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Thousands of Sicilian Tiles

Posted by Suzanne on 29 Aug 2014

It was an early spring day in 2006 when my husband and I pulled up at Giovanni D' Angelo’s ceramics studio just outside of Polizzi Generosa  to meet Giovanni, a master local potter of a generational family of potters - dating from the mid 1800’s - to talk about glazed terracotta tiles to fill the floors of the interconnecting rooms of Palazzo Notar Nicchi:  the dilapidated house on the main street of Polizzi which we had purchased in the summer of 2004.

On that first meeting we liked Giovanni’s work and how it was anchored with an historical sensibility while capturing a cool modernity.

After that first meeting we knew that Giovanni was the potter to create the tiles for a house on the main street of a noble village.

He ended up making tens of thousands by hand; they were to take him a year to complete.

The Inspiration:

After discovering pieces of antique broken Sicilian majolica tiles vibrantly painted in: celeste blues, citrus yellows and verdant greens on tiles of opaque white, in the faded rooms of Palazzo Notar Nicchi we were inspired: tiles which reflected the history of Sicily’s centuries old skill of glazed majolica tile making - an art brought to Sicily by the inventive, conquering Arabs in the 9th century.

In December 2005 we had spent some time in Taormina staying at Hotel San Domenico, a former 16th century abbey. The smoothness and muted glow of the terracotta floors interspersed with small majolica tiles in the rooms of San Domenico spoke of history and a Sicilian aesthetic: smooth tiled floors for an island in the Mediterranean close to Africa.

And it was there that we were inspired to create glazed terracotta floors of hexagonal tiles joined with colourful majolica tiles for an old house on the other side of the island in Polizzi Generosa.

We took a few shots of the time worn tiles in San Domenico and with the 'fragments' of old majolica tiles from Palazzo Notar Nicchi we were inspired; the tiles had to reflect a Sicilian spirit: colourful and vibrant with an earthiness and a nod to Sicily’s brilliant Arab interlude.

The Tiles Made:

Polizzi has been a centre for pottery making since the time of the Greeks in Sicily 2500 years ago and its clay is renowned for its colour. The ‘fat’ clay from the hills around Polizzi is a subtle rose colour, warm and soft.

It is this ‘fat clay’, in all its rose coloured intensity, that lines the floors of Palazzo Notar Nicchi: rooms of interconnecting terracotta floors scattered with colour and Arabic design.

All made by Giovanni’s hand and fired in his large kiln. They have a Sicilian vibrancy.

An image of a creamy magnolia flower set in the tiles of a bedroom on the first floor of a now restored Palazzo Notar Nicchi is reminiscent of the fragrant magnolia blooms which fill the air of Sicily in the early summer.

The celeste blue tile inset in the terracotta floor of the atrium bedroom on the ground floor speaks of the Arabic blue mosque tile and the old tile pieces found in the rooms of Palazzo Notar Nicchi in 2004.

The yellow and dark green Arab geometric pattern of the inset tile in the main bedroom on the ground floor glows when the clear African light from the south streams through the open shuttered doors.

And it is the huge, slightly offset hexagonal terracotta tiles lining the atrium floor between the dining room and the small library which are so modern in their form yet reflect a tradition of ceramic making, centuries old in Sicily.





Edited 31/3/2016 D'Aneglo family have been potters since the mid 18oo's not 1700's.


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