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HomeTravelA place to go: Certaldo, Italy

A place to go: Certaldo, Italy

In Italy, an hour out of Florence, past a garden of pottery distorted by nature, lies a school of ceramics called La Meridiana the international school of ceramics. Housed in a 17th-century farmhouse that has been renovated, The school is located in the heart of Tuscany, a region known for its Ancient and Roman culture, medieval buildings, and Romantic elegance.

Some of the many sculptures all through the grounds of La Meridiana

A young woman, studying abroad counted herself lucky when she was gifted a seat in the class that, not only shifted but shaped how her time abroad would get spent. Christine Henkel was studying HR and minoring in global studies when she decided to put her passions over her professionalism and decided to take a Handcrafted pottery class that shaped her to appreciate things a little more than she did before. 

While Christine was avoiding the wondrous designer deals that many know Italy to have, she found herself enveloped in something that has since turned into a hobby for her. She noted the differences between handcrafted and pottery from a wheel, noting that handcrafted things are far more tedious than wheel pottery is, “You take almost dental floss and roll it out with almost a baking roller and cut out a shape like you would a cookie. From there you make snakes like with playdough and wrap it around and on top of eachother then you’ll get a vase or cup.”

Before attending the pottery class, students were asked to craft their own creations out of clay. From there, on their first day, students were asked to bring their creations with them to the school, so they could have them fired through a unique process called ‘raku.’

A speedy demonstration of Raku

This process involves pulling red-hot ceramics out of the fire and throwing them into a bed of sawdust, dirt, and sand. Once the ceramics hit the mixture, the pottery then burns into a flame. To fully submerge the pottery into the process, someone would then throw the mixture on top of the flames, after that, the pottery gets thrown into a bucket of water, ending its beautiful process, granting a crackled effect. 

Upon her first time entering La Meridiana the international school of ceramics, Christine described a gallery of every student’s work upon her entry. She said many of the pieces were breathtaking and made her pottery seem imperfect, however, she noted that it was the imperfections of her pieces that made them special.

Each week, Christine spent an approximation of fifteen to twenty hours honing in on her newly learned craft, “You focus on one little thing, like a corner of a teacup for hours. You’re just sitting there and sculpting by hand. To get everything symmetrical is a lot of work.” After saying how many hours would get put into one work, Christine reiterated that her motivation for the class was to strictly have fun. 

Each class was described to have been filled with a sense of unity. In a class with only one other person from her school in America, Christine noted how the group would listen to music out loud together and would eat meals together during their dinner as well, whether on campus or off. She also mentioned how the students and workers of the school seemed excited to have them, saying that they would go on long walks through the Tuscan Vineyards. 

Christine said it was more than the class that helped her find peace in ceramics, she declared not only the sense of community, not only her creative freedom but her focus was what made this class more than special, life-changing. 

As La Meridiana’s reputation continues to ripple through the world of pottery, they have noted that just like their students, their teachers come from around the world, saying that they have an average of 200 students each year, adding up to an approximate total of 5,000 students that have gone through the school. The school has a wide range of programs extending to offering for people to book independent studio space and lodging for periods of one or more weeks in what they describe as a “safe, comfortable,” setting.

A few of Christine’s Masterpieces

When the time came to come home, Christine sneakily eased her way past the TSA weighing sector and was able to board her plane with approximately sixty pounds worth of pottery, she only kept the ones she considered “perfectly imperfect.” 



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