The artist, known for his constant research on clay shaping and decoration, has enriched the local iconographic heritage.
By Vito Pinto
At the center of Ratio, there is a narrow road, San Vito, that leads to Villa Guariglia, the ambassador Raffaele’s historic home. Today, the center of the local Museum of Ceramics. Right in front of the Villa, we find Lucio Liguori’s workshop: few rooms and a fireplace, always burning during the winter months, ready to be used for cooking a delicious pasta dish for friends. At the end of the San Vito road, you can also find the family Guariglia private chapel dedicated to Sicily’s young martyr.
Today, a little staircase brings you to a country street where a gate with a ceramic plate indicates Lucio Liguori’s workshop entrance. Here, close enough to Villa Cantarella, the laboratory overlooks Salerno’s gulf and is immersed in rich vegetation. The poet Alfonso Gatto celebrated Raito describing in his poem how the village is full of wonders: «paese di dolcezza per gli inverni, /un paese così come si dava / fosse in quel tempo, con la vita uguale / alla vita, al suo mietere lontano».
The artist Lucio Liguori while working in his atelier, courtesy of the artist
The relationship with ceramics
When you enter the garden surrounding Lucio’s lab, you will be happily welcomed by Maia, a medium- side white rescued dog with big, loving eyes. Then Luigi appears, calm and serene, showing the attitude of a man who worked all day patiently, and he’s aware that he did well for his community and his family. “Do you know we are grandparents?” Lucio tells us with excitement while his wife, Teresa, is occupied painting grapes on a few small tiles. “Even when I had the opportunity, I never left Raito for good. The ceramics tradition of this place is important to me, and my land shaped the man I am today, so I could never see myself anywhere else,” he says, and we can hear his emotions while he talks about his life and his journey. Liguori worked hard to reach the point where he is today and never turned his back to the Vietri heritage.
Lucio Liguori never was a typical adolescent. Indeed, he was only twelve when he started working to help his family face difficult moments. He worked tirelessly from the very beginning, going from one factory to the other to learn as much as he could. It was during this time that he discovered the Potter’s lathe. “When I met Vincenzo Scannapieco, I learned how to use the lathe and work a clay block in the right way. I bought my lathe when I was 16, so I could put it in the basement to work and improve. I remember that for about two-three years, I worked down there almost non-stop. Then, I started selling to potters in Vietri my creations: but since I didn’t have the right kiln, I would only sell them unfired clay”.
Walking around his workshop today, it’s clear that this place is the result of a lot of work and his owner’s stubbornness. But everywhere you look, a sense of radiating art is what fills the environment. Lucio, the fifth son of a family rich in dignity but not in money, knew from a very young age that he had to think about creating something worthwhile for himself and others. Today indeed, his two brothers Pasquale and Domenico also opened pottery shops as him, even if they aren’t that close. “When I introduced my family to ceramics, I got my brothers and sisters involved,” he says to us today. He recalls how he helped his brother Osvaldo, a musician that didn’t have a job once he came back home from Holland, and how his sister Anna helped him being acknowledged by the shops of the area.
The first Maiolica
Like many other young men, he could not escape military service, but he was given a half-cubic meter kiln as a present on his return. However, the problem was the money to connect the oven to the electricity supply so that it would work, which only happened in February 1979, when he paid ENEL 589,000 lire for the connection. Young Lucio saved up every cent he had ever received from selling unfired clay to be able to reach his goal, an achievement so significant to him that he keeps the payment receipt for the oven in a framed picture even today. “Once I got the kiln, everything turned into another direction. I started putting the glaze on the ceramics and, since I didn’t know how to decorate properly, I used only to draw geometric motives. That’s how I started with my first maiolica, working day by day to perfect my art. I own a lot to Matteo Rispoli because when I was working at his factory in Molina, I got the chance to observe many artists that came there and to learn from them”. In those years, Lucio was eager to evolve and was always ready to “steal” any advice from brilliant minds like Filibero Men, Edoardo Sanguineti, Ugo Marano, Antonio Petti, and even the young Enzo Rispoli.
Lucio Liguori artwork inspired by his land, courtesy of the artist
Introduction to Escher
“What you are seeing here today is the result of years of sacrifices, hard work, and lots of studying,” he tells us. He had the chance to work as a potter in different places, which allowed him to travel and discover Neapolitan ceramics’ secrets. In the end, though, he always chose Raito. “In Amalfi, I was working for Alberto Sassoni and Laura di Santo and, one day, they gifted me a book on Escher. To me, it was love at first sight. His drawings and colors inspired me to create and decorate”. So he started to paint tiny little landscapes with small churches and small bell towers where the primary colors were coal blue, chrome yellow, and copper green. Those quickly became his lucky charms, and, like that, Lucio brought happiness to anyone who would look at them. As Alfonso Gatto once wrote on Positano and its buildings: «…la svolta / d’un paese che c’è come una volta / da chiamare per nome e da tacere. / Un sogno dire queste case vere».
A Craftsman’s job
Who was Lucio’s biggest inspiration among all the Vietrese’s artists? “Carmine Carrera,” he answers without any hesitation. “I’m completely committed to the work. As soon as I start modeling a piece of clay, I’m already envisioning the best decoration to put on it,” he says to us, and, in his words, we can feel his passion for pottery’s lathe. An old form of artistry that even inspired Emilio Cecchi in 1931 to write “Il Vasaio” (the Potter) after he saw Vincenzo Solimene work in his factory Pinto in Vietri Sul Mare.
Investing in the right material
“When I was younger, I was more focused on getting money so I could create. Now I’m investing in the raw material because I feel the need to experiment. I’m blessed to have my wife Teresa by my side also at work, and I hope that one day my daughter Irene will continue this family business. Nowadays, I’m always searching for small details around me so that I can turn them into drawings for my next ceramic piece”.
Lucio Liguori’s atelier, via San Vito 49, Raito di Vietri sul mare, email: email@example.com
(Translation by Michela Pandolfi)