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.The 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.
The 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. In 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.
When 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.