I have become friends with a really neat guy over the past year. His name is Romano Rampini and he is a 2nd generation potter. I adore his energy, his creativity and his imagination and most of all, I love his story. I want to share it with you.
Romano was born and raised in Florence, Italy, but has spent the last several decades living in Chianti where he has a ceramics workshop and storefront. However, over the past few years he has moved most of his ceramics production from Radda in Chianti, Italy, where I spent a few days with Romano last week, to El Carmen de Viboral, Colombia.
If it sounds familiar it should. He's my neighbor! He produces Italian pottery in a workshop that is literally connected to the shop where we produce Azulina Ceramics...that's right, in Colombia.
How he got there inspires me to 'look outside of the box' and seek out creative solutions, even when it seems like there aren't any options left. As my dad always says, you always have more options than you think you do.
Here's his story...
Romano comes from a family of artists and potters. His father was a master craftsman--he made a living making and installing stained glass all over Italy. His uncle produced ceramics and taught Romano at a young age how to paint in the Italian tradition. He and his sister Tiziana have continued the family tradition, producing beautiful hand-painted ceramics in Radda in Chianti for 25 years now.
Sadly, due to Europe's recent economic troubles, their business was almost on the brink of failing. Why? Owning a company and producing....anything....in Italy has become almost impossible. To give you an idea, if Romano's employee earns 18k Euros a year, he effectively pays 40k Euros (to the government, local municipality, etc.).
Romano realized that creating quality ceramics in Chianti wasn't sustainable anymore, so he had to make a decision: decrease quality and increase prices, or close down his operations.
Romano is not the type of person who would shut down his operations or decrease the quality of his products, so he had to create a Plan C: produce quality pottery elsewhere. That's what eventually led him to Colombia.
He started traveling all over the world in 2009. His travels took him everywhere that has a pottery-making tradition: Mexico, Portugal, Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco, Poland and Romania. None of these places had the magic combination he was looking for: honest, hard working people with whom he could partner and a talented workforce eager to learn something new.
His last stop was a one-off, recommended by a Colombian friend. He recommended that Romano visit a small town named El Carmen de Viboral, located in the hillsides outside of Medellín, Colombia. It was there where he found that magic combination.
After several years of teaching Colombian artisans how to paint Italian ceramics and working alongside expert potters, Rampini now creates a product of the same exact standards as he did in Italy.
I have spent many hours in his workshop in Colombia, watching the women artisans paint olives, Tuscan landscapes and fleur de lis', and frankly, it is incredible what he has been able to create with a bit of elbow grease. His ceramics are just gorgeous. And most importantly, exactly like those produced in Chianti.
It's pretty amazing what we are capable of when we are determined to succeed. I love Romano's story and hope you enjoyed it too.
If you want to learn more or see some of his products you can visit his website, www.rampiniceramics.com, or visit them on Facebook. They have a gorgeous storefront in El Carmen, a newly-opened showroom in Florence and a workshop in Radda in Chianti, where they will continue to maintain a small operation. He plans to develop an online presence in the USA within the next year.
Hope you had a lovely labor day weekend. Until next time!
Founder, Azulina Ceramics