La Vecchia Signora Ceramics



La Vecchia Signora means ‘The Old Lady’ in Italian.

Clay is ancient, perhaps hard to fathom how ancient for the human mind. Some people that know about these things say that she started forming at a time when oceans were still covering land and way before the Dinosaurs, that’s how old.

When you look at a sample of soil, clay is the part that takes the longest to settle. Much finer than sand, even finer than silt. You can see her along creek sides and roadsides, in puddles of water that don’t drain. She lives in veins that run in the soil or in the sides of mountains.

Clay is older than humans, as many stories tell us. In the bible, God makes Adam – out of clay. …Some of the things we know about our ancestors, traces and signs of their work and way of life are carried to us by clay. The best tracks of prehistoric animals were imprinted in clay and then fossilized. Archeologists regularly find finger prints impressed into cups and bowls that are thousands of years old. Clay has an incredible capacity to retain the shape and memory of the ones who touch her.

I work with both commercial and local wild clays ( also known as terre locali here in Italy), often carrying a bucket in my trunk should I come across clay soil while driving around. The majority of my pieces include an element of local, whether in the entirety of the clay body or as a slip coating a commercial clay. Learning the land I am working from and on, has been an integral and essential part of my making. The shapes draw inspiration from the  indigenous pottery tradition of the place I am working on, sometimes dating as far back as the Terramara people, the Celts and the Etruscans.

‘The Old Lady’  is clay.  I chose this name for my craft to bring the proper attention and reverence back to her. 

Without her, there would be neither pottery nor potter.

“Most people think that a sculptor or a painter
Is something more excellent to be than a potter.
Most people think of china or porcelain
As merely for use, or for decoration—
In either case, an inferior art.
For me, they are neither “use” nor “decoration”—
That is, decoration as a background for living;
For me, they are life itself. To be among such things,
If it is an escape, it is escape into living.”

Michael Cardew