Este 's Wonderful Handpainted Ceramic Plates

Interview with Giovanni Battista Fadigati. Exploring a family history that revolves around ceramics.

by Porzia Bergamasco

"In 1700 Europe abandoned the eastern markets and turned to a local production of ceramics. At the time, in Este there were already six fully operational companies. And it’s precisely the use of the traditional techniques dating back to 1700 that makes today’s products so unique.”

This is the story of Este Ceramiche Porcellane, the only ceramics factory still existing in the original historic center of Este (Italian town in the province of Padua, in the Veneto region). The artisan company was taken over in the middle of the last century by Giovanni Battista Giorgini, inventor of fashion shows at Palazzo Pitti (Florence). He was succeeded more than forty years ago by his grandson Giovanni Battista Fadigati.

Painting the Ceramics - Credits Gil Gilbert
An Artisan at Work - Credits Gil Gilbert

​ARTEMEST: What is your first recollection of the family factory?

GIOVANNI BATTISTA FADIGATI: It dates back to my childhood when my grandfather had bought the company and, proud of his achievement, invited me to visit it. At the time I lived in Tuscany, and I was very eager to visit the factory. A worker gave me a bit of clay to throw on a pottery wheel and it turned out to be a disaster! But part of that clay worked with my hands apparently became a part of me.

Picking the Colors - Credits Gil Gilbert
The Worshop - Credits Gil Gilbert

​A: When did you decide to take control of the company?

GBF: I never thought it would one day become my job. I never felt attracted to art and my studies were focused on mechanics. But before my grandfather died, I remember the precise day when during a family conversation he asked me, out of all grandchildren, to take care of Este. The decision was not easy, especially because it meant I had to leave Florence and Tuscany which I adored. But at the same time I l felt a sense of obligation to continue the family business. So at 26, during the ’70s, I found myself in charge of the company. The conflicts with the labor union and the end of the golden years of the economic boom, made the beginning quite difficult but thanks to the growing demand on the American market and a new relationship with the fashion industry, the company kept going and developing.

Signature Decoration - Credits Gil Gilbert
The Beautiful Handpainting - Credits Gil Gilbert

​A: What is your definition of the ceramics?

GBF: It is a fascinating material. Since the beginning, I was fascinated by the idea that from a poor material like clay, such valuable objects can be made. After all, it is said that the man was originally made from clay. I also see it as an unpredictable material. It has a character of its own that emerges during the consuming processing stages, sometimes challenging the artisan’s skills.

Este's Historic Setting - Credits Gil Gilbert

​A: You took over a company with great tradition. What did this mean to you personally?

GBF: More than an entrepreneur, I feel like a curator. One of my important responsibilities is to take care of the great heritage of Este. We are one of the few companies that has a museum which houses plaster molds and original models from the mid-eighteenth century.

​A: Can the fusion of innovation and tradition be a winning combination and how can these two values work together?

GBF: The past should be a source of inspiration but not a burden. The archive serves as a starting point for new ideas that interpret the taste of the market creating thus a natural process of evolution. One must follow the path of creativity and always keep moving forward.

​A: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

GBF: Doing things well and finding satisfaction in people’s appreciation of our work. I like explaining the meaning and the process behind the products, like for example our famous centerpieces, and seizing the reactions of the audience. And understating that it might be the same awe I feel it too, even after so many years.

​About the author Porzia Bergamasco is a journalist and consultant, as well as the curator of the Milano Design Film Festival and SaloneSatellite Award. Porzia specializes in design and architecture.

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