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DNA Explores: Ceramic-Hunting in Southern Italy


As the owner of rugs and homeware store Living DNA, my passion has always been about our products being truly “hand-picked” and artisanal. But what does this mean? I caught up with the Expat Living Singapore team after a trip to the Amalfi Coast in September 2019, where I went on the hunt for beautiful ceramics.

The idyllic drive to Vietri Sul Mare

Tell us about your latest sourcing trip. Where did you go, and why?

I went to the ancient town of Vietri Sul Mare (“Vietri by the sea”) on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. This is an important location in the history of ceramics; it was known for making the best ceramic tiles for the palaces, baths and holiday mansions of the Roman emperors. As other places in the world began to discover largescale ceramic making, this quiet remote town became somewhat forgotten. Over recent decades, though, as travellers have started uncovering the beautiful holiday destinations of South Italy, the artisans of Vietri have been rediscovered.


Beautiful towns we passed by

How do you get there?

There are lots of idyllic stopovers on the long drive along the Amalfi Coast. Everyone knows about the Instagram-perfect destinations of Positano and Capri, but few know the secrets of Vietri. To get there, you need to drive for two more hours down the idyllic winding scenic roads.

When we arrived there, I was amazed by how the town walls were covered in ceramic tiles painted with pastoral scenes, biblical stories and everyday life. The streets come alive with old storefronts and their colourful ceramic signage.

My last trip to Italy was a six-month study trip 12 years ago, so I had to revise my Italian skills very quickly to be able to work with an artisan family who didn’t speak a word of English - that was a fun challenge! It was also a feat managing a carsick toddler along the dizzying drive. Luckily there was no shortage of splendid secluded beaches - plus gelato and granita stops - to refresh the whole family. 

My little boy and I explore the streets adorned with handpainted tiles.

Tell us about some of the artisans you met.

Out of many old families making ceramics we met, I felt most at ease with a workshop run by two brothers. One of them, Carlo, admitted to me that the master painter in the family is their “Papa”, Egidio. Watching his effortless work was mesmerizing; he would skillfully paint vines on platters while watching Italian football at the same time! Needless to say, Egidio worked on all the ceramics I chose for Living DNA on this trip.Kitcheware - Living DNA Singapore

Raw clay ready for painting

What did you like most about his work?

Traditional Vietri ceramics are painted with rustic elements like animals, trees, fruits and vegetables typical of the Southern coastal Italian climate. I’m sure many people will agree the prettiest would be the lemon trees that you see on the region's picturesque cliffs. So, I chose lemons as the main design theme of our collection as I loved Signor Egidio’s depiction of them, with thick brush strokes against the recognizable Mediterranean blue and white.

Tableware - Living DNA Singapore

Who would the ceramics suit?

These are items that are meant to be put in the spotlight, and what better opportunity than when entertaining? Our Italian ceramic collection includes large serving plates, modular platters for dips or starters, dinner plates and cutlery holders. Everything is hand-painted, dishwasher-safe and meant to be used over and over again for generations. It’s part of the “buy less, buy well” sustainable living practice we cultivate at Living DNA.

Kitchen and Dining Ware - Living DNA Singapore

Shop the Vietri collection online and in-store | starts at $75

Published on Expat Living Singapore Magazine, April 2020 issue.