Craftsmen in the land of ceramics

ND Dolfi today can boast a company structure and a wealth of experience that are the result of decades of dedication to the production of majolica works of art.

The company was founded in 1941 by Giovanni Dolfi, lodged in a castle overlooking the town of Montelupo. In 1994, his son, Silvano, decided to set up an independent company, Ceramica ND Dolfi. A few years later, after gaining the trust and esteem of the international market, further progress was made in the drive for quality, with the creation of the spacious, modern facility that houses the company today.

…decades of dedication to the production of majolica works of art.

Silvano Dolfi led the company until 2009, receiving from the region of Tuscany the gold medal award as Master Craftsman, before handing over the reins to his daughters Daria and Natalia, who, together with the latter’s husband, Carlo, today manage all aspects of the manufacturing process.

Love of the material, respect for tradition, together with a willingness to experiment – these are the driving forces behind every stage of manufacture, from the first contact with the clay up to the last firing.

Love of the material, respect for tradition, together with a willingness to experiment

“Our products do not follow market trends, nor do they seek to anticipate them. Rather they are the fruits both of the love we have for our craft and of the innovative research that provides us with daily inspiration. We are children of an age-old tradition, but at the same time we take care to adhere to modern tastes, paying constant heed to the wishes of our clients ”
To this end, ND Dolfi is always in direct contact with the customer, whether it be through direct production or contact in the showroom.
With all our products comes the certainty of innovative craftsmanship – the product of years of experience and expert hands.

The manufacturing process

The company uses only high quality raw materials. The clay, the glaze and color bases, everything is handled, reworked and mixed according to the rules dictated by the majolica artwork tradition, following the criteria and sense of taste that constitute the secrets of our trade. The numerous operations that go into the manufacture of our articles are difficult, if not impossible to describe. However, the following are the main production phases:

  • Kneading the clay, to obtain the right consistency for the subsequent casting and processing on the wheel
  • Turning by hand and manual casting in plaster molds
  • Finishing the article by hand, adding decorative features
  • Slow drying, at natural temperature, after which the product is light gray in color
  • Firing, to a maximum temperature of 1,050 degrees centigrade. At the end of this phase, which takes an entire day, the article assumes the color red and is referred to as “bisque” or “biscuit”
  • Applying several coats of enamel in succession
  • Decorating the item, exclusively by hand

The items are then burnished and refined, or enriched with decorations according to the style that characterizes ND Dolfi products. The vases, plates, pitchers, trays and objects of various forms – all dried naturally – are now ready for the high-temperature oven. The firing process gives the item, the “bisque”, solidity, resistance and a pink color. Now it is ready to be painted freehand, with the artist’s touch that makes each item unique. Our designs, as well as the forms of all our products, call on tradition, but can never be regarded as reproductions: the tradition of Montelupo, Arabic and Spanish ceramics, the traditions of southern Italy and the Mediterranean region – all are reviewed and updated in accordance with our understanding of majolica artwork

The Showroom

Our showroom is housed in an original barn, once part of the estate of Marquis Antinori, situated between Florence and Montelupo. This is the place chosen by ND Dolfi to display its quality production.

Outside in the garden, laid out among the cypresses and fruit trees, are jars, vases and anything you might require for the furnishing of the open spaces and green areas of your home. Inside the barn are displayed plates, vases and ceramic ware. The Tuscan country setting lends credence to the craftsmanship, the warmth and the authenticity of ND Dolfi ceramic products.

Ceramica ND Dolfi, the art of time

Few centers of ceramic production can rival Montelupo for the importance of its tradition, in terms of mere size but also for the historical role of the craft activities that developed here, in the “walled-in land” of the Florentine Valdarno. It is no coincidence that the combination of the technical and artistic skill of Montelupo craftsmen and the excellent raw materials to be found locally – enhanced by the cultural and commercial wealth of Florence – saw the creation of one of the fundamental trends in the renaissance of Italian majolica artwork during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

one of the fundamental trends in the renaissance of Italian majolica artwork…

The past, however, is not everything. The good fortune of being able to draw on a centuries-old tradition, it is true, allows you to draw inspiration from an almost inexhaustible repertoire of shapes and decorative designs – developed by generations of excellent craftsmen, if not real masters of the craft. But there is, in this art, a thin and ineffable line running between tradition and innovation, which serves as a pointer towards progress. Even past centuries had their own tradition and the history of the craft studios in Montelupo demonstrates very clearly that in times when tradition prevailed over any stimulus towards renewal, everything became more gray, heralding decline.

I have no idea whether this reflection formed part of the rational process which drove Silvano Dolfi to found his own company in 1963. Nor do I know if it is the case for those who worked with him then, or for those who today are responsible for the glorious ND Dolfi brand. But it is quite likely that this great truth has taken hold of them, in a natural way, through the daily exercise of artistic sensibility that seems to find no rest, and without which no material can be transformed into form and light.
Here on the sturdy trunk of Montelupo tradition, there flourishes a continuous research, which draws from the experience of the past – be it Tuscan, Italian or European – and, animated by that powerful creative spark and fully aware of its historical context, allows a reinterpretation and “translation” into another language, changing only what needs to be changed, in order to provide us even today with the pulse of poetry, to cause a small sliver of sun to shine upon us. Here again there flourishes the most free and pure research into contemporary expression, which is forever mindful of the great masters and the artistic thought of the twentieth century, but often moves towards new, unexplored horizons.
An impeccable technique throughout and one proud to achieve powerful results, even by way of unusual combinations, without distorting the essence of ceramic, but rather enhancing its most intimate and essential features.

Whoever knows and loves Montelupo and its people cannot fail to reserve a special place for ND Dolfi, for its men and women, because they hold in their hands the keys to the future.

through the daily exercise of artistic sensibility that seems to find no rest…

Fausto Berti

Director of the Archaeological Museum of Ceramics, Montelupo Fiorentino

Start typing and press Enter to search