Amid a resurgence of small-scale manufacturing following the unhealthy excesses of mass production, there is a renewed focus on the qualities of custom craft. Architects, deeply rooted in the building materials trade, are undoubtedly aware of this trend, but even with a rise in hand-made furnishings, it is unusual to find products with a historical lineage as fascinating as that of ceramic maker Cielo.
Continuing the ancient ceramic-making techniques of their home in Etruscan Italy, Cielo — a globally renowned designer and manufacturer of bath products — is celebrating its expansion to the United States with an Open House at its new store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. On the evening of Thursday, October 24th, industry professionals are invited to join the party and view the characteristic combination of primal form and texture with contemporary applications of composition and color inherent in Cielo’s bath furnishings. RSVP here for full details.
Hailing from Civita Castellana, a town steeped in the legacy of the area’s Etruscan forebearers, the craft applied to Cielo’s creations is descended from a long line of master ceramicists. Their traditional roots reflect a reverence for the local idiosyncrasies of making, having long rejected mass production and the impersonal, unsustainable and unhealthy side effects that come with it.
Traditional making possesses plenty of its own challenges, however. Even with recent technological advances in small-scale production, ceramic materials are still naturally difficult to shape and control. Cielo’s designers embrace a philosophy of learning to “tame” this ancient material, which shows in their creations: the company’s bath furnishings are elemental and durable in an age of throwaway products focused only on short-term flash.
While deeply devoted to the culture of hand-making, Cielo’s artisans aren’t content to simply repeat the same processes over and over. They’re constantly focused on enhancing the application of their raw materials, innovating new outcomes in properties such as shape and thickness. More recently, they’ve pushed ceramics past their known boundaries with an inventive use of color.
Cielo is notable among the world’s ceramicists for successfully applying a wide range of colors to their finished products. Stemming from tireless experimentation with chemical properties in their workflow, the striking results retain the familiarity of ceramic products but appear distinctly contemporary, evoking a simultaneous sense of both modern times and the distant past.
The company’s latest endeavor with color can be seen in Le Terre di Cielo, a range of atmospheric pastel furnishings that artfully merge a material of the ground with the tones of natural elements. Available in 16 shades, the vibrant coloring represents a sophisticated capacity to work the materials of their trade.
Innovation with ceramic color comes from adding specific oxides to the baking process. Cielo’s designers explore the use of compounds such as cobalt and praseodymium to infuse furnishings with unique shades such as red and yellow. These improved enamels are sprayed onto the shaped ceramics before cooking at temperatures over 2000° Fahrenheit, embedding them into the finished product.
Making bathroom products colorful is far from superfluous. Research into the mood-altering properties of color has shown its use in design can have significant effects on the well-being of people using spaces imbued with specific colors, and bathrooms are no exception. As a space focused on health and hygiene, powerful coloring in bathroom furnishings, with textures that also bear a connection to the earth, can reinforce notions of natural balance and wellness.
In this case, Cielo’s products contain distinct characteristics. A unique color palette, ancient surface qualities and a purity of form employing very few lines underscore their elemental designs. Innovations beyond color include unusually slim thicknesses that maintain the strength of more massive ceramic products, a property that’s difficult to imitate. Additionally, the fact that every piece is hand-crafted means any product be custom-made for a specific project.
Recognizing the value of their craftsmanship, the company has picked the establishment of a New York City showroom as the next step in expanding the reach of their work. Approaching the design of their new exhibition space as carefully as the design of one of their furnishings, Cielo art directors and designers Andrea Parisio and Giuseppe Pezzano have designed the space as a collection of environments, each conveying a mood that highlights particular qualities of the products on display.
Much like the creative manipulation of natural materials, a creative staging offers proof of the intended effects that inform the design of Cielo’s bathroom furnishings. But you have to see it to believe it, and there’s no better time to do that than at their showroom’s opening reception. Come join Cielo at the new Cielo SoHo, 109B Greene Street (located inside the building between Prince and Spring streets), starting at 5pm on Thursday, October 24th, and see their hand-crafted creations for yourself.
All images via Cielo