Ceramics-Making Class in Florence, Italy: The Tale of the Tuscan Sombrero

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join in on a very different Tuscan tradition–the art of ceramic making.  To be honest, I had no idea that pottery was even a thing here–my knowledge of ceramic making pretty much comes from those ridiculous Color Me Mine stores that cropped up in white upper class neighborhoods in my Orange County neighborhood in the early 2000’s.  But the first time that I ever traveled to Sorrento and saw all of the beautifully colored tilework, hand-painted plates and kitchenware that are sold in almost every single beachside shop, I realized that ceramic work is actually a pretty famous craft that has been around in Italy since the Renaissance.

So with the help of Officina Ceramica, I spend my Tuesday night alongside fellow bloggers Girl in Florence, Alla Fiorentina, Studentsville Florence and Tiana Kai as we delved into the art of ceramics making by crafting our very own hand-painted plates.

The workshop of Officina Ceramica, run by the lovely artist Enzo.

After a brief introduction to the tools used in ceramic making and a short history lesson, our trusty Italian expert Enzo invited us to begin crafting away.  Note: As dear, sweet Enzo is Italian, clearly nobody had explained to him what happens when you leave a bunch of American girls in an art studio with wine, snacks & music.  He explained to us exactly how to center our plates on the pottery wheel, the geometric patterns used to recreate Renaissance designs, and which colors and brushes to use in order to get the effects desired.  Of course by this point, I was way too excited with the various colors and beautiful examples of pottery on the wall to hear anything but PAINT PAINT SPIN WHEEL PAINT SOME MORE!!!! YAY!!!

Enzo, the owner of Officina Ceramica and all-around cool guy.
Examples of some of the patterns used throughout the Renaissance.
Although our knees may have been in our armpits, Enzo assures Georgette that “You don’t have to sit like a lady to make good plates…Si?”

After figuring out the exact positioning of my body so that both my paint cup and my wine cup were within easy reach, I slowly began to spin my plate and start painting over the penciled designs Enzo had helped me draw.  Enzo had explained to us that actually, all of those crazy designs you see on hand-painted plates are usually very simple to recreate due to the geometric design of the pattern.  Back when pottery became the latest craze to hit the Renaissance, the demand for sets of intricately designed plates meant that nobody had time to spend 3 hours trying to make 6 identical items–you had to be fast and efficient, and the easiest way to do that is by repeating the same stroke over and over and over again in different ways to make pretty patterns.

Divide and conquer!

After the thrill of the first brush stroke, it was time to get down to business.  In other words, I quickly made that plate my geometric bitch, as evidenced below:


The beginnings of a Renaissance masterpiece…or a weird looking sun, whichever you prefer.

But after a few minutes of spin, spin, brush I began to feel a little uneasy.  Sure, the design was a classic and hundreds of years old.  And yes, the original design was beautiful.  But beautiful isn’t my style–I’m more the loud and messy type.  And so I decided to break with Italian tradition and instill my own personality onto my plate, because let’s face it–the odds of me using this plate to eat chips and salsa are much higher than for any Italian aperitivo.


If only they’d had sombreros during the Renaissance, I’m pretty sure this design would have definitely been flying off the shelves!

Thus ends the tale of the Tuscan sombrero–and while the ceramics masters who created this artwork centuries ago may be rolling over in their graves, I bet it’s only because they didn’t have chips and salsa yet in order to come up with this perfect design on their own!

Want to create your own ceramics party with Officina Ceramica?  Get in touch with them on their Facebook page by clicking here or calling their studio at +39 339 131 2990 for information and bookings!  Groups of max. 8 people usually runs around €25 per person!

Author: The Florence Diaries

Living in Florence means always looking out for mystery poo on the sidewalk.

One thought

  1. haha you are awesome Gina, you captured our night of debauchery, wine drinking and oh yeah – we painted some plates right? And yes, sitting like a lady isn’t very me is it! So happy you were able to come, I see a rich future of making fools of ourselves and sombrero-loving lifestyles! ❤

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