Made in Italy has a multitude of dimensions. La dolce vita, traditional craftsmanship, the locals’ easy sophistication, to name but a few. The life of ceramicist Iris Roth combines all of the above. For twelve years, she has collaborated with a Sicilian family business based in Milan’s Dergano district.
At its studio, between shelves with handmade ceramics, sculptures and other objects strewn across them, she talks about the resurgence of crafts and how quality and passion make up their cultural value.
How did you take your first steps as a ceramicist and how did you evolve from there?
I made my first plates at my father’s studio; he made the plaster casts for them. I basically rolled the clay like pasta before modelling it into the form. At the beginning, I decorated them, as the forms of the plates were like normal plates. That’s when I decided to create my own shapes. I also wanted something a bit more contemporary but without losing the organic form and the feel of it. I went from wanting something minimal to wanting it to become more organic.
Functionality plays a huge part in your work. What draws you to it?
To have something handmade surround you every day. Something that you have a connection to. That relates to my heritage, of course. In some cultures, like Italy or Japan, it’s much more important than in others.
What significance does the “Made in Italy” stamp hold for you?
I’m quite proud to be Italian, even though I’m half-German. I’ve always experimented with that. When I lived abroad I was always happy to return to Italy. It stands for quality and passion and has such a special bonus throughout the world. It’s always associated with something that gives you pleasure—warmth, sunlight, la dolce vita—and good craftsmanship.
Crafts are experiencing a revival.
This is especially important for home objects, I think. Due to the whole process that’s behind them, the pieces have more soul. It’s about the little imperfections—those that mass-produced pieces usually lack—and that little crack that makes the piece come alive. There are some people who actually complain about them, who might say this one piece is slightly thicker than the other one. I consider that a value, not an imperfection. It’s handmade and that adds so much more to it.
What do you see in a finished collection?
I’m usually never 100 per cent satisfied! Never at the beginning, at least. Either I need some time to get used to the process or I have serious doubts. Is it really special? Does it make sense to put this out into the world? Or is it just one more piece that we don’t need? At the same time, my mind is always thinking about what I am going to do next.
Do you think your artistic background contributes to that approach?
Probably. I’m quite single-minded. I’m a bit like that with everything, I have to say. It’s funny. It’s like a process; when it’s done, that’s OK but I want to move on to the next thing.
Text: Ann-Christin Schubert
Photography: Luigi Fiano
We also published this interview in the fifth issue of our HARD COPY paper. It’s dedicated to artists and activists this time. Get it complimentary with every online shop order or in all Closed shops!