“Being a crafter means working both with your head and your heart” – an interview with Loredana Fioroli

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14929_1471961259738701_1386873575525026181_nLoredana Fioroli, artisan & artist originally from Varese and now living in Trentino, was one of the protagonists of the premiere edition of the Mini Expo of Creativity and will also attend the second edition, at the Literary Cafe “Bookique”, on September 20, 2014.

WazArs: We saw two of the tiles hand painted by two beginners, coming to grips with the overglaze painting technique commonly known as cuerda seca, at the first Mini Expo. On one of the plates the colour gray has stretched into bubbles, producing an interesting and unexpected effect, which does not look too bad at all. It somehow adds volume to the image.
Loredana: Sometimes an error surprises us, it helps us discover something new, it makes us better. I like unpredictable outcomes. An error can bring more substance to pottery, bringing out the life in it.
The beauty of cuerda seca is that it is not necessarily a bad thing when some colour goes astray and spills over. Perfection might take away the taste of what is beautiful, the excitement of the hand that has drawn and then applied the enamels. Dribbles and dripping may give nuance to a colour, making it more appealing.
W. In short, a mistake can be fruitful, productive and prove more instructive than a technically correct gesture? Is that what you mean? A little like in Eastern philosophies (and Socrates’): you should stop, take a break, reflect on your mistakes and understand how they can be intellectually stimulating. But then again, a craftsman inevitably commits a myriad of errors.
L. The error, in the end, is an experience in the making. If one does everything all right, there is little to learn. I have no problem admitting that half of my bakings do not satisfy me. Dealing with cuerda seca is like dealing with fate: the kiln decrees the outcome, it has the last word, always. Colours get mixed, they battle with each other. A process takes place, which stirs and moves colours, with unique effects. Certain colours that I obtained a little by chance, I can now no longer recreate. Too many circumstances have conspired to produce them.

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W. Clients do not complain about imperfections?
L. On the contrary. At the flea market it is not uncommon that the first piece that gets noticed and bought is the one displaying some tiny imperfections: evidence that they are handmade.
W. You seem to have an, as it were, intimate relationship with colours. 10532345_1471297969805030_5253998821797023470_n
L. I hear them and listen to them. In a way, they let me know when proportions are just about right. Colours have their own temperament. Some are moody and there are those who I have never quite been able to figure out and tend to avoid…but I do not lose sight of them; a time will come when I will get in resonance with them as well!
W. What are the roots of this passion for cuerda seca?
L. Years ago I was passing by the shop window of Pasquali (a paint store at 9 via Mazzini, in Trento) and I saw an ad for a course of cuerda seca. I found that it was perfect for people like me who do not like marks of brush strokes on the ceramic and prefer full colours. My first work was already ambitious [It is now hanging on a wall, and we agree with her assessment!] and it came out quite nice [ditto!]. Then it took me longer to get back to that initial level of quality, or better.
W. Does art run in the blood of your family?
L. My mother would work at the loom for a Swiss company exporting in the UAE. My father combined dyes, my uncle was a great ceramist. He taught me what he knew about pigments and crystalline glazes. I was a little girl fascinated by the magic that I sensed was hiding in these things.

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W. You also like to create the objects that you paint?
L. In general, no, because for me the most important thing is the colour. I purchase the pieces I use. For example, I turned a cachepot into a lamp. Having said that, starting from September I may well get back to the potter’s wheel. We will see.
W. Are you not concerned that your students might steal your trade?
L. Cuerda seca works like this: the same idea is interpreted in fifty different ways by fifty different people. There’s something for everyone.

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W. You grew up in Lombardy. What was it like for you to come and live in Trentino?
L. It was not easy, because initially I lived in a small village. What is weird is that many used to stop at our house, on their way back home, but we were seldom invited over to their places.
W. Could it be the dreaded “rispet” of the Trentini, the fear of comparisons and judgments? (cf. Christian Arnoldi, “Sad mountains”!)
L. I think Trentini find it hard to give themselves to other people. In doing so, they produce an asymmetry, and some invisible barriers. It is the kind of reserve which prevents the formation of deep bonds.
994490_1472274899707337_6066088639187991406_nW. Colours are easier to manage?
L. Life’s vicissitudes resurface in my use of colours. There are colours that are meditative, joyful, complicated, or even hostile, with a demanding background that I do not always know how to confront. I’m fond of selenium red, the bogeyman of potters, because of his bubbling, burning, puncturing temperament. I chose it over turquoise, about a year ago.
W. Cuerda seca above all else?
L. People like cuerda seca, but you can mix techniques, combining for instance cuerda seca and majolica, although it is not quite easy and it only works with certain colours. Some swell, they dig holes, and make me realize that I have still so much to learn from experimenting … but I don’t give up!10390184_1428379977430163_5035291062414813560_n
W. And when things go wrong?
L. Mistakes and botched executions are on the balcony: they have become saucers for my flowerpots. Nearly all of the things you see hanging on the walls are broken. The cracks do not propagate and so everything works out fine. In one case I drilled small holes and sewed them all with a leather cord.
W. You regularly spend your summer holidays in Salento. How do tastes and preferences compare to those of people living in Trento?
L. They are pretty much the same. I mean, Salento’s ceramics are part of a very important tradition, but in the end people, north and south, appreciate and buy essentially the same stuff. 1601348_1376967035904791_1191713344_n
W. A piece of advice for our readers?
L. Being a crafter means working with both your head and your heart. When you design something, all senses are heightened and focussed in the search for a shape, a colour, and seldom does this quest comes to a quick resolution; sometimes it takes days to give birth to an idea. Then, all of a sudden, there it is, and I let my senses morph into features, spaces, shapes into which I apply the glazes, feeling, as I do that, a sense of accomplishment. Next, fire will work the wonder. I wish everyone could experience the beauty of this ancient technique, which one can only learn slowly, for it helps to reconcile with themselves and it teaches patience. For this very reason, I started giving courses, attended with true passion, and fostering an atmosphere of stimulating, creative interaction.

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