Antonella Cimatti, a teacher and ceramicist from Faenza, bases her poetics on creative, aesthetic and design research and innovative experimentation with contemporary techniques. Her works are designed to arouse wonder and enchantment: the whiteness of her very light porcelain crepes, large lace cups hovering on transparent crystalline stems, immaculate butterflies on the verge of taking flight with their long shadows projected on the wall, still life and light installations played on shadows through digital and LED processing. Chasing the miracle of lightness.

What is your story?

My passion for art started when I was a child: I was creative, I was always drawing anything and everything, I used to make models for clothes, imitating my parents, professional tailors. I grew up in a stimulating environment with lots of fabrics and fashion magazines. I then decided to study at the State Institute of Art for Ceramics in Faenza and then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. As soon as I finished my studies, I started teaching and working with ceramics, continuously experimenting with its potential, but above all I enjoyed modifying, researching and combining new materials to develop my designs.

Is there a person who influenced your choice of craft?

Many good teachers such as Carlo Zauli, Alfonso Leoni, and Augusto Betti made my love for ceramics and art grow. In particular, there was a book which I still keep, full of sketches, notes and underlinings: Filiberto Menna’s La linea analitica dell'arte moderna (Filiberto Menna's Analytical Line of Modern Art), published in 1977. It inspired me at the time of my studies at the Academy, offering me a poetic reflection later expanded in exhibitions with Menna himself, Enrico Crispolti, Vittorio Fagone, Franco Solmi. Having then met and collaborated with Bruno Munari was fundamental.

From what do you draw inspiration for your works?

I have always been fascinated by the East. My first trip was to Japan in 1981 at the age of 25, when I participated with the Faenza delegation in the cultural exchange with the twin city of Toki-shi. I immediately fell in love with that land: with their love for the beauty of things, an authentic beauty that concerns the intimate and mysterious sphere of the soul that one must slowly discover. I have been to China and South Korea several times, and each time I bring home some little technical secrets about porcelain. As far as aesthetics are concerned, I have been influenced by Italian fashion and design, which make lightness and attention to detail their prerogative, so incredibly in line with my way of being and working.

Is there a work that you remember with particular emotion? Why?

The first work in the 'Ghost still life' and 'Virtual Museum' series, because it was so complicated to be able to realise what I had in mind that when I saw the finished work, my heart sank! I try to bring ceramics, which is normally a heavy material, towards an 'image of lightness'. To achieve this, I also use light. Light creates a shadow, the work can be touched, the shadow can be seen but not touched, because it is intangible. It is a mysterious and profound concept. I have always been fascinated by shadows and the history of ceramics. So, in 2013 I started to investigate how I could combine these two ancient ideas and to this day I am still exploring this concept, creating more and more variations.

What is the most extravagant work you have created?

A light installation entitled 'Trame di luce' (Plots of light), 3 metres high, where optical fibres and porcelain shapes intertwine and dialogue. A bundle of vibrant light sheets fill the space and intersect in perforated bodies of highly translucent porcelain. The fibres take on a binding function, enveloping, permeating the whole, placing the material in space, lightening and lifting the work as it rises and hovers in the void. To install it, I spent three days climbing on a scaffold.

How do you combine tradition and innovation in your work?

My design starts from a reinterpretation of the artistic production of the past, through a personal filter and a new sensitivity. My way of working is not traditional but starts from tradition; my aim is to create lightness in ceramics. For this, I started from the Renaissance majolica model of the 'crespine', finely modelled bowls made in Faenza between the 16th and 17th centuries, used especially in the European royal courts as luxury objects. In 2005, I started revisiting these bowls, wanting to create a contemporary porcelain version, modifying both the material and the technique in which decoration and structure are one. They are almost immaterial artefacts, impalpable threads, ornaments, openwork lace, filigrees of white lace.

What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity is not just the spontaneous or extemporaneous fruit of an intuition, a bright idea, but is grafted and rooted in a training as an artist and designer, who has assimilated tradition and is selectively attentive to contemporary trends. Creativity is also expressed in tenacious research, in design, in experimentation that requires expertise in complex processes and mastery of technologies and materials.

You have taught and still teach workshops in Italy and around the world. What does "transmitting know-how" mean to you?

Being born and raised in Italy can sometimes mean that we artists feel the weight of our history. Especially living in Faenza you can feel the influence of our thousand years of tradition; that is precisely why you have to leave your country and question yourself. In recent years I have travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, and the United States, and this has been a very important moment of cultural exchange for my career: being in contact with artists from all over the world has allowed me to share my experiences and dialogue, confronting poetics and techniques that are completely different from my own. I taught all my life at the School of Ceramics in Faenza, a job that I loved, and it was a joy for me to be able to transmit my passion for art, design and ceramics to young people.