Once a month, the business and artistic spaces of SoWa come alive in the evening when they open their doors to the public for First Fridays. And for Giardini di Sole, an importer of handmade Italian ceramics and tables, the First Friday of February proved to be extra special, as it marked the opening of a new installation of works by Enza Fasano.
A respected figure in the world of Italian ceramics, Fasano lives and works in the pottery-rich town of Grottaglie, Puglia, where she grew up watching and learning from her father, Nicola, a master ceramicist. She was just a teenager when she began to work alongside him some 30 years ago and subsequently has collaborated with some of the world’s leading home furnishings companies over the course of her career.
“I’ve lived every single moment of my life connected to the family business and through that I found a way to express myself, taking my own road and interpreting the great traditions of Grottaglie in my own way,” Fasano says.
In 1995, however, she broke away from the family business and established Enza Fasano Ceramiche. Since then, her company has offered a contemporary, design-conscious take on the ceramic home ware of the past — a result of her continual experimentation with colors and shapes.
Fasano’s ability to stand out from the pack becomes clear with a visit to Giardini di Sole’s SoWa showroom. The space is dominated by traditional Tuscan ceramics — imagine platters decorated with images of lemons or grapes — that, according to co-owner Libby Knapp Morris, emphasize the painting of the surface rather than the shape and design of the piece. The distinction between these traditional works and the modern creations of Enza Fasano is one important reason why Knapp Morris chose to dedicate a separate room to Fasano’s collection.
“I have to say we’re thrilled,” Knapp Morris says of the collaboration. “I think this is an exciting moment for us and we’re really pleased to have this opportunity to have a separate space to give her work it’s own arena.”
Located just below Giardini di Sole’s showroom, Fasano’s installation was two years in the making. It all began in the fall of 2010, when Knapp Morris’ Italy-based business partner Jo Wennerholm Donghi discovered Fasano’s work in a specialty boutique in the Monti district of Rome. Early the following year, Knapp Morris traveled to Puglia to view the works for herself and “fell in love immediately.”
It’s not hard to see why. There are pitchers, plates, lamps and vases in deep shades of red, purple and gold; there’s the traditional pumo, an almost acorn-like symbol of good luck and prosperity; and, of course, there are images from the sea, like decorative octopuses with their tentacles curving and outstretched in a life-like way.
“My works generally take inspiration from nature,” Fasano explains. “The most abundant source of beauty and proportion can be found in nature and it is with her that we establish a lasting and true contact. Just like with the history of our region, rich of inspiration and ideas, and full of elements to preserve and stories to tell.”
In addition to being “a really committed artist,” according to Knapp Morris, Fasano also takes great interest and care in how her works are displayed. Her showroom in Grottaglie occupies a former monastery that dates back to 300 A.D. and has been used as a ceramics workshop since 600 A.D. Within the showroom, there are different spaces, each with its own unique ambiance. “Our location is a series of different environments that put objects into context while adding value,” Fasano explains.
The experience created by Fasano and her team in Grottaglie — which includes her husband Salvatore Santoro and daughter Giovanna Alò — is something that Knapp Morris replicated with the installation at Giardini di Sole. “There really is this Aladdin’s Den kind of feel to [Fasano’s showroom] that’s really wonderful, and that’s what we’re trying to recreate downstairs,” she explains. “That’s why I’m so excited about that space. I can really see how it could evoke the same kind of feeling.”
As for Fasano, she is also thrilled about the installation, which is her first special exhibition in the United States. “The women of Giardini di Sole are very refined, and they have both the ability and desire to add value to our production,” she says.
“We’re all excited to hear the public’s feedback about this new exhibition,” Fasano adds. “We’re full of enthusiasm and curiosity!”
Enza Fasano’s work is on display at Giardini di Sole, 460 Harrison Ave., through June 30. Call 857-362-7253 or visit www.giardinidisole.com. To read more about ceramicist Enza Fasano, visit www.enzafasano.it.