Ceramics a plenty!

Following on with our waltz around Taormina this entry is simply a riot of colour and pattern. Apologies in advance for the length of this particular post!

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Ceramics and pottery are in abundance across Sicily but seem to be particularly evident around Taormina.

P1060608Everywhere you turn there are displays of jewel bright plates, bowls, spoon holders and pots. It’s a pot lovers dream!

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Souvenirs aplenty line the streets and jostle for space on every available surface, from back scratchers and tambourines to magnets as far as the eye can see!

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At least one of these colourful delights was quickly snapped up for my epic fridge of magnets (which in itself I think should be classed as a wonder of the world)

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A speciality pottery of the region is Sicilian Maiolica ceramic. Maiolica is tin-glazed pottery finished in dazzling colours. Sicily is by far the most active centre for Maiolica or Majolica production.

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Tin glazing creates a brilliant white, opaque surface for painting. The colours are applied as metallic oxides to the unfired glaze which absorbs pigment creating vivid colours.

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The coloured glazes were thought to be initially brought to Sicily by the Arabs of North Africa in medieval times. The art of making Maiolica pottery then spread from Sicily across Italy during the Renaissance.

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It is thought that these type of ceramics were called “maiolica” because the glazing and firing techniques used to create them were similar to those used on Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands.

Moorish potters from Majorca are believed to have worked in Sicily and it is thought that their wares reached the Italian mainland from Caltagirone.

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There are lots of different styles of Maiolica ceramics, distinguished by their colour-schemes, the type of objects made and the motifs painted on the pottery.

A common theme in Taormina and the surrounding areas are the rather unusual and striking Moorish heads that sit and stare at you from steps, windows and doorways.

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The heads, also called Saracen heads, are typical of Caltagirone, a town close to Taormina.

The legend behind the Moor’s head vases says that a beautiful girl was living in seclusion and spent her days cultivating flowers on her balcony. One day a young Moor passing by saw her, ravished her and she fell in love with him.

However he then announced he was leaving to go back to his wife so she cut off his head and used it as a vase for her flowers – that way his love was forever hers. Since then, flowers grew lush in the vase and the neighbours, envious, built vases shaped like a Moor’s head.

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Another common ceramic motif to be found around the island is a woman’s head with three legs and no arms.

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This rather uncomfortable looking creature is called a Trinacria and is the symbol of Sicily – apparently its shape mirrors the triangular shape of Sicily.

The island of Sicily was known as Trinacrium by the Romans, meaning “star with three points.” The Trinacria symbol is made up of the head of Medusa surrounded by three bent running legs and three stalks of wheat.

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The three bent running legs represent the three capes of Sicily – Peloro, Passero and Lilibeo which also create the three points of the triangle.

The three ears of wheat represent the fertility of the land and Medusa represents the island’s protection by the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of Sicily.

These armless ladies can be spotted everywhere and it becomes a bit addictive to find them!

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There’s so many colourful joy filled things to snap that at least another post or two will purely be souvenir pics!!!

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