by Martio Ayala
On this Arty Friday experience, students had a truly unique experience in the lush Tuscan hillside of Fiesole, just north of Florence. The day began with a quick meet-up at the F_AIR building to gain a little insight on the ceramics workshop that was to be visited. The workshop belongs to the Fantoni family, and was founded by the very famous ceramist Marcello Fantoni. This Florentine who flourished in the post-World War II years has been quite influential in the world of ceramics, and many of his pieces are featured in museums around the world, including the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum of London and the National Bargello Museum here in Florence. His workshop is open to students who wish to learn the art of ceramics, and many of his pupils have gone on to become designers and famous ceramic artists themselves. Fantoni passed away in August of 2011 and for a few years his workshop was shut down, until his grand daughter Ginevra reopened it in order to continue the Fantoni legacy. The workshop hosts visitors from around the world.
The group arrived to Fiesole by public transport. Ginevra and Fantoni’s son were already waiting for the group and gave a warm welcome, as well as a packet with postcards of Fantoni’s masterpieces. Before beginning the hands-on portion of the trip, the hosts invited the group to walk around the workshop and look around. There were many beautiful works throughout the workshop, and many were made by the hand of Marcello Fantoni himself. Many students tools this opportunity to carefully study the work of a master in the same setting in which they were created. I myself took the leisure to study many of the works as close as possible (without touching, of course!). Fantoni had remarkable ability with the glazes; each piece seems to be so alive, so filled with character.
After the tour of the workshop, the group donned the labcoats that were available and sat at the workstations as clay was handed out to each person. There were tools of all sorts and the Fantonis encouraged the group to work with as much freedom as needed. With our minds still buzzing from viewing the works of Marcello, we all began working. Some students used the wheels that were available to make cups, others opted to make them the old fashioned way, and still others decided to make small scale scupltures. In a matter of minutes, the workshop was filled with the sound of hands kneading and softening the clay, thuds and smacks, the music of art being made.
Creativity flowed, as did the minutes, and after a very quick par of hours, work time was over. The Fantonis were very pleased with our work and commended us on our skills. It was agreed upon that each pieces made would be fired in the workshop kiln and delivered to the group later on, our very own, and very special souvenirs from the Fantoni workshop. After the work session the group was allowed to have lunch on the workshop (which is also the Fantoni residence) premises. Some students took the opportunity and explored the area. Curiosity led to inquiry, as some students found old, faulty ceramic pieces that were stored away for testing glazes and asked if they could have the pieces. The Fantoni gladly obliged, and soon many students had yet another souvenir from the Fantoni workshop.
The day ended with a walk back to the bus stop which took the group through a residence area of Fiesole that was filled with beautiful sights of Florence and of the Tuscan landscape.