by Carolina Natoli, ph. Luca Ortenzi
In the heart of San Gimignano, right beneath the bell tower of the Duomo, is a craft shop where art, land, music and passion blend in magical harmony. Here, Franco and Esther Balducci welcome you into the world of artistic pottery to discover an ancient and fascinating craftwork.
Franco is a potter with over forty years’ experience, specialised in high temperature techniques (1300°C) using various kinds of stoneware mainly from northern Europe. Research of materials, shapes and colours has always been of great importance for his job. In 1990, together with his wife Esther – from Switzerland – he opened his shop in San Gimignano where they can be seen at their work. Their creative line, always on display at the shop, is made up of a series of things we use every day where aesthetics and practicality find the right balance. Also on display are the sculptures, real and true works of art, as well as tiles with low reliefs depicting Chianti landscapes, Esther’s work. There is a series of small, stoneware animals, comical and full of personality with expressions recalling various character traits which anyone can relate to and which is why they are much appreciated by collectors.
All the work is strictly hand-made and each piece is unique. After the natural drying process, the objects undergo a first firing (bisque) at 980°C. Once the oven is unloaded, the next step is the glazing and decorating with self-produced glazings, the result of over 700 tests in over 30 years’ work on colours. The glazings are made of stable silicates and therefore not toxic.
The second firing reaches the temperature of 1300°C in about eleven hours (9-10 cone) with the last phase in “reduction” (poor in oxygen) for the fusion of the glazings with unique results. The two propane gas ovens have been designed and built by Franco; one in 1991 and the second, smaller one in 2006. The workshop is run at a very low environmental impact: all the working waste is recycled. In San Gimigano there are four works commissioned to Balducci by the Town Hall in1998, 2004 and the last one in 2007. The first two in Piazza del Duomo on the façade of Palazzo del Popolo, the second is on the side of Piazza del Bagolaro in front of the Civic Museums and the most recent one, a sculpture called “Viaggiatore di pace” (Peace Traveller) in vicolo Diacceto.
Piazza delle erbe, 5
San Gimignano (SI)
Tel. +39 0577 943188