Bruno MunariSkin of Clay


A superficial observer can tell trees from cows: the trees have leaves and the cows donít. A less superficial observer can tell one tree from another, a poplar from a cypress, a gum from a maidenhair tree.

A more sensitive observer looks at a treeís bark: the bark of the sweet chestnut is in high relief, the ash is almost smooth, the silver birch is spotted grey and white, the juniper is vertically furrowed, whereas alders have many horizontal marks in relief. The plane tree looks to be wearing a camouflage suit. The strawberry tree is as smooth and soft as if it were naked. The gum tree sheds strips of bark the colour of tanned skin.

What is (or may be) the skin of clay like? Everything in nature has a texture as the finish to its shape, as in the plant, so, too, in the animal and mineral kingdom. One such texture, especially fine, belongs to the granite from Baveno.

Clay sometimes has texture, sometimes not. When entirely smooth, this means that only the shape is of interest, but when it has a textured surface it becomes of greater interest still, since there is one more reason to observe it.

At this point let us go see Guido De Zan in his workshop. Guido is one of the few ceramists concerned to give his objects not only a form, but also a particular skin, a texture handmade by himself, in accordance with each objectís shape. As a result, just as occurs in nature, where the snakeís skin is different from the snailís, the characteristic surface of a given shape will suit that shape, and will not be the same as the texture of another, different shape.

Some of the textures are like strange writings all made with the same letter of the alphabet, others have a horizontal pattern, others again are more or less in relief, some very fine and tiny, others with only a few, scattered signs.

Iím afraid I now have to go over to the studio where I have arranged to meet Davide; but please do stay on here and take your time to have a good look at all these works with their textures.

Goodbye.

1994