The Total Work of Art


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MERP1040878 P1040867 P1040848 20b DSC_0177Some people  create a living space that is expression of their philosophy of live, of their need for beauty and their concept of community.  It may include a house a living quarter, a studio, a garden, and all those elements that are intangible like beauty, inspiration, friendship. Such an approach can be defined well with the German word: Gesamtkunstwerk . Certain words in foreign language cannot be translated, as they do have a connotation of metaphysical meaning that is not common with the equivalent native language word. As close as I can come, I would translate with The total work of art.

Easier is to have an example that illustrates the concept, and I will propose La Meridiana for that. Who has been here before knows that  every time you come back, there is a surprise, a functional or fun or beautiful addition. When Pietro founded the school 33 years ago it was just an old farmhouse with nude walls and over the years so much has been added.

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First years: Pietro Maddalena and John Colbeck in the studio

A view of the gallery at La Meridiana with works Of Pietro Elia Maddalena

Entrance to the Gallery

The way of looking at the house is a comprehensive one, no Gesamtkunstwerk without that!  Right from the start, the planning included creation of common areas: The amphitheater as an outdoor lecture room, the terrace as a night movie theatre, the pizza oven for homemade pizza. The core is the studio, a former wine stocking area. There is now the kiln area, a new kitchen, terraces, a small pool, a pond, the wood firing kiln down the hill, a vegetable garden and an orchard, and Pietro’s private studio, finally with windows. It has taken 30 years to substitute the plastic covered  holes-in-the-wall of Pietro’s private studio with real Windows. 18e

The driving force behind this achievements has always been the goal  to offer to our patrons a facility dedicated to a continual education in the ceramic art and rich in beauty.

Our students say it better than I can:

Pietro has created an amazing environment like nothing I have ever seen.  The studio was so incredibly organized, clean and tidy.  The facilities were amazing.   It was so nice to go to the studio each day and know where we were going to work and not have to fight for space and equipment.  It felt light we had our own studios.  As far as the landscape, architecture and environment goes, when I first walked through La Meridiana and entered the back patio area I spent the first hour or so crying as I was so overwhelmed with its beauty.   It is so obvious that Pietro loves, respects and honours his surroundings.  He is a special fellow and has made an incredible impact on the community near and at large.  


Colleen O’Reilly

Hamilton, Ontario


April  13


Find out more about La Meridiana’s mission:








Use of the Kickwheel: Passion and Frustration


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Study abroad group of Austin Peay State University in the Ceramic studios of La Meridiana





Currently we are hosting a great group of young students from APSU, Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, led by Professor Ken Shipley.

Leg, giving motion to the kickwheel

Shipley is a thrower, and is teaching his group really well. Some of the students have decided to take up the challenge and use a kick wheel











Here the comments of the students:

Karla at the Kick Wheel in the studio of La MeridianaKarla: “I have seen and tried a kickwheel before, but it was  heavier  and I got frustrated.  Here View from the studioinstead of getting me into frustration it feels more of a meditation. It helps to be in Italy, relax, look out of the window, see the beautiful hills. Kicking the wheel is giving me that  pleasure, it is not only like I work with clay, but be part of it. I do consider to get a kickwheel at home, it is much more affordable. But then, what will I say? I wanna go out and throw? Or, I wanna go out and kick!”

Assistant Teja with friends Brandy from the USA and Ella from RussiaTeja, assistant from Slovenia “My first meeting with a kickwheel was very traumatic! I was 12 years old and a beginner. After one year of learning I quit. When I got back to a kickwheel after 4 years, suddenly I could center easily, and was much better than the rest of the group.”

Savannah during a moment of relax during her study aborad in Italy with Prof. Ken ShipleySavannah “ The first time I used a kickwheel, I did not enjoy it, because I was not prepared mentally, I was impatient. The rhythm that you have to find with your body helps you to find peace and truth and balance.”

Svend Bayer on one of  his kickwheel

Svend Bayer on one of his kickwheel



A potter who production throws exclusively on kickwheels ( He owns three of them). Svend Bayer

The Victorian Wheel. Very hard to control.

The Victorian Wheel. Very hard to control.




• At the movies! From Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western to Robert Benigni’s La Vita è Bella


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Tepid evenings on the terrace with a good glass of wine. Plenty of good conversations. Pizza. And the movie night.
Hamish and Pietro Maddalena laughingAs the workshop days come to an end, there is a cornucopia of pleasures to enjoy at La Meridiana. It’s part of the experience for our students to forge new friendships, exchange ideas and experiences in the generous way that is so typical in the ceramic world. Without the relaxing and fun moments that wrap up the clay activity the workshop would not be complete.

Movies have the power to take you to another world. And they can also tell you so much about the culture of the country you are visiting. That’s why we keep a Italian selection of movies, from Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western to Robert Benigni’s Oscar winning La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) alongside some all-time runners for fun and relax.

A young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western

A young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western








A selection to be updated with your recommended visions!


This is a simple story, yet it is not easy to tell it.
Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) in Life is beautiful




What’s new in Florence?


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The historical food market in Florence has been remodeled, to meet an ever popular demand, among Florentines as well as among tourists: Access to freshly prepared quality food.Visione d'insieme del primo piano del mercato di San LorenzoCured hams hanging from the ceiling at the newly rennovated market of san lorenzo in florence
The upper floor of the beautiful Liberty style building that serves as the central distributer of quality food since it’s opening in 1874 has now food stalls that serve freshly prepared goodies: Pizza, mozzarella, fresh bread Making pizza ansderving wineP1040493

Fresh pasta and fresh bread, prepared at the minute at the first floor of the  Florence Central Market.

and pastry, fried fish and vegetables, cured meet, cheeses, chocolate and gelato. You can wander among the stands and pick your preferred food to eat right there, and you will see how it’s prepared, at the minute! Drinks? Of course: cappuccino, wine, beer, smoothies and juices! To complement the offer: a Cooking school, a library, a wine tasting bar with sommelier and a section of Eataly with natural beauty products.

Mercato di San Lorenzo: it’s open since two weeks only, and already a favorite evening destination for Florentines. Go out see who is around, be seen…A tip: Visit in the morning, when it’s not so crowded. You will be able to appreciate everything with more leisure. The fine food, the lively bakers, cheesemakers and other food specialists at work, the architecture and the décor.
More details here:


16 hands studio tour in the blue ridge mountains


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If you live anywhere South east of the US you probably have heard of the 16 hands studio tour. But is’s a destination also for those who do come from further afar.

Vase in cast porcelain with black glaze and Yellow decoration showing birds and flowers.

Donna Polseno who will be teaching at Meridiana in August is one of the 8 artists who do show her work in the studio tour. For further information visit: and

The Figure in Clay, Bone and Plaster


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The human figure is a never ending theme in Art. A variety of Media can be used and in time artists have tried it all.
















As wide as the medium are the stiles: Realistic and hyper realistic, abstract, stylized.
Check out our Human Figure Sculpture workshops :

Donna Polseno
Tip Toland
Patti Warashina







Youth is a Gift of Nature but Age is a Work of Art


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A quote by Stanislaw Jerzy Lec that is the theme of a show of masters: Old hands in clay (at  University of Wisconsing, UW Parkside Fine Arts Gallery, in The Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for the Arts and Humanities 900 Wood Rd, Kenosha, 262-595-2565, An exhibition of the work of noted clay artists over the age of 70.

Van Pilcher

Van Pilcher


Verne Funk

Verne Funk

Jim Bova

Joe Bova

Joe Bova:
“Animal Imagery is the enduring subject of my art. Often social and political commentary art, it sometimes involves eroticism and humor. Figuration is the constant. Animals are more present than the human figure, often being combined. Decoration , for its own sake, has never interested me. Vitality of gesture in the clay does. I believe making art and understanding art requires intellectual rigor, yet is fundamentally a somatic experience. I want the clay to “stand forth” recognized for itself, while it also conveys other realities.”

Lory Leary,  touched by Joe Bovas art.

Lory Leary, touched by Joe Bovas art.


Ageless and Timeless. Inuit sculpture, sculpted in a whales vertebra.

Ageless and Timeless. Inuit sculpture, sculpted in a whales vertebra.


Ceramic Art seen at NCECA 2014


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Every year, along with the NCECA conference, there is a rich offer of great shows. Galleries, museums and universities contribute to the effort of broad view of the scene. Below a random selection of great works.
Beth Cavener MAM 02

Ceramic sculpture of a hare, tangled up by a huge snake

Beth Cavener. Tangled up in you

Outside view of the white buiding complex of the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Calatrava.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Santiago Calatrava

Ceramic scultpture showing Leda and the swan

Gerit Grimm. Leda

Folk art figurines

Folk art at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Porcelain platters decorated with a skull and skeletton

Valentine by Michelle Erikson

Bowl with lustre

The appeal of lustre

Plate with blown Ink Crane design

Plate with blown Ink Crane design. Japan,ca. 1640 -50

A teapot

A teapot


Ceramic sculòpture by Cristina Cordova

Cristina Cordova. Tiempo sin memoria 2008










Interesting things witnessed in the USA and Canada



When travelling you always come across some funny, strange and amazing things. Below the selection of our preferred peculiar images form our trip to NCECA 2014 in Milwaukee and then on to Toronto.

Tandem wiht many biker helmets attached.

How many bikers at a time could use this tandem?

Figurative Ceramic sculpture representing a just woke up man in underware

Interesting guy in Wisconsin University Library

Painting of an iced up waterfall in Canada

19th century vision of an icy waterfall in Canada

Icy Niagara Falls, seen from the tower

Iced up Niagara Falls

Pietro Maddalena dressed with cowboyhat and top coat

Who is this shot-gun-man?





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Jeff Shapiro plans a tour to Italy, with a hands – on portion to La Meridiana. He has been an itinerant ceramicist, a wanderer, a woodfirer, to the end of gathering information, impressions and understanding. His sensitiveness and wit, the sharing of cultural understanding and wide knowledge of ceramic practices will make this trip special. Dates are Oct 23-Nov 5, 2014
Jeff shapiro shown in the studio of Carlo Zauli in FaenzaOutdoor pieces in ceramics by Jeff Shapiro
round pot with dark glaze and lighter, running glaze on top. Wood fired by Jeff ShapiroAltered vessel by Jef f Shapiro, woodfired with beautyful orange tone and richely textured surface

Jeff invitation to join the trip: “I am writing about the upcoming Italy trip I will lead that has been in the works for over a year. It will first be offered to the patrons of Peters Valley Craft Center, and I will be collaborating with my good friend, and the head of the Ceramic Department- Bruce Dehnert. I believe there will be a number of places available to other people outside of the Peters Valley community, although the number of places available is limited due to the intimate settings of studios we will visit. The trip is filled with wonderful #Italianexperiences. Please visit my newly updated web site JEFFSHAPIROCERAMICS.COM to view the detailed itinerary ( press the International Tours tab), and let me know as soon as possible if you or someone you know may be interested.

Jeff Shapiro
Jeff Shapiro has led a number of very successful trips to Japan over the past 25 years. And he has led ceramics programs to Italy as well. He has built 2 wood fired kilns in Italy: 1 near Siena, and 1 in the mountains not far from the Italian Riviera. He has exhibited in Torino and most recently in Faenza from work made at the Carlo Zauli studio. He will lead a workshop in Rome in summer and again in fall.

The programs to Japan and Italy have all been successful due to the intimate relationships that Shapiro has developed with artists and artisans in both countries. This upcoming trip to Italy is also very special in that it draws upon the relationships built up over the past 12 years in Italy. The itinerary is full of ceramic and food related experiences, as well as excursions to some of Italy’s most beloved places. 1 week will be spent in the area of Certaldo, a lovely, historic hilltop town from the Renaissance period. Participants will get to use the ceramic facility at La Meridiana where we will make work, load, and fire. There is no level of experience necessary for this hands on workshop portion of the trip.

If you look at the itinerary, you will see how rich of an experience it will be. Feel free to ask for testimonials from past participants.

Oct 23- Nov 5, 2014
* 2 nights at 5 star hotel in Rome with breakfast
* 1 Dinner in Rome
* Half day private tour of Rome with art historian
* 1 wine tasting and tapas in Rome
* Sistine Chapel
* Private transport from Rome to Todi and Orvieto (full day)
* Artist studio visits in Todi and Orvietto
* Entrance and reservation to Catacombs and church of Orvietto
* 1 night stay at hotel in Orvietto
* Dinner in Orvietto
* Train from Orvietto to Faenza
* 1 night at traditional and historic hotel in Faenza with breakfast
* Dinner at Vittoria
* Train from Faenza to Certaldo
* 7 nights accommodation at La Meridiana
* 7 lunches or dinners at La Meridiana or other venue
* Breakfast each day
* Instruction with Jeff Shapiro in collaboration with Bruce Dehnert
* Introduction by Pietro Maddalena
* Clay, firing and studio space
* Studio open from 8:00am-8:00pm.
* Wine tasting at La Meridiana
* Italian food demonstration
* Admission to 4 museums
* Day trip excursion with private bus to Volterra historic town and
Etruscan museum
* Day trip to San Gimignano
* 1 day trip by train to Siena
* La Meridiana bus from La Meridiana to Florence
* 2 nights stay at 5 star hotel in Florence with breakfast
* Entrance and reservation to Uffizi Museum in Florence
* Farewell dinner in Florence

For further information:
* Jeff Shapiro
* Custom Tours







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