Ceramics are a testimony to a history of traditions, an artistic and expressive innovative way to approach craftsmanship. These are the elements that make today's local scenario so fruitful.
The experimental traits are shaped in different ways. Inspirations intertwine in the works of master potters, echoing tradition and ideas which are give physical shape, concepts, rites, intangible influences, expressed in clean, modern forms, adapted to new uses.
Procedures accompany the artisan's activity.Excellent pottery made with techniques personalized within the artisans' workshops. The nude and porous terracotta is juxtaposed with glazes and enamels, contrasting bright surfaces and soft slip colours. Black bucchero and raku surfaces, with iridescent and peculiar surface (cavillato) glazes. Pure white, or gold, shines and shades.
The production is varied, including objects that combine form and function, or artistic and ornamental elements to be integrated in any setting.
Sardinian pottery and craftsmanship in general, develop today in a favourable environment. The last local craftsmanship biennale, the nineteenth edition of the Domo event, was awarded the prestigious 2011 Compasso d'Oro design prize. The award highlighted a major change, a renewed interest in crafting procedures, in the concept of slow design. An invitation, an opportunity to give new life to it.
Archaic identity and traditional myths.
Sardinia, a land of durability, archaeologist Giovanni Lilliu wrote on local pottery and the identity of the island in general, referring to something that stays, a native expressive continuity, without major changes, which assimilates contaminations at a slow pace.
Neolithic pottery, unique in its lines - including objects which were as good as today's production with its modern design ideas, Lilliu carries on, interprets the feminine, rounded, overflowing shape of the the Mother Goddess. Later on, however, Nuragic pottery featured simpler designs, a tribute to the strength of war.
During the following periods, Phoenician, Punic and Roman pottery was imported more often, thanks to the tighter bonds among different civilizations, thus making it harder to understand whether a product was in fact local. Productions acquired a clearer design only in modern times, remaining almost unchanged until recently.
For instance, terracotta was slipped and glazed. Few and functional models were lathe-crafted: pitchers, marigas, containers, sciveddas, pans, pingiadas, flasks, frascus, bowl, discus, and pots and pouring receptacles.
The setting is rural and pastoral. They are objects of daily use, for the transportation and storage of water, baking, the preparation of desserts and food products. Yet, embellishments and expressive characterizations were also used. The festive versions were used during solemn occasions, anniversaries, rituals, and were part of the set of votive tools. They were made by the most skilled figuli using graphite and decorated with plastic additions, plant motifs and the figures of saints and other religious and good-luck symbols.
These productions which belonged to the local material culture, together with the production of other sectors such as hand-made weaving, jewelry, carving and basket weaving, shared a secret language, and intimate and evocative jargon.
Towards contemporary design
Contemporary productions evolved from what was a revolution in craft production, the birth of ceramic art.
Invented at the beginning of last century by an innovative group of local artists, ceramic art substantially changed the concept of craftsmanship through the introduction of elements associated today with the idea of contemporary design.
The activities carried out by Francesco Ciusa, Federico Melis, Salvatore Fancello, Giuseppe Biasi and other ceramic artists, introduced the concept of applied arts, connecting the object with aesthetics and tradition.
Under the name of SPICA, Society for the Ceramic Art Industry, the first ceramic-based business venture was launched in 1919 by Francesco Ciusa in Cagliari. The company manufactured decorative objects, made of moulded glazed terracotta. Apprenticeships moved from the workshops to the Schools of Applied Arts. The first institutes were created. Ciusa taught at the School of Oristano, Salvatore Fancello in Dorgali.
Immediately after the war, there was a new impetus thanks to eclectic artists such as Eugenio Tavolara, operating within the ENAPI (National Association of Craftsmanship and Small Industries) and then ISOLA projects (Sardinian Institute of Craftsmanship).
But pottery was also an expressive technique appreciated by artists. Many of them, including artist Maria Lai who recently passed away, have been involved in craftsmanship by designing unique and series handmade products.