Elio Cristiani is a Milanese ceramicist specialised in Raku, a Japanese pottery process. After a career working as marketing director, he decided to turn his life around and follow his passion for ceramics. In his workshop in Milan he creates unique products, such as Raku shaving brushes, and holds Raku, Grés, Paper Clay and Kintsugi classes.
How did you discover your passion for ceramics?
I discovered Raku in 2008, in the workshop of Tuscan artist Mara Funghi, where I had the opportunity to approach this craft during my holidays. Afterwards, this passion became more and more important and I seriously embraced the idea of making a profession out of it.
Your career started in a very different field. How did you move from business to craftsmanship?
Before taking this very important step, I served as marketing director in a food company, where I put to good use my MBA from the Bocconi University in Milan.
I gradually realised that ceramics was my true calling, and thanks to the support of my wife - who has always been my number one fan – I decided to make a radical change both in my professional and personal life. At the moment I manage two workshops in Milan, where I produce my objects and where I hold courses in Raku, Paper Clay, wheel-turned pottery and Kintsugi.
What is Raku pottery?Raku is a Japanese pottery process developed in the 16th century. Initially used to make the traditional pottery used in tea ceremonies, this type of ceramics was very well received in Europe, where it cross-fertilised with Western culture. The peculiarity of this technique is the use of fire that, together with the other basic elements of earth, water and air, produces results that are mostly unpredictable and therefore unrepeatable and unique. The impossibility of controlling the process may be considered a limit, but if you keep your mind and heart open, Raku enables you understand that the greatest surprises and opportunities come from events that are beyond our control.
Handmade shaving brushes are your specialty. Tell us how this curious passion came about.
A dear friend who is very competent and enthusiastic about traditional shaving techniques introduced me into this universe. I immediately found a great analogy with my way of interpreting the world of ceramics: attention to detail and a slower working pace, to indulge in your own passions. This is how the project of my Raku shaving brushes was born. These unique and original objects are dedicated to an exclusive clientele. Each piece is made entirely by hand, numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Which is the profile of your costumer?
My clients belong to two categories. On the one hand, collectors of shaving brushes, who wish to enrich their collection with a unique, handcrafted object. On the other hand, people pick my objects as gifts to their loved ones: in making this choice, they also communicate something about themselves.
You also hold pottery courses in your workshop. Do you think that the younger generations may be interested in taking up this career?
I believe so. Ceramics is the ideal means to express one's creativity. On top of that, thanks to a more modern approach it shares many points of contact with other fields, especially design and architecture.