!
The glaze firing is quite long and is considered one of the most important steps in the whole process of the majolica pottery production. It’s an intense and poignant moment, to the point that, in the past centuries, it was even accompanied by prayers and alchemical rituals.
This second firing is performed at around 900°- 920° C (1652 to 1688 degrees Fahrenheit). At this temperature the glaze materials melt to form a glasslike surface coating. This is thus the moment when the colours blend permanently with the pottery, and such union transforms a long creative process, conceived and designed by several hands and different craftsmen, in a unique work of art.
A precision is now to be made for all majolica pottery experts and appraisers: in order to produce gold lusterwares, a type of pottery with a golden glaze that gives the effect of iridescence, the fine decorative technique called the “Pomegranate Decoration” is performed. This process requires a third firing at a lower temperature (720° C, that-is-to-say 1328 degrees Fahrenheit), to control the amount of oxygen in the kiln atmosphere and join to the already cooked earthenware a precious decoration in gold.
The daily opening of the kiln is definitely the most exciting and satisfying moment for all the master potters of the workshop! Indeed, our majolica pottery is finally ready to be taken away by our customers. All our pieces are fantastic works of art that will make your houses more elegant and welcoming, thanks to their exquisite beauty.