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Book Review

by Ettore Sottsass

The Italian designer Ettore Sottsass began working in ceramics in 1956. At first not that successful with his designs for ceramics, Sottsass' unique designs began to take off after a stimulating visit to India in the early 1960s.

The first ceramics after this period were called Ceramics of Darkness. The Indian influence lingered on with the Yantra and Tantra series. During this period, Sottsass developed the idea of objects as diagrams, which led to his strikingly minimalist and geometric ceramics.

Sottsass, who wrote this volume himself, speaks little of the actual ceramic works, but rather gives us biographical details of incidents in his life which have influenced and informed his work, e.g. his travels to India and his fascination with Indian mysticism. Sottsass also reveals that while he designed the many ceramic vessels and objects depicted in the book, he made very few of them with his own hands. This step was taken over by Italian ceramics manufacturers. Sottsass also reveals that he always uses commercial glazes.

The fact that Sottsass made the designs for his works and seldom executed them himself may attract the ire of some readers. Certainly this method of production raises the questions: 'Who is a craftsperson?' 'What is a craft object?' 'Must a craft object be made by a studio artist?' On the other hand, so many objects we see and use in our everyday lives that we recognize as 'craft' have been made using industrial techniques...

This volume Ettore Sottsass: Ceramics is full of great illustrations of Sottsass' work over a period of 30 years and offers us an interesting insight into the life of the famous Italian designer.

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