ND Dolfi: In the Land of Maiolica Pottery
ND Dolfi opens the doors of its ceramic workshop in Montelupo, here Daria and Natalia continue the work started in the 50s by their grandfather the renowned ceramist Giovanni Dolfi, mixing traditional techniques with contemporary shapes and colors.
Giovanni Dolfi was already a renowned ceramist in one of the most prestigious ceramic companies in Montelupo, a town close to Florence. In the 50s, along with his children, he decided to open his own workshop and make his own ceramics.
His collections were inspired by the newly discovered material found in the archaeological excavations of Montelupo and was characterized by a research on techniques, enamels and colors used in the past.
In 1994, the management of the company passed to Giovanni's son Silvano and his daughters Natalia and Daria. Thanks to the knowledge developed through the course of decades and to the passion for experimenting distinctive of our family, the family continues the tradition of crafting objects by hand, while creating pieces with innovative shapes and colors and characterized by a more contemporary style.
A continue need for research coexists with a sincere love for this ancient job and has been part of our family for four generations.
How do your surroundings influence your work?
For century Montelupo has been an important hub in the production of ceramic and our works are inevitably influenced by this history. Thanks to those who passed on these traditions, we can now continue carrying on these ancient techniques, while the ever-changing world around us influences our work, expanding our creative horizons.
Is experimenting important to you?
Experimentation is paramount. Our products are endlessly re-invented and re-imagined. This is the engine that keeps our company going. We are lucky to work with a material that can be shaped through a series of different techniques and decorated with the use of an infinite variety of colors. We never stopped evolving along with our work and our pieces show the way we conceive and approach ceramic.
Can you describe your production process?
There are several phases in the production of our objects. It all starts from working the raw material though gypsum molds. Then the piece is shaped on the lathe and then the reliefs, so distinctive of our work, are applied.
The following step is drying and it is particularly important to guarantee the success of the following phases and to check for any blemishes. After the first baking, the object is decorated with enamels and other treatments that are hand applied before the second baking process.
The piece is now finished. Depending on the object, there can be details in gold or platinum to be added with the use of special metallic varnishes that require a third and final session in the oven at a lower temperature.
Who are the most important people working at ND Dolfi?
Our company is a family-run business. Every member of the Dolfi family that is involved in it has (or had) a key role within the company. From Giovanni, to Silvano Dolfi, to all the people who have collaborated with us in the course of the decades, like decorators and turners, who have been very important in the development and creation of our pieces.
Tell us something about ceramic that not everybody knows.
Years ago, in one of the old furnaces here in Montelupo, there was a superstition regarding the most delicate phase of ceramic making: baking. Baking happened then in a wood-burning furnace and the temperature was established only by looking at the color of the flames.
This superstition said that no woman could walk by the furnace while it was working, otherwise the piece would be ruined.