Top quality and high reliability, these are the two characteristics for which the pottery of Fratelli Mari has become known and appreciated all over the world since 1932. Classicism and respect for tradition are the cornerstones of the strategic production decisions of the company. Today, Giacomo and Carlo Patacca are prouder than ever of their origins rooted in the territory of Deruta and the many generations of master ceramists, with evidence of their craft dating as far back as the sixteenth century. The company's strength lies in its great capacity to customize each product, fully satisfying all of its customers' needs. Each object is unique, with the option to choose the engraved signature of the artist who designed and created it, other initials, an important date, some people, then, have even requested and obtained the incision of a tattoo representing their family crest. The endless combinations of motifs and customizations and the totally handcrafted workmanship make even a simple object exclusive.
Fratelli Mari was founded in 1932 by three brothers and by Paolo Patacca, their brother-in-law, with the idea of joining forces to establish a solid company honoring the traditions of past generations. Indeed, the Mari family has lived in Deruta since the sixteenth century, and in the eighteenth century, the paterfamilias Giuseppe Mari opened his own kiln, becoming the first pottery in town.
Since 1932, his work has been handed down from generation to generation until today, and now Giacomo Patacca, along with his father, Carlo, continue the production and the business with passion and dedication. The name Fratelli Mari has for many years reached beyond the borders of Italy, and has now come to the United States. From the beginning, production and workmanship were based exclusively on pottery. Since 2000, the company has chosen to outsource the production of its semi-finished goods to specialized companies, while the strength of the brand lies in the entire process of glazing and decorating that leads to the finished product. The motifs used are strictly inspired by the classics that made the art and craftsmanship of the potters of Deruta famous. One example is the well-known Raffaellesco decoration, which later became the symbol of Deruta products when a few grotesque motifs in Raphael's frescoes in the Vatican made an impression on the potters of Deruta, who began to reproduce them. Giacomo and Carlo Patacca carry on their work by coordinating various teams of craftsmen and painters. Giacomo performs the role of manager of marketing and distribution, while Carlo is the artistic soul, and he paints and coordinates the team of painters. Their exclusive Palio di Siena collection is famous and was developed in collaboration with the Consortium for the Protection of the Palio. It consists of a series of products, mainly household items, decorated with the 17 contrade (districts) of the Palio, unchanged since 1729. Each product is unique and original because it bears the logo of the Palio, a guarantee of its authentic origin. The classic collections, which are the heart of the company's productive activity, have been joined by experiments made in the 80s with the collaboration of important artists such as Mario Schifano, and these gave birth to modern forms and a design more focused on the demands of the Italian market.
All products are entirely made by hand, in all phases.
Depending on the models to be made, different methods of workmanship are employed. All that is cylindrical in shape is realized on a manual wheel, while other forms are processed with the "colaggio" technique – plaster cast molds are made, and clay is then applied to them. Once ready, the preform is glazed using a dipping technique. After the glazing stage, the object is kept still for 24 hours to dry. Once dry, the painting phase can begin. The painters can perform two techniques: freehand painting for all decorations representing fruit and flowers or a technique called "a spolvero" (pouncing) for all classic decorations. The method involves laying a semi-transparent paper on the image, then tracing along the lines of the image by creating pricked marks on the sheet of paper. This pounced drawing made of pricked holes is laid over the object, graphite is applied on the holes to obtain the outline of the decoration, then traced manually with a small brush. Once the painting and decorating stage has been completed, craftsmen apply a crystalline layer to the object and return it to the oven so that the glaze becomes fixed with the freshly-applied colors and forms a glass film around the object. When it comes out of the oven, the object is inspected for quality. If the outcome is positive, the item is shipped to the warehouse and packed; if the result is only partially positive, the object returns to the painting room to correct any mistakes and imperfections and undergo a new firing. Fratelli Mari uses electric furnaces that reach 935 degrees. The clay used is predominantly red for all the cylindrical forms shaped on a wheel, while for some objects white clay, lighter and less flexible, is used instead. None of the materials used contain lead or cadmium. The company has made another choice: its decorations are never made with decals, but only by hand.
Notable works and events
Fratelli Mari was present until 2010 at all major international pottery fairs and exhibitions: New York, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Milan. Since 2010 the company has chosen not to participate in trade fairs but to meet directly with buyers and customers. The company's principal characteristic is the ability to always satisfy the many needs and demands of its customers. A high degree of customization is available for each product and this is what makes their objects truly unique and never repeatable. Among the most important made-to-order collections are the exclusive tableware made for the White House and a set of bonbonnières produced at the request of Geena Davis, the famous American actress.
Fratelli Mari is located in the industrial area of Deruta, in Umbria. Since 2009, management and operations have moved into a new factory, which operates as both a workshop and sales showroom. Deruta is one of Italy's most important centers of pottery production. There is evidence of this production that dates back to the thirteenth century, while beginning in the fourteenth century Deruta assumed the role of producer for the entire region and leading Italian exporter.
The richest period was the sixteenth century, when its craftsmen were influenced by the climate of artistic and cultural revolution of the Renaissance. It was in that period that the famous Raffaellesco decoration spread throughout the city, and it has since become the symbol of Deruta pottery. It is a composition of plants, animals and men, with grotesque elements, and it evokes one of Raphael's most famous works. After a period of slight decline from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the Deruta pottery returned to fashion and flourished at the end of the nineteenth century. From then on, its fame has crossed Italian borders and now extends throughout the world.