Y'all. Daniel here. The pottery experience was extremely special. Our guide Matteo was kind, gracious, welcoming, and extremely passionate about their family business. He patiently explained each workstation in their factory, fielded questions big-and-small, and exuded contagious excitement.
Younger me would not have believed getting to see this place was possible. The factory has been producing hand-made ceramic pottery for many, many years. Our guide's father, who owns the business, has (I think) 47 years experience? Some employees had similar numbers. When I say master potters, these folks were it. They produce completely hand-built work in bulk for global brands like Crate & Barrel, Ethan Allen, and Williams Sonoma. I gotta say, I cynically did not believe these brands had legitimate work like this, but it does not get more legitimate. I also was shocked by how few people there were - maybe 10? 15? But they crank out a tremendous volume of hand thrown, hand painted pottery.
After seeing each step of the process in the factory, we went back to their storefront where we each got to make a wheel-thrown bowl with the proprietor. Again, his patience was inspiring. Matteo had already explained that their techniques would be different from my experiences. They create so many pieces that they have to find ways that aren't so physically intense. For example, their methods for centering the clay were different. Their methods for pulling the bowl up were different. Their method for opening the bowl was different. And all absolutely brilliant. You used your palm and whole arm, which caused a wider opening faster and caused way less fatigue in the hand muscles. Absolutely mind blowing!
This whole experience was just amazing. The shop reminded me of Ammi's dad's print shop - you could feel their local roots and well-earned pride in their work. Montelupo is famous for its pottery. After this, I have no doubts why. If you ever find yourself anywhere near Montelupo, make time for this experience.