Bitossi Ceramiche Turns 100 Years Old
You may be wondering, “What or who the hell is Bitossi and why do I care that they are turning 100?” Well, if you don’t already know about Bitossi, you should. Their highly sought after pottery/ceramiche are an increasingly hot property (especially the vintage pieces) and deservedly so. I have personally been on the Bitossi bandwagon for 6 or 7 years so far, and my love for this decorative pottery (among a bevy of other products) only grows.
A Very Brief History of Bitossi Ceramiche
The Bitossi family can actually be traced back as far as 1536, hailing from Montelupo Fiorentino (an area of Italy just a few miles from Florence). Over the span of 400 years, the Bitossi family has spawned a cluster of sculptors, painters, kiln workers, but most importantly – ceramistas. In 1921 this pool of talent and experience was officially organized by Guido Bitossi into Manifattura Cavaliere Bitossi e Figlia (Manufacturer Bitossi and Sons). He brought with him centuries old traditions and combined them with ever changing methods and processes of ceramic production. The family had been successful for centuries making roof tiles, but the inception of this new venture allowed the Bitossi Co. to expand into floor tiling, art pottery and everyday decorative household ceramic pieces (my personal faves!). Check out a quick peek inside the Bitossi factory in the video below.
Aldo Londi And His Contribution To Bitossi
By 1937 the Bitossi manufacturing company was turned over to the control of Guido Bitoss’s 3 sons – Marcello, Vittoriano, and Mario. However, the most pivotal change for the brand took place when artistic direction was put into the hands of Aldo Londi. Londi had worked at Bitossi as a painter for Bitossi prior to World War II, but as an Italian soldier he was taken prisoner in South Africa. Upon the end of the war and his subsequent release, he returned to Italy, as well as Bitossi, and was appointed artistic director. It was then, in 1946, that Bitossi really started its ascension into the Mid Century lexicon. Londi maintained his position as artistic director for 30 years, but continued on for another 20 or so odd years as a Bitossi contributor. Aldo Londi passed away in 2003, but left behind a legacy that lives on today. I attribute much of the overwhelming success of the Bitossi brand to his vision and creativity.
Aldo Londi With One Of His Creations
It is my opinion that Bitossi really hit its stride once it established import deals. There are 2 import companies that were instrumental in putting Bitossi pieces into American stores and on the map: Raymor and Rosenthal-Netter. Sadly, these companies no longer exist (Raymor shuttered in 1981 and Rosenthal-Netter in the 80’s, as well), but I will be forever grateful to them for bringing us all the Bitossi!
Early Aldo Londi Earthware Vase
Bitossi – Harlequin Vase
Bitossi Collaborations and Creators
Bitossi has collaborated with several ceramists and designers over the 20th century, but for time’s sake I will list my favorite standouts. Some of the notables in my book include George Nelson, Ettore Sotsass, Alvino Bagni (early in his career before opening his own studio), Piero Fornasetti, Matteo Thun, and Karim Rashid. Check out some of their pieces below. Just….WOW!
George Nelson Clock
Ettore Sotsass Pottery
Alvino Bagni – Ceramic Horse
Piero Fornasetti Jar
Matteo Thun Tea Set
Karim Rashid – Bowl Ovale
1921 – Manifattura Cavaliere Bitossi e Figlia is founded by Guido Bitossi
1937 – Management of the Bitossi empire is handed over to sons Marcello, Mario, and Vittoriano Bitossi.
1946 – Aldo Londi is released as a WWII prisoner in South Africa and returns to Italy. He is appointed artistic director of Bitossi.
1945 – Colorificio takes control over notable Fratelli Fanciullacci pottery (another Ceramiche house in Montelupo)
1947 – Separate Bitossi owned Della Robbia Ceramica Colorificio (later changed to Colorobbia) is established.
1950’s – Explosive growth of household ceramic decorative items due to distribution partnerships with Raymor and Rosenthal Netter.
1956 – Architect Etorre Sotsass forges relationship with Bitossi, under the wing of Aldo Londi.
1959 – Aldo Londi launches famous “Rimini Blue” ceramic glazed pieces, which become a Bitossi hallmark.
Bitossi Cinese Collection
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out my favorite ceramiche pieces from Bitossi. At the top of the list would be the Bitossi “Cinese” collection. The “Cinese” series of vases and sculptures was created in the mid to late 1960’s by Bitossi’s creative director, Aldo Londi, and distributed worldwide by Rosenthal-Netter. Part of Londi’s inspiration was derived from ancient bronze vessels from China. An Etruscan salt glaze gives these pieces a rough, aged appearance. The “Buddha Head” is my favorite and the Orange “Buddha Head” sends me sailing. That color!! Notice the texture. The texture, or glaze, is what pieces from the “Cinese” collection are what set these pieces apart from other Bitossi pieces.
Bitossi – Londi Cinese Collection Examples
Bitossi Orange Buddha Head
There Are Actually Bitossi Fan Clubs
Bitossi is one of my not-so-secret obsessions, but I am not alone. There is a huge Facebook group dedicated to Bitossi and MCM ceramics. Check out the Bitossi Facebook group HERE. People gather there for advice, education, but mostly to show off their collections or amazing thrift store discoveries. Check out some of these spectacular Bitossi collections:
Photo Credit: Henrik Leander
Photo Credit: Samuel Hildreth
Photo Credit: Pete Vekhala
Bitossi – Rimini Blue Boar (Photo Credit: Travis Wright)
I Know He’s Smiling Underneath That Beard! (Photo Credit: Bob Kennedy)