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  • Writer's picturejemma millen ceramics

Argillá Italia 2022

Argillá Italia is a ceramics festival held every two years in Faenza, Italy. In 2020 the guest country was arranged through Ceramics Ireland with support through DCCI to be Ireland and I was accepted alongside 19 other ceramists, all based in Ireland, to participate in Argillá Italia's fair.

September 2, 3 and 4, 2022 Friday 2nd, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday 3rd, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday 4th, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Argillà Italia is the long weekend of Ceramics in Faenza, one of the world capitals of maiolica, from which the term Faïence originated. An invitation to discover the world of international art and craft ceramics, with an exhibition-market along the streets of Faenza’s historic centre, exhibitions and many cultural events. The Argillà Italia festival also hosts events and performances, including Mondial Tornianti (world throwing championship), spectacular ceramic firings in outdoor kilns, demonstrations, workshops and activities for children.

Selected Irish makers involved in the market were:

As well as the vitally important Marta Ozog, Agata, Louise, Tina Byrne & Elaine Riordan

I hope I haven't missed some out!

We sold and showcased our work across the three days within our own gazebo tent, based just outside the stunning International Museum of Ceramics (MIC). We were incredibly lucky with the weather during the event, it was due to rain and thunderstorm most days but thankfully it was mostly sun. The language barrier was quite difficult though, I tried to learn Italian on Duolingo but 'il pinguino nel zoo' wasn't exactly setting me up to communicate selling my work. Everyone was incredibly patient and Google Translate was a god-send. I learnt a lot during each day too, but most days it was:

Zucca = pumpkin, as every little child going past gleefully shouted 'ZUCCA! HALLOWEEN!' at my Stingy Jack lanterns.

Papavero = poppy as my huge green tray has my poppy illustrations across it's surface.

Ghianda = acorn & Lavanda = lavender

There were a few absolutely amazing humans who stepped in during the difficult situations where communication was just never going to happen and saved the day with their brilliant language skills, I could not say 'spiacente'(sorry) or 'grazie'(thank you) hard enough.

Ceramics Ireland also exhibited their 2020 triennial exhibition LAND / MARKS in probably one of the grandest and most incredible galleries I have ever seen. I believe the exhibition opened with a harpist too!


"Ceramic Ireland is honoured to present the collection of work by the 42 creators of the Land / Marks exhibition that will land at Argillà Italia in Faenza in September 2022 where Ireland will be present as the host country.

Ceramic Ireland is pleased to present Land / Marks for the fourth time in its third exhibition series, maintaining the ethos of celebrating the variety and breadth of contemporary ceramic works by artists from Ireland and beyond. Land / Marks will present works that explore and challenge clay, studying its malleability and pushing its limits.

This will be made evident by the variety of sculptural forms, functional containers and installation-based works. The independent jury of three experts selected 42 creators for this three-year series that will celebrate the craftsmanship and skills of these contemporary professionals. The selected group includes new makers, some still at the beginning of their journey-Anton J. Lopez, Simon Kidd, Sarah Roseingrave alongside more established makers-Sara Flynn, Mark Campden and Isobel Egan.

Featured Producers: Alison Brent, Frances Brosnan, Cathy Burke, Yasha Butler, Anne Butler, Mike Byrne, Tina Byrne, Mark Campden, Barra Cassidy, Sophie Kate Curran, Jack Doherty, Chloë Dowds, Isobel Egan, Áine Farrelly, Sara Flynn, Adam Frew, Niamh Harte, Jennifer Hickey, Jane Jermyn, Andrea Kavanagh, Alison Kay, Simon Kidd, Michael Kobuladze, Nanette Ledwith, Antonio J. Lopez, Aisling McElwain, Christopher McHugh, Claire McLaughlin, Deirdre McLlin, Kathleen Moroughoney, Lucy Morrow, Kate O'Kelly, Liselott Olofsson, Mandy Parslow, Elizabeth Petcu, Elaine Riordan, Sarah Roseingrave, Alex Scott, Jane Seymour, Vicki Sutherland, Eleanor Swan, Grainne Watts.

Land / Marks is kindly supported by Farmleigh Gallery and Office of Public Works, Design & Crafts Council Ireland and MIC Faenza - Argillà Italia."


As well as the streets of Faenza being lined with what felt like hundreds of gazebos filled full of beautiful ceramics, there were fantastic events held throughout the 3 days, including exhibitions, talks, childrens workshops, the ceramicoscope wood fired kiln and the famous Mondial Tornianti (world throwing) championships. Chloe Dowds, Fiona Shannon, Helen Faulkner and Marta Ozog stepped up to this intense challenge and done Ireland very proud!

Everyone in Faenza is a dog lover. Nearly every second person there seemed to have a dog with them and I was thrilled to come across Blu, a gorgeous basset de gascogne owned by Elo Ceramics from Turin, Italy.

Blu owned by Elo Ceramica

There were not many, if any, 'modern' buildings in Faenza, all the stunning spaces were occupied by restaurants/gelato/coffee shops and fancy clothes & shoe shops however, also amongst these retail spaces were makers studios. Each studio had a shop to sell their work at the front with their making workshop space to the back. Their studio at the back was the most exciting bit to me but it made so much sense to have these beautiful spaces utilised by ceramic makers in a historically special region known for ceramics.

I loved the attention to detail in wrapping some gifts in a funky toy shop we visited where each purchase received a wax seal.

Everyone cycles in Faenza, it was incredible to see a huge amount of very elderly people cycling too; sadly it's just not something I ever see here at home. They also cycle so freely without helmets and the majority of time, without hands? Cycling while holding an umbrella was really common. So it was no surprise to see this guy chilling out with his cat passenger.

Man holding up an enormous cat on his arm. I assume he cycled in that way.

We mostly walked the solid 30 minutes from our hotel to the Piazza del Popolo, where we all congregated each morning and evening, but we got a taxi once or twice. The taxi's seemed like hens teeth and were shockingly expensive, I assume they just aren't used by local people as cycling seems so dominant. Our hotel had some free bikes too which meant on our last day I got to explore the town a bit more without worsening my swollen and blistered feet.

But the agri-bike or 'clay bike' pottery wheel was a real treat, I think Belfast City Council should consider adding these alongside their Belfast Bikes or maybe Wee Toast Tours should consider changing their beer bikes to these?

I tried to capture a little bit of video each day to collate into a video at the end, but even then it can't possibly sum up the brilliant trip, wonderful memories, conversations and moments we all shared.

I won't even try to describe the incredible food I had while in Italy, except that I think it should be illegal to call the food we have back home as 'food'. Now, I know we have brilliant food too, but I'm definitely depressed I can't just go to any random restaurant and get very excellently fed for well under €10.

It was 6 days away for a 3 day event but it feels like it was a months worth of days with how hard we worked and all the fun we managed to squeeze in!

I had the best time and met the most fantastic people too, I can't wait for our next adventure together... did someone mention there's a fair in Belgium?...

Thank you so much to Ceramics Ireland & DCCI for all of the hard work in making our participation in this event as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

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