Tastardi: the history of the company

“Luciano Italian Ceramic” has a long history behind it characterised by the union of tradition and innovation, an inseparable knot that has accompanied all the artistic seasons combined with enlightened experiences of commercial entrepreneurship.

LUCIANO Sr. the founder

Luciano’, stage name of Lamberto Tastardi, was born near Salerno on 4 April 1925.

From a very young age he demonstrated an innate ability in drawing; he attended the Salerno ceramics school under the guidance of the illustrious Prof. Renato Rossi. It was the latter, once he had finished his studies, who recommended him with a letter of introduction to the greatest ceramics manufacturer in Salerno, Umberto D’Agostino, with whom he immediately began his apprenticeship. From 1940 to 1955, he became one of the best decorators for the ‘Ernestine’, for whom he painted the most complex decorations, and also for the ‘Musa’ of Vietri, who, having moved to Rome shortly afterwards, wanted him at all costs as head of decoration.

After choosing to stay in Salerno, in 1955 he started his own business by founding ‘Creazioni Luciano’ together with his wife Rina

The term ‘Creazioni’ immediately reflects Luciano’s multifaceted spirit, as he felt the need to range all round in various creative fields: fashion, fabrics, ceramics, costume jewellery, enamelled metals.

Fabrics and costume jewellery

In 1955, having realised the importance that fashion was acquiring in Italy, he began to produce fabrics, curtains and clothing, all rigorously hand-painted, and, in full harmony with the experimental spirit of the time, he mainly developed three stylistic decorative strands.

In the first, he exploited his experience in ceramic decoration made up of rapid, unique and decisive brushstrokes to which belong the subjects with floral and marine motifs, the refined series of ‘Greek vases’ and that inspired by the chromatic vivacity of Raoul Dufy’s paintings.

In the second, the gestural traces of the flat brushstrokes, as they fade away, become the cue to warp monochrome geometric patterns, sometimes with an ‘optical’ flavour.

In the third Luciano perfected his own method of ‘manual stamping’: he constructed ‘stamps’ by mounting inner tubes of old tyres on wooden handles which, dipped in colours and pressed onto fabrics, created splendid and diverse patterns with an ‘informal’ and abstract character.

Between ’62 and ’64, he exhibited his fabrics in the major Italian haute couture shows; for example, at SAMIA in Turin, he presented his fashion-sea collection that was a success among international boutiques. He also collaborated with prestigious haute couture houses in Rome: the Shubert Boutiques and the Fontana sisters. In 1966, he participated in the MITAM in Milan, where he caught the attention of the famous architect Giò Ponti, who was interested in his fabrics, particularly the abstract ones, and proposed him for publication in the magazine ‘Domus’.

At the same time, he devoted himself to the production of ceramic and enamelled metal jewellery and in 1970 he won the gold medal at the 4th edition of the ‘Mare Moda Capri’ exhibition in this category.

“The ceramics and the ‘new cloisonné

(in search of his own original product)

At the same time as the production of fabrics, which was discontinued around ’67 due to the problems linked to the toxicity of the old colours used to dye them, from ’55 Luciano carried out numerous experiments in the field of ceramics, which were followed by many innovative techniques. The latter place him as the forerunner and promoter of the only alternative ceramics present in the area in those years to the ‘Vietri’ production technique that was prevailing at the time and whose far-sightedness is only attested today by the widespread diffusion of similar ways of making ceramics.

The dark background series, the ‘black manner

In the ‘black manner’, white clay is covered with a layer of black and, as in Greek vases, graffitied with an awl to reveal the white pattern. The small or large plates are then covered with vivid glazes, sometimes overlapping or even ‘textured’, which, in fusion, during firing, create effects suitable for depicting fantastic motifs such as bichaudate sirens, the world of the deep sea or peacocks of oriental ancestry.

Cast enamels, series with drippings

The ‘black manner’ is an inspiration in the production of a considerable amount of ‘dripping’ objects where overlapping enamels dripping on vertical walls during firing create flamboyant informal effects capable of simulating even ‘hard stones’ with which to adorn costume jewellery.

Thick glass

Ceramics with ‘thick glass’ are characterised by the use of a white earthenware body, but more often in refractory, to compensate for the strong expansion of the overlying vitreous body to which colours, glazes and a very thick vitreous grain are applied. The pieces, sometimes with motifs impressed into the clay or with a ‘threaded’ manganese design, may be linked to a certain figuration or suggest the sense of an abstract fantasy. Characteristic of this process is, again, the randomness given to the glazes and colours to blend freely during firing in such a way as to cause smudging and colour contamination that makes each piece unique.

The glazed ceramics

It is in this series that Luciano, being fascinated by ancient stained glass, introduces the ‘relief drawing’. Using a burin, he began to engrave deep grooves in the plaster by hand. Then, using white clay, he tried and tried again to cast it into the engraved moulds, obtaining valuable rectangular or shaped pieces with a ”fully closed” and strongly raised relief design, conceptually reminiscent of the ”lead” of stained glass. The reliefs thus created separate many small cavities into which colours and glazes are poured. Finally, he superimposes the ‘large vitreous grits’ that flatten out after firing to show through a thick layer of glass with a ‘cracked ice’ effect, a beautiful clear and decisive pattern within which the colours reverberate in the cracks in the glass.

The new cloisonné

The ‘Ceram-glass’ series represents something truly new and unique; unfortunately, due to the large glass beads some pieces do not withstand firing. Luciano eliminates them and modifies his technique: he engraves shallower designs by hand in plaster and finally, in 1967, he perfects what he will call ‘New Cloisonné’, something very similar to the cloisonné of goldsmithing, but made with ceramics. The new artefacts, all made with white clay, are characterised by a relief design just high enough to contain the new vitreous enamels used in those years, the ‘coloured crystalline’ craquelés, applied one by one by hand with the help of a few beads in the second firing, where they spread perfectly revealing that transparent, shiny and brilliant colour aspect he had been searching for for some time.

Luciano now has his own original product; he creates a vast sample book with Mediterranean subjects among which the ‘Casette Mediterranee’ series stands out, inspired by the vertical views of the houses perched on the cliffs of Capri or the ‘Divina Costiera’ between Amalfi and Positano.

His new ceramic art technique made him recognisable first in Italy, then abroad; he received numerous awards and certificates of esteem from great personalities such as Irene Kowaliska, the mother of much of Vietri iconography, who gave him photos of his drawings so that he could draw inspiration from them for a new series in relief, and this is how the “scenette” were born, small poetic slices of daily life animated by fishermen and shepherds.

“Creazioni Luciano” exhibited his pieces at major Italian fairs dedicated to gift items such as the Spoleto High Artistic Craftsmanship Exhibition for ceramics, where he won the silver medal from ’67 to ’69, and at the Florence International Craftsmanship Exhibition, where from ’70 to ’72 he won the gold medal for the Mediterranean house series and the title of best souvenir.

The new pieces appeared in numerous publications on high Italian craftsmanship; the company consolidated its position as a leader in the field of relief ceramics and opened up to international markets at the end of the 1970s, exporting mainly to the United States for Robert Lo Forti and Jerry and Sally of Fancifuls inc. who commissioned a line of custom-made designs for the States, a series with a naïve character that drew on American daily life: the ‘American scenes’ and the ‘little houses of old America’ were born.

In 1981, Shino Toseki International of Osaka launched its line for Japan at the Gift Fair in Tokyo.

In 1982, the Salerno Chamber of Commerce honoured him with a Gold Medal as the person who had most distinguished himself in the economic field.

Modular house numbers and letters

Another fantastic intuition dates back to the late 1970s, when Luciano, taking advantage of his ‘relief process’, introduced the ingenious novelty of modular house numbers. He was the first to produce modular tiles reproducing the individual numbers from zero to nine, complete with side frames and adorned with small “Art Nouveau” rosettes that could be fully customised. The tiles, at first in “large” format, were narrowed down at the suggestion of American customers accustomed to very long house numbers and the series extended to all the letters of the alphabet so that everyone could compose words or the name of their villa. The series with “liberty” rosettes and, later, the one with “limoncini” immediately became a commercial success, a cult item known the world over, imitated by an untold number of manufacturers, but of which Creazioni Luciano remains the world leader.

Ceramic relief with matt glazes

Creazioni Luciano’s research did not stop and in 1983 it perfected the new ‘Ceram-Satin’ satin relief technique, availing itself of the collaboration of an exceptional staff that mainly involved its sons, Luciano Jr. and Roberto who, since 1984, have dedicated themselves to the continuity of this family tradition, the former taking care of the company management, the latter of the artistic one. In more than thirty years, they have enriched the manufacture with significant production innovations and hundreds of decorations ranging from simple souvenirs to large plates. Luciano Jr. represents the managerial soul of the company, where he brings significant innovations in all sectors. Roberto, animated by the same paternal passion, becomes the new designer and artistic soul of the factory, to whom his father will henceforth entrust all the most complex engravings, techniques and secrets.

The company also boasts within its staff the presence of Antonio D’Arienzo, the best modeller and trainer in the area, a pupil of Becher the German, and Professor Ugo Bruno, an excellent decorator and great expert in chemical formulas, two of Luciano’s youthful friends with whom he had worked as a boy between the ‘Ernestine’ and the ‘Musa’.

Finally, he has a huge team of highly trained decorators and other workers who have grown up in the company since their youth. Know-how is at its peak, and in those years the company regularly exhibited at the Gift in Florence and the Macef in Milan, ranging from small souvenirs, also present in the shops of the Uffizi and the Colosseum, to modular house numbers, objects of all shapes, large landscape plates and artistic plates rich in detail in all possible finishes, from garish glossy and glassy to matt ones in pastel shades.

In 1991, Luciano began a collaboration born out of his great friendship with Monsignor Carucci, superintendent of the Diocesan Museum of Salerno, starting the reproduction in ceramic, with matt finish, of the precious Salerno ‘Avori del Nuovo Testamento’ (New Testament Ivories) cycle dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, introducing production in the museumware sector.

Invited to the American “Colombiadi” exhibition in ’92, he exhibited the series of the “Avori” together with the series “Monumenti d’Italia” in “Piazza Italia” at the “Discovery of Italy” in New York, where he received praise from Mrs. Matilde Cuomo, wife of the governor.

Luciano died on 21 October 2018 at the age of 93 and rests in San Cipriano Picentino, his hometown.

Roberto Tastardi, Art Director

Roberto Tastardi was born in Salerno in 1967.

He is the son of one of the most important Italian ceramists, Luciano Sr, founder in 1955 of the historic ceramics company ‘Creazioni Luciano’.

Roberto underwent his artistic training between the Florence High School of Art, under the teaching of master Mario Nuti, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, taught by masters such as Armando De Stefano and Bruno Starita, where he graduated in Painting in 1989, qualifying himself as a teacher of painting disciplines.

Since the 1980s, he began to work permanently with his father, whom lovingly transmitted to him his know-how and techniques. The daily collaboration with Antonio D’Arienzo and “Professor” Ugo Bruno was particularly fruitful: the first was the best modeller and trainer in the area, a pupil of Becher “the German”, the latter was an excellent decorator and great expert in chemical formulas, both Luciano Sr.’s childhood friends.

Since 1984, he has been a designer, engraver and artistic director at the historic family company ‘Creazioni Luciano’, today ”Luciano Italian Ceramic S.R.L.S.”, and represents its artistic soul.

As a result, the company acquired a new “arrow in its bow”: the designs became more and more articulated, the number of self-produced chisels multiplied and he produced numerous landscape paintings in matt ceramic.

Roberto is currently the only living chalk hand-engraver, capable of producing very complex drawings with the ceramic cloisonné technique, developed by his father Luciano Sr in the late 1960s, which closely resembles the cloisonné of goldsmithing.

The constant Sunday trips with his father between the ”Divine Coast”, Capri and Ischia, the walks among the Moorish-style houses and the majolica domes of Positano and Amalfi, created a strong bond between Roberto and the traditional Mediterranean landscape, that still to this day represents a subconscious constant that cyclically reappears in his works.

This cultural milieu has made Roberto an artist with an eclectic personality. In his works, he mixes his father’s heritage with a personal, modern and experimental vision: relief ceramics, thick glass, traditional matt or glossy textured enamels are combined with his new experimentation with light raku, terra sigillata, metallic glazes and splendid gold and silver finishes.

In 2002, following the path of ”Creazioni Luciano”, he founded together with his brother Luciano Jr ”Tastardi Tiles”, a company specialised in the production of high quality wall and floor ceramics, mixing the production techniques of the original manufacture, the ”rilievo”, with manual decorations. At the same time, he continues his personal artistic research, producing hundreds of decorations, works of art and design with which he participates in various collective exhibitions and international trade fairs.
Particularly noteworthy is the 300X70 cm panel depicting the “Transfer of the Body of Saint Andrew” in 2004, commissioned by the Centre of Culture and History of Amalfi and walled outside the crypt of Amalfi Cathedral.

Roberto Tastardi’s entire artistic research is based on the continuous and personal investigation of the link between ancient and modern following the lesson of the great Vietrese artist Guido Gambone, to whom Roberto refers and whose ability to free ceramics from the historical, millenary role of everyday object is admired.

Roberto seeks to transfer all his own artistic experiences, from painting, engraving and sculpture to ceramics, while perpetuating the traditional production tecniques perpetuated through the artistic direction of the family brand. Through his personal project ”Terra d’artista”, he ventures into new experiences, approaching bothe design and innovative works such as conceptual pop, dreamlike figuration and experiments between intaglio, painting and sculpture. This includes his large-scale portraits of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, the result of combining the tradition of mosaic and the pixels of digital images.

Luciano Jr. Tastardi, CEO

Luciano Jr. was born in Salerno in 1964, first son of Rina and Luciano Sr, one of the most important Italian ceramists and founder in 1955 of the historic ceramics company ‘Creazioni Luciano’.

Since he was a child, he and his two brothers attended his parents’ handicraft business, intrigued by the production.
As a teenager, he dedicated himself to the family business, focusing in particular on the production processes, which he looked after with scrupulous attention. At the same time, thanks to his mother Rina’s teachings, he became familiar with the management of the accounting and administrative system.

In 1982, he obtained a diploma in accountancy, thus entering into the heart of the family business; his father Luciano Sr took care of his training, making him accumulate experience in the various production phases, from moulding to moulding, finishing, up to glazing and firing.

He thus acquires practice and, thanks to his lively spirit of observation, he was able to obtain, on the strength of the experience gained in his youth by working side by side with expert workers, the improvement of the company’s production capacity by optimising the various production phases.

Since the 1990s, he has been the company’s manager and has been involved in the promotion of the historical brand by attending all the major craft fairs, such as the Florence Gift Mart, Macef in Milan and Maison Objet in Paris.

His careful, meticulous look to the main issues of the production process led him to the creation of new supply and energy plants, which have led the company down a more sensitive and ecologically aware path, through the reduction of utility costs and an ever-increasing focus on work safety standards.

Today Luciano, in addition to being a partner alongside his brother Roberto, is the managerial soul of the company and CEO of”Luciano Italian Ceramic srls”,a company founded on the footsteps of the historical company ”Creazioni Luciano” and today branching out into different brands, ‘”Creazioni Luciano”’’, ‘’”Tastardi Tiles”, specialised in the production of wall and floor ceramics, and finally “Luciano Ceramic Tileworks”, specialised in wall coverings and furnishings with sinuous and floral aesthetics typical of Art Nouveau.

In recent years, Luciano has dedicated himself to starting a new business venture by exploiting the new potential of the web and the e-commerce market.