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Shopping for ceramics in Umbria

Because so much of my paycheque goes to travel, I'm a bit cheap when it comes to housewares. I don't have many kitchen gadgets and although I do buy wine glasses frequently, that's to replace all those that get knocked over, chipped, or in some way abused. Wine glasses are such tippy things.

So I wasn't terribly surprised to recently realize that my dishware is pretty old and not that attractive. In fact, on reflection, it struck me that most of my tableware was bought in the mid-1980s. I believe they were produced by Johnstone Bros.,purveyors of fine dishware for active families, or something like that -- a type of almost indestructible dishes which are not all that different from CorningWare.

Not that there's anything wrong with CorningWare. But perhaps it's time for me to upgrade. I mean, I'm eating off of these things every day, and maybe it would be nice to have something beautiful to look at beneath my Cheerios. I don't have kids or cats and I don't break dishes all that often, so the time may be right for a change.

Besides, what better way to bring some of Italy's beauty and art back into my home, than through beautiful, yet practical items that I can use every day?

Extra motivation has also arrived in the form of photos that I see on other blogs, particularly on Jerry's and Palma's blogs, of meals they have prepared and served on stunning Deruta ceramics. And since I'll be returning to Umbria in September, what better time to shop for some fabulous new place settings?

My decision has come at a good time, in that it will probably take me a few months to get my head around the price of Deruta ceramics. A very quick look on the Internet shows that I won't be buying four full place settings for the equivalent of $99 (which is what I think I paid for my current dishes.) So, I need to get used to the idea that I may be spending something closer to about $500. At least, that's what preliminary research is suggesting. I'm not even sure what all I need to buy, or want to buy.

Some questions: Would it be better to buy several place settings in a gorgeous pattern (I like the blues with yellow lemons) Or, is it better to mix patterns? Instead of place settings, should I just buy new bowls and plates and leave it at that? Or, just buy platters and serving dishes? What's the best ceramics to buy, and where? And is it best to have things shipped back to Canada, rather than try to carry it myself?

Clearly, I have many questions and the more research I do now, and the more comfortable I will be when I go back to Umbria, in terms of what I should look for and what to avoid (Indeed, I'll also need time to become more comfortable with the idea of spending on something other than necessities!)

Any ideas/tips/opinions on shopping for ceramics would be very much appreciated!

Comments (18)

How exciting. Sorry I can't help as I have always been overwhelmed with the ceramic shopping when it comes to plates, bowls, etc. but I am excited to follow you on your adventure. Don't forget to post photos!

Eden:

Sandra, your inquiries sound like they are up Palma's alley... She did write something about there is no such thing as too much Italian ceramics... :) I am sure she can help you here. Have fun researching and planning.

Amy:

I also love the ceramics, but need to severely restrict myself. I stick to accent pieces that will go with my cobalt blue Fake Fiesa Ware. I often enter the shop with a plan--OK, One salad-type serving bowl in blue and yellow--and walk out having fallen in love with a covered casserole dish, four small dessert plates, and a butter dish. Go figure.

I don't know much about Ceruta ceramics but they look nice! I think it might be nice to have one pattern. If you have beautiful place settings you can mix it up with cheaper bowls and plates in solid colors from IKEA or somewhere like that. You have to post photos after you come back!

Sandra,
There have been some really good threads on SlowTalk about buying in Deruta over the years.
I think one of the major pieces of advice has been to check out the reputation of the producer you are considering. ESPECIALLY if you plan to special order rather than just buy what is on the shelves. Have fun!

Sandra:

Deborah and Eden, you're right -- there are lots of interesting threads on Slow Travel about ceramics and I'm just starting my research. I think I might also post a more specific question on ST soon, in case there are some new experiences, or tips on places to try (or avoid -- remember the long thread about Abracadabra pottery or somesuch!)

Amy, I'm the same -- I always have great shopping plans and lists, and then veer wildly off course. I think, tho, that I've never really had any regrets about things I've bought, but A LOT of regrets when I've gotten home and wished I had bought something lovely that would remind me of a special place. (I think I should leave myself little reminders of that in my luggage or somewhere I'll see them when I'm in Italy and begin to cheap out!)

Girasoli and Chiocciola, I've got to learn to post photos so I can exhibit my new things (whenever I get them!)

I had to laugh at your comment "I don't have kids or cats" because last week, my crazy cat broke one of my favorite pieces of pottery. Fortunately, it was made by a friend and I'll be able to replace it.

I can't wait to see what you end up buying! I'm a fan of mixed patterns myself. Shopping is fun!

Brenda:

I'd mix 'em up a little, maybe choose a couple or three patterns that interchange nicely. THAT way, you don't have to pick only one, leaving several other delicious patterns behind.
Have fun!
Ciao,
Brenda

Sandra - I think it all depends upon the look you are going for. There are times that I like to see pieces/patterns mixed and matched, other times all the same.

I'm like Amy - any of my ceramics are accent pieces. I think that a good set of white dishes with colourful ceramics to mix and match with them is a great combination.

One of my friends buys a place setting everytime she goes to Umbria. That is a lot of trips to complete the set but she is almost there now!

Be sure to ship them back - it is so easy! You won't have to pay duty if you claim the amount in the customs declaration you fill out in the airport upon arrival back home.

Sandra:

Annie, Brenda and Jerry -- thanks for these ideas. I am thinking more and more about mixing up patterns. I think it could be really lovely, especially since the underlying theme of Umbrian ceramics will be there (at least, it will be obvious for me!) Given prices, maybe I'll start with a mix of dinner plates, and a serving bowl or platter. (Which will likely be all I can afford!) Then, combine them with what I have.

This is really helpful to me, if I don't have an idea of what I want when I'm shopping, I become overwhelmed and frustrated and too often, end up leaving with nothing.

Eden:

Hi Sandra,
Today I stopped by Marshall's - a discount store here in the US and I thought of you because they had some Deruta ceramics. I am not sure how authentic they are but the platters said "Hand Painted Deruta Ceramics, Made in Italy". The platters were $99. I thought it was strange to find them there.

I spent a day in Deruta back in 2001 and after visiting a few stores, I was so overwhelmed with all the patterns and selection that I didn't buy anything. Nada. Niente. I think it is a great idea to have a plan as to what pieces you want to buy and look at patterns on the web. Please learn how to post photos because we'll be waiting to see your Deruta treasures. :-)

Sandra:

Eden, that's interesting. I do see a lot of sites on the Internet selling Deruta ceramics. They might well be authentic! But I think for me a lot of the pleasure will come from the memories that will be associated with buying pieces in Umbria (hopefully, good memories!)

Sandra:

Maria, that's exactly what I'm afraid of! That I'll be overwhelmed and come away with nothing, unless I have a plan (and part of that plan is to talk so much about buying ceramics, that I pretty HAVE to buy some or have a good explanation why I didn't!) This also means I HAVE to figure out very soon how to post photos, so I'll have no excuse for not getting some new dishes and posting photos as proof of my purchase!

HOW did I miss THIS topic??? I work 11 hours on Mondays?

OK, choose a theme (lemons, poppies, etc), or at least a color pallet! Then buy as many as you eventually hope to have of a pattern you LOVE, and add something each year!

ALl my yellow stuff started as ONLY 8 yellow chargers. Then came 8 patterned dinner plates. Pasta bowls next. I really like mix and match. THEN I did the 11 different Deruta dishes another year. (In case I break one), but it took so long, they sent me 13 different patterns!

Buy from someone who insures shipping and will send anything that might break in shipping. They pack them SO well, I have never had a broken dish! Buy from someone who you can always get more from. SHop online to get ideas of patterns. Price stuff in the U.S.. I know someone who just bought a set of dishes, then found them here CHEAPER!

Check our www.rampiniceramics.com

Sandra:

Thanks so much for the advice, Palma. I was planning to send you a PM at some point to get your advice, because I know you're the queen of ceramics. And your collection looks so lovely in the photos on your blog.

I will start thinking carefully about patterns and colours, and the more I think about mixing and matching, the more I love the idea. Somehow it seems very natural or authentic. And I'm very glad to hear you have had good experiences with shipping, that seems the safest way to go.

starrs:

Sandra, I am so enjoying your trip reports from Italy. A bit of serendipity that my first post to you has to do with dishes - one of my weaknesses. I'm planning a solo trip in October and trying to decide how/ where to spend an 'extra' couple of days. Hmmm.... ceramics shopping? Capri? Cortona?
I am looking forward to reading more of your trip reports and your blog.
Already a big fan,
Starrs

Sandra:

Thanks, Starrs. And what a happy dilemma, where to spend a few extra days in Italy!!

I still haven't seen Capri, I've got to figure out a way to get there, it looks too beautiful to be true.

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