Written by Jessica Graybill

From time to time, we get an inquisitive customer who is surprised to see the cost of some of our items.

“38 dollars for a mug!” they’ll exclaim, “But why?”

The fastest hands in Italy, turning a pot on a wheel.

We got to see this man on a recent factory tour – he’s won many contests for being the fastest and best potter around!

It’s true that handmade, hand-painted Italian pottery, also known as Maiolica, is typically more expensive than low-fired, machine-made pottery. It has to be, because it wasn’t stamped from a mold; it was turned on a potter’s wheel by hand, trimmed by hand, high-fired, dipped in white glaze, hand-painted with various pigments, coated with clear glaze to protect the designs, and then high-fired a second, sometimes even a third time for extra durability. That’s a lot of work for one item! When I think about it in terms of myself doing all that work, I always feel like the price is a bargain; I would want to charge so much more for my own creations!

When you consider these facts, plus the fact that Italian pottery provides a living wage for its artisans, $38 for a beautiful, entirely handmade piece of functional art from which you enjoy the daily ritual of sipping your morning coffee starts to sound like a reasonable investment. It is a luxury item, but one that will bring you joy each time you use it!

It's so fun to see the artists at work on Italian ceramics!

Delicately painting a beautiful platter takes a steady hand and lots of patience!

That being said, if cost is a driving factor, you can certainly find cheaper imitations out there. It is important to know what you are buying, and who you are buying it from. There are lots of stores who buy from factories that use decals to maximize profits instead of actually painting the pieces entirely by hand. Decal decorations, from a distance or to an untrained eye can appear to be hand painted, but closer examination will reveal identical “imperfections” from plate to plate. For example, in the photo below, you can see that the orange dots in the center of the flowers is off-center in exactly the same way on both plates. Sometimes, also evident in the photo below, decals are even used in combination with hand painted accents (the orange and yellow borders, in this case) to emulate an entirely hand painted look.

When comparing the two plates, you can see the design is identical - even the "mistakes" are uniform from plate to plate. The edges are hand painted to emulate an entirely hand painted piece.

When comparing the two plates in the above photo, you can see the design is identical – even the “mistakes” and off-centered dots in the centers of the flowers are uniform from plate to plate. The edges are hand painted to emulate an entirely hand painted piece.

In many cases, the factories that are using decals have the decals applied in China and the pottery is then shipped to Italy, where a brush stroke or two may be added (oftentimes by non-Italian workers!) so they can claim that their pottery is “handcrafted in Italy”. This is an unfortunate and very underhanded thing that is happening in the Italian pottery world these days, but you do not have to become victim of false advertising. Fortunately, if you know what to look for and trust the people you buy from, you can avoid being duped.

Italian Pottery Outlet - each plate is handmade and hand painted, so each plate is different!

Italian Pottery Outlet Ricco plates, above. You can see that each plate is handmade and hand painted, because each plate is different and special in its own way.  Brush stokes are evident and the painting style is spontaneous and instinctive.

We at Italian Pottery Outlet choose not to work with factories who use decals, because we value the artistry and traditions of Italian ceramics. Our pottery is all 100% handmade, dipinto a mano from start to finish by Italian artisans who have studied the craft extensively and have learned from the best.

Dish with Cupid on a Hobbyhorse

Dish with Cupid on a Hobbyhorse (Tondino), about 1510–1520, possible Urbino area, Venice, or Pesaro, Italy, Europe, tin-glazed earthenware, 15/16 inches high x 9 1/4 inches in diameter (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 84.DE.116)

Italian pottery is fine art, refined over hundreds of years through inspired artistry in the expert hands of highly skilled Italian artisans. The rich history of quality Italian workmanship is the basis for this fine art, and artisans have devoted years to their training in order to perfect their techniques. This attention to detail and incredible workmanship is evident in our portrait plates and urns, our large platters, and our tableware from Deruta, Umbria, and Tuscany.