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January 2010


DESIGN LAB

Family Affair
By Annette M. Rose-Shapiro

ALDO FUMANTI KEEPS GUBBIO'S CERAMIC TRADITION ALIVE

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PRIDE OF PLACE (click photo for larger view)

In the Umbrian hilltown of Gubbio, the tradition of hand-painted ceramics stretches back to the 15th-century work of maestro Giorgio Andreoli. Walk the cobblestone streets of this beautiful Medieval town and it becomes evident that his art is still very much alive. It's worth climbing some of Gubbio's steep passageways or ducking into its little alleys where ceramic shops display wares on the walls outside, enticing visitors to come in and explore.

Capo maestro Aldo Fumanti, a native of Gubbio, began his apprenticeship in ceramics at the age of 14 and quickly realized that he could best express his creativity through this medium. He opened his own studio, Ceramiche Aldo Fumanti, in 1971. "I was fortunate to establish my independence early in my career," explains Fumanti. "I was constantly experimenting with the material, trying new patterns and forms that would work for housewares and everyday objects."

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Indeed, what sets Fumanti's studio apart is the variety of work he produces. Many of Gubbio's ceramic studios create the large, hand-painted plates, urns and decorative objects that have made the town famous. In addition to these items, Fumanti offers full sets of dinnerware—plates in several sizes, serving platters, bowls, wine and water jugs, coffee urns and cups, mugs, salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar cruets, butter dishes, and anything else you can think of for the table—including lighting to hang above it. The shelves of his bottega on the Via P. da Palestrina are stocked with dinnerware, lamps and clocks in several different patterns, including pomegranates, lemons, sunflowers and florals.

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A MAN AND HIS ART (click photo for expanded view)

Fumanti believes that his success is due in large part to many years of collaboration with his wife, Antonietta, a retired art teacher and graduate of Perugia's Accademia di Belle Arti. Together, they developed the design motifs that became standard for their studio. "One of my greatest joys is working with my family," says Fumanti. "I've been able to share my passion for this art with them, and we work very well together as a team." Son Matteo and daughter Marzia joined the family business in an era when not many young people are interested in a lengthy apprenticeship and years of hard work. "It gives me so much satisfaction to carry on our family tradition," says Marzia, also an Accademia di Belle Arti graduate. "I studied painting at the Accademia, and working with my father in the studio allows me to express my art through ceramic design." Matteo's path started much differently, after studying modern literature at the university. "After a year of military service, I began working with my father. I really wasn't very enthusiastic at first to spend my time this way, but I soon realized the importance of his art," he says. "Now I am very proud to have the opportunity to promote and continue Gubbio's ceramic design legacy."

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Each piece from Ceramiche Aldo Fumanti is crafted by hand, then fired in the family's laboratorio in another part of town. The next step is hand-painting the pattern, firing again, then glazing and firing one last time. Visiting the bottega and seeing the extensive line of housewares, one understands the dedication and hours of work the Fumanti family devotes to the art. And using it every day on your own table brings the centuries-old tradition and aesthetic beauty of Gubbio into your home.

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