About

Our Company

Tuscan Designs is a family-operated business.  Our shop, founded in 2006, is in beautiful Rockport, Massachusetts, on the Atlantic coast about one hour Northeast of Boston.  We personally seek out some of the finest artisans in Italy, all of whom represent small family-run businesses.  We take pride in ensuring that what you buy from us is authentic and of high quality.  We have a large number of patterns and pieces from which you can choose.  If we don’t have a particular item in stock, we are happy to special order it for you.
Michael Kaplan, the founder of Tuscan Designs, also handcrafts beautiful hardwood tables and mirrors, with inlaid hand-painted tiles from Italy.  Some of these items are shown in our Rockport store, and we would be happy to make a custom table or mirror for you.
If you get a chance, please visit us in Rockport!
Our Ceramics Collections
With rare exception, all of our ceramics are lead free and food safe, have met FDA standards and have been tested and approved for safe use. If an item is strictly for decorative use, it will be clearly marked.   Each of our patterns is available in dinnerware sets or individual pieces.  Please call for a price quote.
Our products should not be used in conventional or microwave ovens. While you can wash our ceramics in a dishwasher on the light cycle, it is highly recommended that you wash these items by hand, since dishwashers could cause chipping and crazing of the surface of the pieces.
Since each ceramic piece is individually crafted and hand-painted, you may notice slight variations in color, size and design. Additionally, on occasion you might see paint smudges, spots, even light fingerprints.  You will also notice looseness of ceramic lids. All of these “variances” should not be considered defects. They are the result of fine work and artistry done completely by hand.

The Ceramics Production Process

All the ceramics sold by Tuscan Designs are completely hand-painted by artists in Italy, and new in 2016, in Nicaragua and Tunisia. The artists produce many different pieces, including vases, plates, bowls, mugs, serving platters, etc. All of their work belongs to a category of ceramics called Majolica. 
The shape of the object is created by throwing the clay on a potters wheel, using plaster casts to act as moulds, or by hand molding.Man forming clay on a potters wheel at a ceramics factory in Deruta, ItalyThe object is then dried slowly at room temperature over a period of several days to a couple of weeks. It is then fired in a kiln for the first time at a temperature of around 1000 degrees C. The firing takes about a day. After the kiln is cooled, the objects are removed. This is called bisque firing.The bisque item is then dipped in a glaze to form the base under-color for the eventual design. This is usually a white or off-white glaze.
Hand painting of ceramics designs in ceramics factory in Deruta, ItalyThe hand-painted design is then applied over the base glaze. The decorating colors are produced by mixing ground minerals with water. The colors are applied to the piece using many different paint brushes from very fine to wide, depending on the level of detail and intricacy of the design. When dry these colors are soft hues, which are very different from the brighter colors once the piece is fired again for the final time. DSCN3427In some instances, typically with more complex patterns, a pounce is used with the design that has first been drawn on waxed paper. Using pins and the pounce, which is filled with a charcoal-like substance, an outline of the design is transferred onto the surface of the piece. The outline is then used by the artist to produce the final design. Some artists, however, will work completely free-hand even for the most complex designs, rather than use the pounce technique.

DSC01513When the design is fully painted, it is sprayed with a glass paste called “crystalline glaze”. This gives the final piece a smooth, glossy and impermeable surface.  
Finally, the piece is fired for a second time, at a lower temperature of about 940 degrees C. During this firing the crystalline glaze becomes transparent and glossy, thus bringing out the brilliant colors of the design itself.

 

Our “Nature’s Elements” Collection

IMG_1807The materials used to make our items are resin and natural elements.  Each article has its mould (male and female) in which decorations are individually laid out by hand (ears of wheat, flowers, pebbles, chili, spices, oranges, etc.). Once the composition is arranged, the mould is closed and the transparent resin (in liquid form) is poured in from one end.
IMG_1806At this point the several sealed moulds are ready for the vacuum machine, where most of the air bubbles that may have formed inside are expelled.  The resin requires a whole night to dry out. Once solid, the object is extracted from the mould. The item is then repeatedly sandpapered, becoming opaque. Any air bubbles that may have surfaced are then removed and filled. A meticulous check is made to make sure each piece is as perfect as possible.
Finally the item is given a food-safe finish, bagged, and individually packaged in a custom-made carton made from recycled board. Enclosed in the packaging is a guarantee certificate attesting that the item is genuinely made and designed in Italy.
The pieces are food-safe for serving both cold and hot foods, although extremely hot foods should be avoided.    Knives should not be used on the pieces.  Items should be hand washed.

Our Florentine Pepper Mills

Our pepper mills are decorated with the nearly forgotten art of Florentine wood painting. It is still being made in the original way by the surviving craftsman of the famous Florentine wood painting technique.  Each detail is exclusively handmade.
First, the solid beechwood body of the mill is covered with a layer of glue and chalk, which is then sanded, gilded with superfine sheets of gold leaf and smoothed with agate stones to give it an antique finish.  Undisclosed paint formulas are used to illuminate the blue, red, green and light blue edges and ornamental designs, followed by an application of transparent finish.  The result is a pepper mill that is a beautiful and unique piece.
The success of the Chiarugi pepper mill, which is still made entirely on the premises of the Florentine company, is based on an original mechanism which actually cuts the peppercorns rather than crushing them. The mill operates on a simple self-centering mechanism, which avoids blockage or breakage, and enables the grind to be adjusted from course to fine.
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