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The Art of Handmade Ceramics

Our love for melding vintage treasures with new, carefully curated, and sought after ones was our purpose for launching Backcountry Mercantile last November. We believe that setting a table that not only looks elegant, but one that also tells a story, is what becomes the foundation of a memorable celebration. It is what we call "a true mélange of passé et présent."

The idea that we should wait all year to break out the holiday tableware for just one specific day was also a practice that was just so passé. We wanted to find a way to celebrate our seasonal tableware every day, all season long. It was not only important that we bring aesthetically pleasing designs to the collections, but also ones that carry a rich history. That is why you will find a story behind each and every product that we represent.

When considering a partner for our ceramic ware, there was no question behind who we wanted to pair. FIMA is a distinguished family-operated business with a reputable work history in the ceramic sector. The business is known throughout the world for their dedication to quality in the maiolica category, as well as for their artistic expressions. They are renowned for sustained efforts with keeping the ancient traditions of the village of Deruta, Italy, alive, bringing passion to its craft since 1960. 

Respecting and maintaining the quality of the products, considering both the materials being used and the artists' varying creative skills, is the clear reasoning behind our selection of such a partner. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are bringing artistic and traditional provisions of high artistic value to our customer base.

The first in our collaboration was created just in time for the 2019 holidays. It is festive and vibrant in color, true to Deruta’s designs. Found throughout, is a cheery red cardinal, in honor of loved ones who are no longer with us. It was very important that no details were spared, and so those will be seen in each of the skillfully and individually hand-painted pieces.

For those customers who were looking to add to their current collection of cardinals, and for those who wanted something different altogether, we launched tree plates this year. This collection will debut this December 1st, 2020. Included are accent plates, dinner plates, coffee mugs, and teacups and saucers. It is the ideal place setting for a Christmas breakfast, brunch, or dinner at home, and all month long!

There is no doubt about it, the art of ceramic making is a true labor of love. We believe that you will see a clear dedication to quality, as well as artistic expression, in the entire production process

seen below.

A Guide to Handmade Italian Ceramics

Italian dinnerware is traditionally made of red or white clay. To find out which, simply turn each piece over to see the unglazed area on the bottom. This unglazed area is what prevented the object from sticking to the kiln during the firing process.

The red clay is the thicker of the two and is usually used in dinnerware that needs to be more resistant to high temperature and everyday use.

The 'hand' work of creating these masterpieces begins with the raw clay material which is molded into the object's final shape. Aside from flat plates, for which the artist is sometimes hard-pressed to achieve their perfect shape, most objects are spun on the potter's wheel.

After about two to three days of air drying, and prior to the first firing, the pottery is cleaned and sanded of small imperfections, or bumps.

Each object is then dipped into a 'bath' of fast-drying liquid glaze, usually white or cream-colored, that serves as an opaque base before decoration is applied with mineral paints.


When dry, the object is ready to be 'decorated'. The design is first 'drawn' using a century-old technique called 'spolvero'. This is when the artist 'transfers' the design by dusting powdered charcoal through pinpricks previously made on a thin sheet of paper. 

The object is then meticulously painted by hand stroke, in color, true to maiolica tradition. The raw colors seldom match the fired colors.

The chemical reactions between the various metal oxide colors and the glaze, as well as the temperature, are what produce the final look. It takes much trial and error to produce the perfect color.

Lastly, the object is then placed into the kiln for a final firing. The charcoal from the original sketching burns in the kiln, leaving no trace behind.

The results are handmade ceramics made of the highest quality. They are festive and vibrant in color, true to Deruta’s designs.

As you can see, our ceramic ware is anything but ordinary. We urge you to create new traditions while celebrating the holidays at home this year. Don't be afraid to bring a little color to your tabletop, just as we have managed to bring the colors of each season into the many elements painted on each of our ceramic products.

"We hope you will be inspired by both our every day and seasonal visions."

- Amanda

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