Majolica – Made in Faenza, Italy

Becky’s lovely Tavira vase post reminded me of the beautiful ceramics we saw a few years ago on a trip to Faenza in Italy, the town between Bologna and Florence which produces work of great originality from old, traditional, designs and occasional new designs.  These ceramics go by different names, depending on who is speaking about them: sometimes they are called Majolica ware, and sometimes they are called Faience, the French word for the ceramic, and the word from which the town derives its name.

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Faenza has been a flourishing city from the 2nd century AD; from the 11th century it started to really expand and grow and by the Renaissance period it had reached its peak, thanks to good relations with nearby Florence, the centre of Italian artistic life.  The city we see today with fine Renaissance architecture and Neo-classical monuments is a testament to this period of prosperity and growth.  P1090225

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Faenza majolica was born here because the land was rich in the type of clay needed for the production of fine pottery and because the inhabitants were able to mould the clay into beautiful objects.  Over the years the craftsmen absorbed the knowledge flowing from Florence and became experts in shape and line as they perfected the pottery and became artists.

Crowns, crowns and more crowns - a very popular subject
Crowns are one of the most popular objects and are very traditional

Majolica is terracotta clay, glazed with powder and water which makes the object waterproof and gives it a high gloss surface on which traditional designs are painted.  Sometimes the object is fired twice to give it strength and sometimes it is baked in a plaster cast which is then broken to expose the piece.

Crowns awaiting embellishment

The designs are etched on to the glaze, or sometimes the object is covered in paper on which pin-pricks are made, after which black coal-dust is used to stamp the lines through the pin-pricks – a form of stencilling.  Precious metals are also used and this makes the object more expensive, of course, as gold, silver and platinum need 3 firings and to be heated to 750 degrees.

Birthing set - for the new mother after baby is born
This set is given to a woman when she gives birth. It is for her first meal and includes a soup-bowl, egg-cups, plates, teapot etc.

One of the expert painters works on a design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceramic Plaque on Wall in Faenza

This is the sign for the oldest workshop in Faenza

Crowns are a very popular subject

In September and October international contemporary and classical ceramic art events draw majolica amateurs, collectors and artists to Faenza from all over the world.

This 'silver' decoration is pure platinum
The ‘silver’ stripe is actually platinum and the vase was priced at €1,400.

The ceramics alone make the trip to Faenza worthwhile and there are over 50 workshops most of which welcome visitors – look for the signs outside the shops (see one above).

However, Faenza is also a town of outstanding artistic and architectural features, two beautiful squares in Renaissance style, elegant arcaded streets, palaces, a 15th-century cathedral and an 18th-century theatre add to the aesthetic enjoyment while the food is superb.

Not to be missed:   The magnificent Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza has some of the world’s most beautiful pieces of majolica from every epoch and from all over the world, including a section dedicated to pottery from the Renaissance period.

A very expensive group of ceramics
Most items here are expensive.  For example,  the animal skin ceramic tea set was €400.

FOOTNOTE=

A ‘Majolica line’ can be traced from Faenza to the UK, through the centuries right up to the nineteenth when the technique of tin and lead glazing was further developed in London and Brighton before moving to Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.   Herbert Minton’s porcelain factory in Stoke on Trent was already quite famous when, Leon Arnoux, the great French ceramic chemist joined it in 1841 to help regenerate the production of lead-glazed pottery based on Renaissance designs.

These early pieces were destined for English gardens as the lead glaze protected urns, fountains, garden seats and ornaments from the English weather.  Minton then used the same process for their fast-growing trade in culinary dishes, each piece descriptive of the food that would be served on it, oyster plates, fish platters crab, lobster and sardine boxes,  and game dishes showing rabbit, partridge, pheasant and quail.

(I have seen references to the effect that the word Majolica refers to the fact that the goods were first exported to Majorca and then re-imported,  It seems plausible but I haven’t been able to ascertain that this is, in fact, where the word came from).

 

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The new Theme doesn’t work. Sorry!

I feel I must apologise to everyone who glances at my Posts because I’ve made a right mess of the blog.   All I wanted to do was remove my photograph from the middle of the featured image on my former theme but I couldn’t do this, so I tried to change it again.  This didn’t work and then I found I couldn’t get back to my former theme as it seems to have been discontinued.

Four or five themes later and at least a couple of hours, I have got to call a halt as I have Christmas presents to wrap.  I shall try and fix this tomorrow, but somehow, I have a feeling this is going to take a long time.  I am very frustrated with it now so I shall pour a large glass of red wine to help me put things back in perspective.  And I can blame WP for this!

Anyone got any ideas?  I want my categories at the top as I had before, but not so spaced out as they are on this theme.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

My one and only balloon trip was over the vineyards of Rioja and the town of Lograno in Northern Spain.  It was both exhilarating and exciting but I’m not sure I would do it again!  It was dark when we got to the spot and dawn was just breaking when we took off – it was magical, wonderful, and a time I shall always remember.

Here are a few photographs of the Ascent.

I apologise to the readers, I cannot get rid of the white space between two of the photographs.  I shall have to work on this and try and re-edit.

Righting the Balloon

 

It’s scary when the flame goes Whoosh (Is she praying, by the way?)

 

 

 

 

I may look calm ……
A Pink Dawn
High Above the Clouds
Rioja’s vineyards

 

 

Gothenburg: New Beginnings

In Sweden last week, and despite the -4 degrees, I had one of the best walks I’d had in Gothenburg for many years.  I’ve always loved the city but on earlier visits to family, we’ve stuck to the areas I know and enjoy.

Fish Market
Exterior Fish Market, Gothenburg

My first visit is always to the Feskekorke – quite literally translated as “fish church” – where fishmongers have been hawking their freshest wares since 1847 and where the shop in the basement and the restaurant up top can satisfy both the inner and outer gourmand.  Sweden’s fish, in its quality, is the best in the world in my opinion.

The Avenyn

Then there’s the Avenyn, the wide Boulevard that runs from the centre of town up to the Konstmuseet, where one can see works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt, and some truly delightful 19th-century Nordic art, including the beautiful, evocative paintings of Carl Larsson.  The old part of town is known as The Haga, well worth a visit to browse the chic boutiques in the narrow streets full of old Swedish charm, and to people watch from the cafés that serve everything from vegan to high-end Scandinavian food.  Many of these are housed in pretty 19th-century wooden dwellings that not long ago were slated for demolition.

Skansen Kronan, Gothenburg- Pixabay
Skansen Kronan, on Risåsberget Hill in the Haga district.

 

Shopping Mall, Gothenburg
Shopping Mall in Gothenburg

I never seemed to get beyond these places, partly because of the numerous coffee shops selling cinnamon buns that I found it difficult to resist.  In Gothenburg, independent coffee shops are the rule: ask for a Starbucks and you’ll be directed to the train station where you’ll find the only branch of the chain in the city.  Coffee comes strong and black but there us always milk on the side.  In many places, a second cup comes free.

This time in Gothenburg, however, we went somewhere quite different.Canal walk in Gothenburg

The Gothia River, which cuts through the city, was home to the massive Swedish shipbuilding industry between the mid-19th century and its demise in the 1970s, much like the shipbuilding industry in Scotland and Belfast.Canal walk in Gothenburg 2

 

At its peak, 15,200 employees worked in the industry; Gothenburg was known as a shipbuilding town and Sweden was a world-leading shipbuilding nation.

Work in progressIn recent years, however, the wharves, factories and large tracts of derelict land have been undergoing a slow and painstaking transformation.  The area of Lindholmen is now one of the most dynamic places in Gothenburg, a hub of entrepreneurial skills, universities, colleges, and a business hub to encourage business and academia to work together.   Cranes and overhead gantries are silhouetted against the sky, ferries bustle across the water carrying workers and residents of the new elegant apartments lining the embankment to and from the new ‘town’.

Stena Line Boats in Harbour
Stena Line ships awaiting passengers in the Harbour

Lindholmen has moved on and has morphed from a lively shipbuilding area into a flourishing residential town, businesses have relocated here and former industrial buildings have become sports halls, gymnasiums, and chic cafes and restaurants.  The well-laid out streets and paths along the waterside, the canals that run through the ‘town’ and the sense of a young, innovative spirit is palpable. The free ferry ride to Lindholmen

There are many ways of getting to Lindholmen, bus, tram, cycling or by the free ferries which runs every 8 minutes between Stenpiren and Lindholmspiren, weekdays between the hours of 07:00 to 18:00. The ride only takes 5 minutes.

AsOne of the sleek ferryboats that criss-crosses the river in Gothenburg we had walked from the train station in town we took the ferry and walked around the area, admiring the elegant apartments with balconies that overlooked the harbour, the colourful buildings and the ducks that waddled up to us when it looked as though we might stop and feed them.  Canal in Gothenburg (Lindholmen)It was a delightful walk in an area I’d never visited before, but it’s now on my list for further exploration and a return visit to the Turkish restaurant which served one of the best pastas I’ve had in years.

How’s that for Internationalism!

Gothenburg, colourful building
New colourful buildings in the University/Business area of Lindholmen

A few tips:

Invest in a Göteborg City Card. It may seem pricey at £28 for 24 hours, but this gives you free or reduced entry to most museums and attractions, free travel on public transport including the Gothia River ferry taxis, as well as some city tours.

Do have a ride on Electric bus route 55:  Gothenburg’s first route for electric buses runs between Lindholmen Science Park and Johanneberg Science Park via Avenyn, Brunnsparken and Götaälvbron. The buses are silent and emission-free and run on electricity from wind power and hydropower. The bus route is among the most modern in the world. Among other things, passengers can recharge their phones onboard and enter and exit the bus from indoors. Ordinary Västtrafik tickets are used to ride the bus.

Beware of cyclists – like many Scandinavian countries, the bicycle is king in Gothenburg. Don’t walk on the cycle tracks (the trails are well posted on the pavements) and keep a particular eye out for them on the pavements of the wider streets.  Bike station, Pixabay

End of the day over Gothenburg Harbour
Sunshine on a steely sea: late afternoon, Lindholmen, Gothenburg