The story of Deruta is the story of la ceramica; the pottery of this small Umbrian town is known throughout the world. With soil rich in water and clay, the necessary natural resource was in abundance and, thus, Deruta was the perfect place for such a craft to have its origins. The evolution of Deruta majolica goes back to the twelfth-fourteenth centuries when the pottery was made primarily for daily use - bowls, basins, and pitchers decorated with geometric, floral, and animal patterns and brown in color. In the fifteenth century, yellow, blue, and orange were added; the motifs became more intricate and complicated and the artistry reached its height. Now not only for daily use, the majolica took on a ceremonial tone and exquisite ceramic plates were created with pictures of noblemen or, perhaps that of a bride and groom...a perfect wedding gift! The artists, Giacomo Mancini and Francesco Urbini refined the “lustro” technique and tiles and other decorative objects were then in demand in Umbrian churches. Styles may have changed during the successive years, but the craftsmanship only got better. One can see firsthand the production of Deruta ceramica in the many workshops, studios, and factories found in the town.
My visit to Deruta last Wednesday had a personal touch. When visiting the Antica Fornace Deruta, one of many ancient kilns, I was privileged to meet Giovanni Baiano and his lovely wife and learn, firsthand, the history of this local craft. Giovanni's vast knowledge and boundless enthusiasm made my visit memorable and the story of how he and his American wife met just by chance reinforced my belief that romantic love can happen in the “wink of an eye”...or is it a “turn of the potter's wheel.”