Artist Profile: Antonio

Artist Profile: Antonio
Antonio wishes for his audience to see the beauty in unity, as he believes that "unione crea la forza" (unity creates strength). His art, projects, and collaborations are a testament to the power of collective effort and a shared heritage.

Welcome to the world of Antonio, a true embodiment of Castelli's artistic heritage. His journey is a testament to the profound connection between a humble village and the enduring pursuit of creative expression.

Antonio's artistic odyssey began at the Art School of Castelli in 1974. During his three years at the school, he fell in love with the tactile nature of ceramics and the mathematical precision it demanded—a perfect blend of art and science, essential for a budding ceramist.

After his third year, Antonio's quest for mastery led him to the workshop of the esteemed Bruno Mercante. In those days, securing a place in a Castelli workshop was a coveted honour, but one that came with humble beginnings. He started by cleaning and preparing materials for other ceramists, earning the privilege of a mere hour a day at the potter's wheel. Learning came without monetary reward; instead, Antonio's parents would show their appreciation at the year's end with heartfelt gifts to the workshops that nurtured his growth. This practical foundation paved the way for Antonio's 14-year tenure at a prominent ceramic producer in Castelli, which employed 50 individuals. Here, he honed his craft and became one of the principal ceramists, contributing to the creation of exquisite tableware that graced tables throughout Europe.

(Family and Roots) Antonio's origins lie in a family of farmers. Growing up in the village during its golden era, his formative years were steeped in honest labour and authentic cuisine. Surrounded by hardworking individuals, Antonio's ambition was set—to attend the renowned Art School of Castelli, a beacon of creativity that shone across Europe. While his family had no artistic lineage, the village's vivacious atmosphere inspired a generation of artists, including Antonio.

(Life in Castelli) The vibrancy of Castelli's life and culture deeply influenced Antonio's artistic style and vision. He grew up relishing genuine food and labouring alongside dedicated villagers during the village's most prosperous years. Specifically, the positive energy that pervades Castelli has consistently fuelled Antonio's artistic pursuits, serving as a wellspring of inspiration.

(Art and Creativity) For Antonio, art and creativity are not merely passions; they are life itself. Creating art brings him a profound sense of peace and fulfilment. Despite the enduring crises that Castelli has faced after the first and second earthquake of 2009 and 2016, Antonio is proud to have maintained his own workshop, where his art thrives.

(Other Joys and Interests) Beyond art, Antonio's heart is captivated by the world of soccer. In response to the housing crisis and dwindling population following earthquakes in Castelli, he founded a soccer school, ensuring that the village's remaining children had an outlet for their energy and dreams.

In his free time, Antonio relishes time spent wandering the mountains with friends, searching for mushrooms or partaking in the tradition of hunting. The simple joys of dining with family and friends bring happiness to his life.

(Musical Tastes) When crafting his art, Antonio prefers to work in silence, finding solace in the tranquility of his studio.

(Favorite Dish) Antonio's favourite dish, "Maccheroni Alle Pallottine" - homemade spaghetti with tiny meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, carries the flavours of his childhood, a testament to his deep-rooted connection to Castelli.

(Creative Routines) His creative process is punctuated by the heartwarming tradition of Nonna Anna passing by the workshop with fresh espresso and homemade cookies at 3 pm, offering a moment of respite and inspiration in the midst of the day.

(Morning Rituals) Antonio's mornings are marked by simplicity, with no specific rituals. He finds solace in leaving his home and heading to his beloved workshop, where creativity flows freely.

(Inspirations and Influences) The art of the 1700s in Castelli, particularly the Grue family, stands as a profound influence on Antonio. Their innovative painting methods and techniques, which were shared across Italy, including in Napoli, have left an indelible mark on his creative journey.

(Artistic Achievements) Antonio's artistic journey is marked by a multitude of projects and artistic collaborations, including producing pieces for the Ministry of Culture in Rome. However, his collaboration with Árgillarte stands out as a unique endeavour that breathes life into the history and art of Castelli, making him immensely proud.

(Future Aspirations) Antonio's future goals are to promote Castelli and its distinctive history in art and ceramics to the greatest extent possible. He is especially passionate about the collection for Árgillarte and assisting in realising the nonprofit initiatives dedicated to the village and its people.

(Advice for Aspiring Artists) To the aspiring artists who follow in his footsteps, Antonio offers a simple yet profound piece of advice: work diligently and stay focused on your dreams. Honest labor is a guaranteed path to reward.

(Closing Thoughts) In closing, Antonio's artistic journey and dedication to his craft are nothing short of inspiring. He invites you to connect with his work, which beautifully weaves together tradition and innovation, and to experience the rich artistic tapestry of Castelli. Through his art, he carries the legacy of this remarkable village forward, ensuring that its history remains vibrant and relevant in the modern world.

Respecting the artist's privacy, they have chosen not to disclose their last name.

Words and photography by Nadia Whitehurst
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