The workshop “Il Coccio”, belonging to ceramic artist Guido De Zan, is located right in the heart of Milan, next to the Colonne di San Lorenzo.

We stopped for a visit and an interview.

Tell us your story. How did your activity start?

I started my professional activity as an educator in a centre for kids with mental disorders. In the meantime, I graduated in Sociology at the University of Trento. Once the inclusion process of these young people in the social, schooling and work environments had been completed, I felt finally free to start a business of my own, in which I could express my creativity. Since I have always had the desire to work with my hands and was attracted to the magic created by ceramists working at the lathe, I chose this as my profession.
I began by creating a pedal lathe and, in my free time, frequented a good ceramist who taught me the basics of the trade. I learned the rest from manuals, and did my own experiments as a self-taught ceramist.

Those who engage in artistic handicrafts have to fend for themselves, since there are no collective exhibition venues where our productions can be shown and made known to the public.

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What type of education is needed to dedicate oneself to such a profession?

One may attend specialised Italian schools found in some cities with a ceramic tradition, or in schools abroad, some of which are excellent, or take up private courses, and better still, train in a workshop.

How do you manage to reconcile an activity like yours with the new market demands and trends?

My activity developed through the years. The products, from utility objects to artistic items, address people who appreciate a simple and essential design and decoration.
They are quite a limited group, mostly residing abroad, where the collecting of contemporary ceramics is more diffused.

What type of clients gets in touch with you?

Most of my clients are young people or, in any case, people whose aesthetic demands are oriented towards design items which may also be regarded as exclusive pieces.
Besides the private sector, I work with shops and galleries specialised in ceramics, both in Italy and abroad.

Do you think the youth can be attracted to or interested in undertaking such an activity?

I believe the youth can be attracted to expressive and manual work, but there are few incentives that can push them to learn an artistic trade.

What are the critical factors related to your sector? And the prospects?

I criticise the public institutions and the sector trade unions for paying more attention to handicrafts in the mass production areas rather than to the artistic sector.
Those who engage in artistic handicrafts have to fend for themselves, since there are no collective exhibition venues where our productions can be shown and made known to the public.
To this regard, my proposals and those of others have never been taken into consideration. All this makes it ever more difficult for the youth to undertake this profession.
The truth is that, despite the fact that we talk about and boast the quality of handicrafts in our country, little or nothing is being done to help this sector grow.