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Italian Pottery Dinnerware - How to Find, Mix, Match, Buy and Care for Authentic Italian Pottery

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Post Italian Pottery Dinnerware - How to Find, Mix, Match, Buy and Care for Authentic Italian Pottery   Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:38 pm

I am second generation Italian. My maternal grandparents, my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop, immigrated to the east coast of United States from Popoli, Abruzzo, in 1910. Pop-Pop's homemade wine and Mom-Mom's pasta sauce cooked with home grown garlic, basil and tomatoes still fuel my DNA. Maybe that explains my ongoing obsession with Italian pottery.

Or perhaps, as I love to speculate, somewhere back along that Italian blood line, I have an uncle, a potter, who masterfully pulled up clay on his wheel, or a cousin who meticulously painted variations of ancient patterns on unfinished clay pieces (bisque) en process of becoming pasta bowls or biscotti jars.

Having made this happy disclosure and shared my speculations, I continue, knowing that you need not be Italian to share my passion.

Whether you're in Italy in person (lucky you!), or visiting your USA hometown specialty shop that sells imported Italian pottery, or shopping on the web, the number of patterns, and the forms, shapes or functionality offered in each pattern is, for all practical purposes, endless. And, no matter whether you're new to Italian pottery or a long-time collector, there's always more to learn and consider.

Let's just discuss Italian dinnerware and related accessories, because if they are you're focus, they offer an embarrassment of riches and present you with a delightful dilemma. Where to start if you want to bring a touch of Italy to your home or buy a gift? How do you transform meals and entertainment into celebrations just by using hand made, hand painted Italian ceramics? How do you convert your kitchen counter into a conversation piece with an authentic Italian canister set? And, once acquired, how do you care for these Italian works of "arte"?

* First, you need a reputable source to get a glimpse of what's available in Italian pottery.
* Then you'll want to explore patterns (also known as Collections) and perhaps play with mixing and matching their pieces.
* If you haven't already, this would be a good time to learn about the centuries-old process of creating Italian pottery so you can fully appreciate the value of your investment.
* And, finally, once you have them in your home, you'll want to know how to care for your pieces to protect their beauty for generations.

Reputable Source. First, find a reputable Italian pottery source that offers a large cross-section of collections and a variety of products within those collections. They should happily answer your questions and delight in providing additional information so you can feel confident in the authenticity and quality of what you purchase. Why? Because like many popular, high quality items, knock-offs of Italian pottery do appear. Additionally, understand that descriptions like Italian design or Italian inspired do not necessarily mean Made in Italy. There are reputable non-Italian dinnerware manufacturers who openly market designs bearing an Italian reference.

Until you've touched the authentic work, seen the brush strokes, and come to understand some of the production intricacies, you'll appreciate having a trusted source, one interested in helping if you request it. Especially if you are new to this adventure, you will also feel better about working with sources who guarantee their products and your satisfaction.

Mixing and Matching Collections. Italian pottery comes simple and elegant. It also comes bold, dramatic, colorful, cheerful, and full of astounding detail. Depending on your preferences, you may love the impact of full drama, prefer quiet simplicity, or decide just one piece added to your existing dinner set or kitchenware is absolutely perfect. You may also start with classic forms and later find bolder, bigger pieces more appealing as you get more addicted (sorry, I meant adventurous!) with your acquisitions. (Rumor has it that I once generously purchased a large piece to give as a wedding present. Somehow it ended up in my collection. Hmmm! I plead plausible deniability! )

Your one and only guide? Respond to what "speaks" to you even if it "matches" nothing. Keep in mind that eclectic epitomizes the magic of Italian pottery. So have fun; mix or match with abandon. Let that be your guide.

Process and "Investment". These two topics are related in one important respect. At first, Italian pottery may seem expensive to you. However, if it is authentic, made in Italy, and imported into the United States, the pricing becomes more understandable. This is, after all, functional arte -- hand made, hand painted in a lengthy, centuries-old process. Whether you use it, display it or both, your Italian pottery is an investment. The pieces (plates, platters, biscotti jars, butter dishes, wine coasters, footed bowls and much, much more) are canvasses for masterful painting of intricate, centuries-honored designs as well as contemporized forms and design.

Even if you are not ordinarily interested in process (the details of how things come into being), if collecting Italian pottery intrigues you, then you are sure to enrich your appreciation of the arte of this pottery by learning something about the process.

A final recommendation about the investment aspect -- if your budget is limited, and even if it is not, buy the highest quality you can afford and make sure it's authentic. Both elements are comfortably accomplished if you are working with a reputable source.

Use and Care. Understanding the pottery production process and acknowledging the value of Italian pottery as arte will help you protect it during your daily use and care. If you love it like I do, the joyful output of this ancient craft into modern-day masterpieces will easily offset the little extra loving care it requires.

Before you buy, there are certain assurances you want, which reliable Italian pottery sources will always openly provide:

* The pieces are guaranteed to be 100% food safe in compliance with FDA standards and U.S.A. import regulations for lead and cadmium.
* Large decorative pieces that are not meant to have contact with food will be clearly specified as such.

Over the years, your pottery can form tiny lines in the glaze (crazing). Durability of the pottery is not affected, only cosmetics, but proper care helps keep the work as beautiful as the day you unwrap it. So, here's a primer on care after purchase. Again, any reliable source will provide much greater detail:

* Hand washing is best.
* If you use a dishwasher, a fine china cycle, low heat setting and high quality detergent is recommended. Provide ample space between pieces to prevent water pressure from rattling them against each other.
* Microwave use? Strongly discouraged! And keep pieces off of and out of the direct heat of a stove top burner or an oven. The pieces are not designed for cooking or re-heating.
* To avoid possible thermal shock and cracking, run hot tap water over dishes and serving pieces immediately before filling them with very hot foods or liquids. This is called tempering.
* To deflect high heat in cups, mugs or teapots, insert a metal spoon while pouring a hot liquid.
* To remove tea stains, soak with solution of chlorine bleach and rinse promptly. (2 tablespoons bleach per quart of water)
* To prevent glaze damage, avoid scouring powders or harsh scrubbers.

While this Use and Care section may seem long, it is not intended to scare you. In fact, if you reread it, you'll see that your pottery merely requires good old common sense. When in doubt, just answer the following question: How would I proceed if this were a Rafael fresco or a Michelangelo sculpture? Failing that, you should contact the online web store, your local shop or the person from whom you purchased your Italian pottery for guidance.

Most important of all, enjoy the adventure and pride of owning and using this Italian arte in your every day life.

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