A voyage to Italy, a chance ceramics workshop and a meeting with the family run Fasano and Giacomo Alessi ceramics, had Melissa Jackson and Sven Geboers falling in love and coming home with more than a case full of olive oil....
Sometimes, the best things that happen in life are spontaneous and that’s exactly how Atelier was founded. After discovering and falling in love with the family-run ceramics workshop of Fasano and Giacomo Alessi, Melissa and Sven returned to Australia and began to import and design a range of uniquely handcrafted ceramics with the artisans who openly share their craft and who carefully hand make each piece using traditional processes, techniques and equipment passed through the generations. We chat to Melissa about their design process, the importance of preserving traditional craftsmanship and how handcrafted pieces enhance a space.
Atelier started somewhat organically when you stumbled on family-run ceramics workshops while travelling Italy. What was it about their works that captured your heart and inspired you to start Atelier?
Being lucky enough to be invited to a shared family meal at a beautiful Puglian Masseria (working farm), we were instantly drawn in by the amazing handmade ceramics and table presentation. It was unique, rustic, and really gave us an amazing feeling of sharing the relationship the family had with their country, their family, food and the sea. It was then after visiting the family run ceramics workshops, and being so inspired by their traditional processes that we knew we had to bring that feeling home to Australia.
What inspired yourself and Sven to also design your own collection of ceramics?
Through collaboration with the ceramicists, we adapted their traditional design and have given them a modern take for the Australian market mainly through colour. We took inspiration from the long European summer in Southern Italy. All design, styles and processes are still decided upon by the artists, ensuring each piece remains unique.
Can you share a little bit about the process and how you work with the makers?
After our initial tour of the workshop, we sat down with the makers and shared ideas. The workshop is entirely family run and has been for the past 18 generations! They were incredibly warm and welcoming, and eager to share the knowledge of their craft. It was a great experience to discuss ideas in person, and even though we speak no Italian, we were able to get our ideas across. After arriving back home, we eagerly awaited the samples of the pieces we collaborated on, made adjustments and then they got started. It’s a long process as everything is truly handmade, and they still use the same techniques and equipment they’ve used for generations. The splatter patterned pieces are painted on by hand using paint dipped into a handful of reeds, and with the faces, no two pieces are ever the same.
“Having a home filled with unique hand crafted pieces really brings the warmth and feeling of the maker, who has taken their time to create such a special object. The love, care and tradition that is poured into each piece simply can’t be recreated in a factory.”
These pieces have been passed down through generations, with the earliest being showcased in museums. What is it about traditional craftsmanship that makes it so important to both preserve and celebrate?
I think that traditional craftsmanship is a piece that really has the artisan's soul stamped into it. By looking at its visual beauty and imperfection, the time it takes and their careful methods of hand crafting, it’s easy to see how they’re creating pieces that must be collected and preserved. Passing down their knowledge through the generations is something so special, and the fact that the craft has been kept in the family so long is really something to be celebrated.
A lot of companies today try to replicate that ‘handmade feel’ in factories — what is it about truly hand crafted pieces that make a house a home?
Having a home filled with unique hand crafted pieces really brings the warmth and feeling of the maker, who has taken their time to create such a special object. The love, care and tradition that is poured into each piece simply can’t be recreated in a factory. It is that feeling that truly hand crafted, and carefully selected pieces bring into a house that really makes it feel like home.
What do you hope to add to people’s homes through your work?
We really hope that our tableware brings the Mediterranean feel of summer in southern Italy to everyone’s homes. There is nothing quite like long dinners that go late into the night, celebrating nothing but family, being together and food!
You can find Atelier ceramics on our website or in-store at Tigmi Trading Studio and Newrybar Merchants.