Visuals and text by Tamra Portalla
Sting and the Police are filling the tiny ceramics studio La Maiolica with screams about a woman named Roxanne, but Linda Zepponi doesn't seem to notice. As the high-energy music bounces off the walls, Zepponi's hands draw intricate and graceful designs on a large platter. Her pace may be slower than Sting's, but her passion for her art soars to the same level.
"I fell in love with the art," Zepponi states while painting.
This passion touches visitors in her shop on Via Atanagi in Cagli. Vases, plates, cups, lamps, clocks, and more hang from the walls and the ceiling, all displaying the intricate patterns of Zepponi's imagination, most of them in shades of blue.
Zepponi's passion for art began at an early age when she was exposed to her father's iron work. As an artist himself, he created tables, bookshelves, and stair railings, all of which were created from iron. But he discouraged his daughter from following his path.
"Creating art is not a 9-5 job, it's an all-encompassing and continual process that very often does not lead to a financially wealthy life," Zepponi's parents told her.
But like any true artist, Zepponi couldn't be deterred and pursued her dreams against the wishes of her family. She attended art school after high school and was in the middle of a program in iron and metal work when she took a class in ceramics, not knowing anything about it. It was an instant attraction, and Zepponi soon changed her focus, eventually gaining a certificate in ceramics.
After school she began teaching art to earn a living, but never felt it would become a lifelong career. "I enjoyed teaching," Zepponi says, but she knew she wanted to "take the risk" to have her own shop, and five years ago she opened La Maiolica.
Having her own business, she says, "has been a challenge, and although I am uncertain about the future, I am getting by for now." Her family has even embraced her decision, helping with administrative tasks like filing taxes and watching the store while she is away at conventions where she is able to network with successful artists and experts in the field.
Zepponi creates traditional pieces, which she describes as more mosaic; they are lined with gold, silver, and bronze. These traditional patterns can be found throughout the Marche region of Italy. However, Zepponi also draws inspiration from Spanish, Arabic, and Persian artwork. She often looks for patterns to imitate in magazines and online sources.
Conversely she also creates a more modern and unique line of ceramics, which involves many techniques using wax and other media. Zepponi sometimes incorporates the ironwork of her father in some of her pieces, which blends two generations of artists together. Bright colors accompanied by more traditional colors highlight the variety of flavor and style in her work.
When entering the shop, visitors are immediately struck by the colors and the organization of the artwork displayed. About the size of a small child's room, the shop has one window in the front so that much of the light comes from the beautiful lamps that Zepponi herself has created. The prices of her items range from €5 to €100 and up, depending on the size of the item and how intricate the detail created is.
She says she tries to adhere to two important practices in her business.
The first is to work with other local artists to construct unique pieces made of ceramics and other materials. "Working with other artists is an important business practice not only to establish meaningful connections in the field but to find new ways to use my art and combine my art with other unique items," Zepponi says.
The other practice is creating personal rapport with her costumers. She only created a website within the last month for her business, because using the Web means "that I do not get to know the customers, there is no real connection online." For Zepponi maintaining a close network of customers is important not only for business but for the community. She explains that forming good relationships can lead to other opportunities as well as repeat customers and great advertisement.
Zepponi says some artists find their passion in music while others find it in dance or painting, but she chose an art form created from earth, water, and fire - critical elements of the Marche landscape.