Sicilian Ceramic, the Past in the Present

In Sicily, ceramic has an ancient and very long tradition. It is commonly recognized as one of the main remains of the glorious past of the island. Indeed, ceramic artifacts date back the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Norman ages.

Before being on our modern walls and tables, in fact, pottery was used by the old civilizations that dominated my beloved Sicily long ago.

Nowadays, Sicilian ceramic is regarded as a precious souvenir, a fanciful décor object, but behind the scene and the history of these artifacts, there is hidden the entire history of Sicily.

Today, in my island, ceramic is an artisanal product made with the talent and the sweat of passionate Sicily’s artisans.

However, In Sicily, ceramic risks to be a lost art. because many of the vicissitudes that affected the island pushed many artisans to close their shops.

These businesses are handed down from father to son, but when sons are forced to emigrate to seek for a better future abroad, the few Sicilian ceramic shops remained on the spot are a rare pearl to appreciate and love forever.

For this important reason, I decided to discuss about it in this post.

Sicilian Ceramic: What is It?

Ceramic comes from clay. Indeed, the name of ceramic derives just from the Greek word “keramos”, which, in turn, means “clay”. The several types of ceramic depend on the manufacturing of clay.

If the consistency of the manufact is porous, we’ll have the so-called terracotta. That is the most simple and ancient form of ceramic.

The most of the ancient Greek pottery is, in fact, made of terracotta. If the consistency of ceramic is tough, we’ll have porcelain. The Sicilian ceramic includes terracotta and porcelain manufacts.

These are always handmade and hand painted. Porcelain is obtained thanks a higher temperature firing and a mix of clay, lime, and other stony material. When painted, porcelain has a polished and brilliant surface.

Ceramic of Sicily: Why is It Loved so Much?

The global charm of Sicilian ceramics derives from the fact these manufacts were used to eat, drink, wash and clean in the past. In the tradition of Sicily, these products do not have the pure beauty of a decorative item.

For us Sicilians, ceramic is, indeed, the gentle and tender symbol of generations we have never the opportunity to know. Pottery and tiles were important elements of the Sicilian life in the past centuries.

In the ancient Sicilian language, they were called burnie and maduni. The last word is still today used in many Sicily’s villages to indicated the tiles of floor.

And today, in an epoch that invented plastic, metals and tons of wastes and pollution, ceramic makes us closer to a more genuine and natural beauty. We can’t come back to the past, but we can retrieve what it donated us. One of these gifts is ceramic!

Sicilian Ceramics. Where Are They Produced?

The most ancient production center of Sicilian ceramics was the province of Palermo. It was right the surroundings of the chief town of Sicily that held the most important architectural collection of Sicilian ceramic inherited by Normans.

Just think about Collesano and Cefalù. Collesano is a small village tucked amid the Madonie Park. Cefalù is one of the most beautiful hamlets of Italy, with a stunning cathedral and likewise stunning beaches.

Today, the main production centers for Sicilian ceramic are in the provinces of Messina, Agrigento, and Catania. These places are Santo Stefano di Camastra (Messina), Sciacca (Agrigento) and Caltagirone, (Catania).

Among these villages, the one which is regarded as the capital of ceramics is Caltagirone. The town is in a picturesque hill amid Eastern and Central Sicily, a few kms away from Catania, Ragusa and Syracuse.

The peak of ceramic production is during Christmas time, in Sicily, when streets, churches and stairs are studded with a fabulous medley of colored ceramics. I would like you to admire the nativity scenes or Santa Maria del Ponte stair in Caltagirone (see the image above), all decorated with ceramic tiles.

Santo Stefano di Camastra, instead, keeps all the stunning ceramic collection of the near village of Taormina.

I don’t know if you can find Sicilian ceramic near you or in your Country, in Australia, Malta or in UK, for instance. I live in Sicily and, obviously, I can know only where you can find Sicilian ceramic for sale in my island.

Furthermore, thanks to the Internet, you can find Sicily’s ceramics for sale online, also. Below, you’ll discover important details to buy your favorite ceramics (100% made in Sicily) straight from your device, everywhere you are.

In the above-mentioned centers, ceramic is still made with the ancient method, namely by hands! Handmade ceramic has a higher quality and resistance than the industrial ceramic. Terracotta is kneaded by hand and fired in high temperature ovens.

When you look at the Sicilian artisans who craft ceramic artworks you witness a real spectacle of creativity!

Sicilian Ceramic Heads: the Legend

Sicilian ceramic heads are one of the most iconic products of Sicily. They are called Graste and derive from an ancient legend narrated in a zone today known as Kalsa, the Arab district of Palermo.

The legend tells that a day, in Palermo, a young Arab called Moro felt in love with a beautiful Sicilian girl. He looked at her while she was overlooked from her flowered balcony.

Both lived an intense passion until the girl learnt that, in his Country, the lover had a wife and children. A night, after making love, and while Moro was sleeping, the vindictive girl beheaded him and used his head as a flowerpot!

From this truculent story, the tradition of Sicily developed stunning ceramic heads that work both as decorative items and pots.

Pattern of Sicilian Ceramic

Sicilian artisans creates true ceramic artworks that include: pots, plates, bowls, tables, dinnerware, heads, platters, pine cones, pitchers and even jewels. These products have original and charming patterns crafted through the talent and the art of true Sicilian craftsmen.

The designs on the ceramics usually represent traditional Sicilian themes, such as prickly pears, lemons, flowers, and the symbol of the Sicilian flag, namely Trinacria. However, you can find more stylish patterns looking like the one of mosaics.

Online Sicilian Ceramics for Sale

You can buy Sicilian ceramics even online. To find a stunning collection of heads and other fine and delicious Sicilian ceramics, visit this online shop.

If you want to buy perfectly refined ceramic pine cones from Sicily, instead, see this online shop.

The online shop belongs to Antonio, a Sicilian artisan residing in Capaci, in the province of Palermo. He sells wonderful ceramic pine cones made in Caltagirone, namely the Sicilian capital of ceramics.

If you want to buy Sicilian ceramic tiles, I suggest that you visit Ceramiche Lanforasb, the online shop by Simona Baldoni. Simona lives in Catania and sells her own ceramic creations developed in her artisanal laboratory of artistic ceramics.

From her, you can also buy decorative tiles with Sicilian themes. The standard sizes of the tiles are 10 x 10 cm. This talented Sicilian artisan also crafts ceramic fruit bowls, trays, dishes and the fantastic Trinacria.

Sicilian ceramic tables are instead hard to buy online. Many Sicilian artisans prefer selling table runners with marvelous Sicilian ceramic designs. They seem true ceramics and allow you to perfectly refine and decorate your table. You can find them on this online shop.

Conclusion

Sicilian ceramics have a great power: they can make our daily life more beautiful, because contain all the sounds and colors of our beloved Sicily. They are true artworks, the result of the hard job of women and men who live thanks to their great talent.

Every ceramic is handmade, a real joy for your eyes and your home décor. These products talk to our heart and invite us never forget Sicily. Especially in this challenging time.

Many of these ceramics are also for sale online, straight from Sicily and from the hands of the few Sicilian artisans remained operational. Buying their Sicilian ceramic, you will help the economy of my island survive.

Photocredits:

Etsy online shops mentioned in the post

La Sicilia.it Regional website

2 thoughts on “Sicilian Ceramic, the Past in the Present

  1. Krishna

    Please please could you find me a ‘stage’ in Sicily for two weeks in April 2024

    I am learning ceramics at the lycée Leonardo da Vinci School in Antibes France.
    I am ver enthusiastic to discover this art in Sicily

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