REPORTAGE: Italian Ceramic District by Maria Laura Berlinguer

Artisans in Caltagirone, a Sicilian town as famous as the renowned Faenza when it comes to ceramic manufacturing, have a knack for accepting all kind of suggestions coming from the sea.  Every form of art is able to consolidate over centuries only if it is open to new opportunities: the evolution of tastes of ceramic artists in Caltagirone is emblematic of Sicilian history, of its splendor, of its hard times and of the infinite beauty living on the island.  Today, more than a hundred ceramic studios make their home in Caltagirone, as well as other important ceramic manufacturing companies, exporting ceramics worldwide. Precisely in one of these, Andrea Branciforti took his first steps. 

Home décor with the mark of the artisan.

The designer and architect is son of ceramists from Caltagirone, he is the offspring of Sicily and mainly the offspring of that island desire of crossing the sea, experiencing other lands, and once back home, the desire of shaping what has been learnt into new forms. 

When in 2004 he set up his design studio and workshop, he gave it the name of “Improntabarre”, explaining that it recalls a symbol of serial productions,  the bar code indeed, but on which the artist's mark should never be missing. 

Among his masters, Branciforti mentions Ettore Sottsass, but he also firmly claims to be “inside the world of ceramics”, the world of Caltagirone, the town where chandeliers, jars, lanterns, inkwells, pastry shapers, everyday and home décor objects come to life.  From table plates to elegant sculptures, clay is molded to embrace every single aspect of reality, to let one’s imagination run wild and to enrich everyday actions, just like only the best designer can do.

From tradition to design.

It is exactly keeping in mind these cultural influences that Branciforti’s work gets even more appreciated.  It is not by chance that among the items selected by Design Italy there is the BN1 reading lamp, a multi-award-winning design object that well represents the “Improntabarre” manifesto. 

Behind the alien, described by the designer as “a friendly creature with such a body and a head which give life to a brightening sculpture”, there is the tradition of typical Caltagirone’s shapes linked to the need of overcoming every cliché. The artisan touch, his own mark, lies in the slip casting of white earthenware and the completely handmade application of the head, eyes and antennas, just like only the best Made in Italy can guarantee.

Lamps, plates and stools with a touch of irony.

Caltagirone's ceramics made their own mark with jars and tableware, a feature that is well reflected by the set of plates from the “Urban” collection and by the “Legami” stackable bowls selected by Design Italy among the many Improntabarre pieces, tableware for everyday use also acting as precious home décor. 

Branciforti says he focuses his research on creating projects “whose leitmotif is irony, going hand in hand with functionality”.  In such a tiny sculpture as the “Holly” stool, the message is clear: an item of furniture tells its own story, invites us to look at things through lighthearted eyes, to grasp its complexity.