Baked Earth: The Truth Behind Authentic Impruneta Pottery
Welcome to another edition of Baked Earth, with information about what’s happening in the world of clay, ceramics and installation pottery. This month, we would like to pop the mythical bubble concerning Impruneta pottery.
Impruneta is a commune in the province of Florence, in the Tuscany region of Italy. It has been famous for many centuries as the producer of the region’s finest terracotta, everything from tiles to garden art, to large terracotta planters. Along with the handmade nature and unparalleled craftsmanship of Impruneta terracotta lies the real secret of its success: the clay body.
It has been known for countless generations that Galestro clay is the superior material of the region. Galestro clay is extremely high in subsoil minerals, has an excellent plasticity, and due to its unusually high granitic content, can withstand sub freezing temperatures. Galestro clay yields a high quality product with great versatility and many ceramic manufacturers in the Tuscany region use Galestro, including Terrecotte San Rocco, Eye of the Day’s premier terracotta source.
Only a handful of factories produce wares actually in the commune of Impruneta and therein lies the problem. Because the potteries in the outlying communities are also using Galestro clay, or part Galestro and part local material, some producers will stamp their work with the word “Impruneta,” which can lead to retailers here in the US (either unknowingly or complicit in the process) to sell merchandise as “Impruneta terracotta,” when in fact it was not made within the boundaries of the Impruneta commune.
It’s akin to wearing a Timex and calling it a Rolex. Both are well made watches, but one has the reputation of distinct craftsmanship and is branded as such, so you are paying for the brand. It is the same with Impruneta—it has been branded by generations of superb craftsmanship and these days it is not uncommon for people in this business to use the branding of “Impruneta” to their advantage by calling it something that it is not.
So garden designers, homeowners, and landscape architects alike, be forewarned! There are only a handful of families producing authentic Impruneta terracotta in that commune, so if someone claims to be selling or installing Impruneta wares made with Galestro clay, be sure to ask them who the manufacturer is, and cross check their references. But as I have said countless times, it all comes back to the clay. And anything made with Galestro clay from the foothills of Tuscany is a sure bet as the highest quality pottery for your home.
By the way, I’m wearing a Timex…
Know your terracotta!