Become a Florentine Artist

Contributing Writer: Alyssa Gregory

My classes finished plates.

Florence is a town of artists. Sadly, I am not among the gifted.  My stick people drawings are disproportionate and any songs I attempt to play on any instrument sound like car wreck.

So, as you can guess, I usually shy away from any event that would showcase my child-like artistic ability. But for the summer I’m in town where no one knows me; therefore no one can judge me so why not take full advantage of that.

I’d seen plenty of drawing classes offered but knew for that you had to have at least a little bit of talent. Then I heard about pottery painting, an ancient Florentine art, and thought how hard it can be to paint a plate.

Trying to draw a straight line by spinning the plate and not moving your hand.
Trying to draw a straight line by spinning the plate and not moving your hand.

So I signed up for a class and soon learned painting a plate is harder than you think if you can’t even make a straight line.

Enzo, the instructor handed me a bright white plate, handmade by a local artisan who collects the clay from the same clay well used in the Renaissance. He then explained the paints and brushes we’d be using. The paint is made from iron oxides and water, the same type of paint they’ve used since the Renaissance.

After the explanations the painting began. I, of course, had unintentionally sat at a table of artists, fashion designers who could not only draw parallel straight lines but intricate designs, too. So, as they created their own complex designs on the plate, I followed the recommended “easy” pattern.

One of the artists at my table.
One of the artists at my table.

I put easy in quotations because for me it was anything but easy because it required many straight lines. It wasn’t stress-free but it was fun! After I had accepted the fact that I’d be no Michelangelo, I decided to go for an abstract Picasso style.

My attempt at painting.

When I finally finished, Enzo came over and within a few minutes had miraculously fixed my many mistakes. With his help my fleur-de-lis turned from a red blob on the middle of my plate into the recognizable icon!

Enzo carefully correcting my mistakes.
Enzo carefully correcting my mistakes.

While it is not sale-able and I doubt even my mother would want to showcase it, I’m extremely proud of it. I might even claim that, after Enzo’s touch ups, it is my best piece of artwork.

I had a blast painting my own piece of ceramic pottery. And for an hour or so, to the people passing on the street, I looked like a real Florentine artist and I felt like one with paintbrush in hand as I hunched over the spinning pottery wheel.

Whether you are a beginner or an artistic genius, I recommend experiencing firsthand the ancient Florentine art of pottery painting.  Learn the history of the art, let your creative juices flow and there is an added bonus. You have your very own handmade Florentine pottery souvenir to show off to everyone back home!

My class and their finished products.
My class and their finished products.

You can reach Enzo by phone, 339 13.15.990, or at his pottery studio, Officina Ceramica. Or message him on Facebook, Offic Lab.

He offers painting, modeling, raku, workshops and pottery parties.

It is 25 euros per person for a group of 5+ people. 30 euros per person for any group fewer than five people.

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