Fornace Brioni x ferm LIVING

A story about clay, water and fire.

Danish design meets Italian craftmanship in this collaboration between the ferm LIVING design team in Copenhagen and Fornace Brioni’s outstanding artistry and expertise. The products are crafted in Gonzaga, a small Italian town steeped in history and Renaissance culture. The collection consists of clay designs that are made exclusively by hand using local cotto techniques that have been handed down through generations.

Founded in 1920 in Gonzaga, Italy, the family-run factory where Argilla Wall Lamps, Shape Sculpture Set and Flod Tiles are made is dedicated to alchemy and produces rustic cotto pieces using earth, water and fire. Sourced from the floodplains of the Po, Italy’s longest river that flows eastward from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic Sea, the clay is driven to the factory where it is stored in piles outside to dry naturally in the heat of the Italian sun. When new batches of tiles are made, the raw clay is moved inside where water is added to make it malleable and smooth. Natural colouring is added to the clay while it is wet and surplus double-fired clay is used to create a white, marble-like pattern.

The clay is then cast by hand in a mould selected from one of hundreds of shapes that line the factory walls, some of which are more than 100 years old and are used to make church floor tiles. Like a baker dusting a surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking, the clay artisans sprinkle sawdust into the mould before adding the clay and removing air bubbles with a hard blow. Excess clay is then removed from the edges of the mould with steel wire, and the newly shaped tiles are removed and placed on drying racks that are then transported to the drying room.

Inside the dark room, it is almost impossible to discern where the racks begin and end. Warmed by excess heat from the kiln, which reaches 1,000° Celsius when fired once weekly, the tiles are left to air-dry for up to twenty days before heading to the oven. The thicker the tile and the more water it holds, the longer it needs to dry to ensure it does not crack when fired. Once dried, the surface of the tiles is polished to an even finish by a large machine. The thin layer of dust is brushed away before the tiles are stacked in the kiln. Subsequently fired for four to five days, the tiles are then covered with a layer of liquid wax for durability. After one and a half months in the making, the finished pieces are carefully packed before starting their journey from Italy to Denmark.