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Caltagirone ceramics make this town one of the most well known towns of Sicily.

The emblem of Caltagirone is the 142 step Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, displaying in thousands of tiles the ceramic arts and artisanal skills of the city. About 13 steps up you will find on the left a studio – Improntabarre – a few steps to a new view of the world.

This Caltagirone ceramics studio displays the work of the Branciforti family, led by Andrea, another architect turned artisan who draws on his artistic skills and a certain freedom of thought. The reality of Branciforti is evidenced in the logo of Improntabarre, a barcode disturbed by a fingerprint – traditional commerce interrupted by personality.

Andrea Branciforti has taken the traditional art of Caltagirone ceramics and turned it on its head. The basis of all the Branciforti ceramic is a white glaze. The closest work displayed, in the showrooms not far away in via Principe Amedeo, is a novel multi-coloured template of ‘balloons’, but despite their artistic attraction, these classical ceramic designs appear offered to sate the interests of the less adventurous customer – or the traditional tourist.

To wander around the Caltagirone ceramics Improntabarre showrooms is to experience a wide range of design flair. Branciforti has extended himself with quirky names to match apparently weird and ironic (or maybe sarcastic) designs, though for each he has a remarkably sane explanation based on experimental design and philosophy. He says that: “the studio is a place of ideas, dreams and utopia that project themselves on reality”.

‘Vaso Precarioso’ is the egg shaped vase that suffers from vagaries of balance and a cynical glare. One of the most recent creations to be awarded is ‘Etna’, a stack of bowls, each seated in the one underneath, all in the shape of a volcano with an eruption on the top. The restaurateur and chef may now deliver their complete repast in a single serving and the guest can consume from the top down, quenching the fires of the volcano with a glass of Nero d’Avola.

Politics and history are never far away from the works of Branciforti’s family (father and son). There are grand Caltagirone style heads reflecting some of the regions, produced for the 150th anniversary of Italian ‘unification’ and designed by Ugo La Pietra. A set of constitutional plates, each bearing a different article, can certainly make for a testy dinner party. The pyrrhic set comprised heads of each of the 12 constellations, produced to celebrate the end of the world in 2012.

One thing seems certain, this is not the end of creation from the house of Branciforti: “It is a big container, work in progress”. Visit to see Caltagirone ceramics and the stairs; climb a few steps, pop in and smile – tell them Energitismo sent you.

Gavin Tulloch

Scienziato e poeta. Ama la chimica, il vino, le donne e l’opera, ma non sappiamo in quale ordine