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Alessi Ceramics


Giacomo Alessi was born in 1955 in the Baroque town of Caltagirone about 40 minutes’ drive south of Catania. In Italy it’s known as “The city of ceramics” due to its thousand-year-old tradition. The name itself – Caltagirone – derives from an Arabic word meaning the Castle or Fortress of the vases.

The area has a natural abundance of clay and can trace local production of functional pottery back to the 2nd century BC. Over the centuries as Sicily fell under the successive control of the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, the Spanish and the Normans, new techniques and art styles were incorporated into the local ceramic production, making it one of the most distinctive in Italy.

Ceramic is everywhere in Caltagirone, integrated in ancient and modern buildings, churches, monuments, private houses, parks and squares. The Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, built in the 1600s has 142 steps that are hand-decorated with ceramics depicting the city’s pottery making tradition. The historical and cultural significance of the city and surrounding territory has earned the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage programme.

The Alessi workshop was established in 1989 out of Giacomo’s determination to preserve and celebrate the unique heritage and style of Caltagirone ceramics. The hand-made pieces are painted in the typical Sicilian colours of sage green and yellow and depict local legends, Greek myths, modern satire, everyday life, learned quotations and hilarious stories.

Alessi authentically reproduces these ancient designs in every detail including the distinctive mottling caused by early fiiring methods. He calls this "the perfection of imperfection" a philosophy he applies equally to his modern ceramic pieces where coloured glazes are allowed to run and brushstrokes are evident.

Giacomo was made a knight of the Italian Republic in 2007. He is a signatory of the “Manifesto for the Applied Arts of the New Century” and included in the book of Living Human Treasures of the UNESCO Register of Intangible Heritage for Sicily.

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