Paola Antinucci, my talented friend

One of my closest friends here in Spello is Paola, part of the “Paola and Leonardo” pair that runs both their Fratello Sole B&B, and later added the “Corte del Conte” small hotel across the street. Paola is an extraordinary cook and baker, providing all of the pastries (including her croissants, known here as “cornetti”) for both hotel and B&B breakfasts, while still putting some inventive and delicious meals on the table for her family.

When she gets a moment for her real passion, she is an extraordinary artist. I am realizing that I could have collected many more photos of her work around Spello, in her home, in the rooms of the B&B—but I just have a few that are new, and I wanted to share her talent.

Paola applied glaze at her kitchen table

Paola applies glaze at her kitchen table

Precise work, steady hands

Precise work, steady hands and patience

Last spring, she was commissioned by the husband of a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary to paint a commemorative platter as a surprise for his wife. With a grandchild underfoot and her responsibilities for the baking and cooking duties that are hers every day, she often had short times in the afternoon, or time very late at night to make progress on the platter, as the deadline approached. I caught her a couple of times as she was painting, and also had the opportunity to see the platter when she picked it up after having it fired in Deruta.

Paola's paper pattern, worked out on graph paper in colored pencil

Paola’s paper pattern, worked out on graph paper in colored pencil

Drying glaze on the platter rim

Drying glaze on the platter rim

Mt. Vesuvius, with Naples below--where the couple were married

Unfired glazed plate, featuring Mt. Vesuvius, with Naples below–where the couple were married. Caption says, “50 Years of Fire”

Paola taking the platter to be fired--powdered glaze cannot be disturbed, touched

Paola taking the platter to be fired–the dried powdered glaze cannot be disturbed, touched

Carefully to Deruta to the kiln, with Leonardo

Carefully to Deruta to the kiln, with Leonardo

Finished platter waiting for pick-up

Finished fired platter waiting for pick-up

Paola admires the finished platter

Paola admires the finished platter, with more saturated final colors

Only weeks after that project, she was asked by the father of her son-in-law to create a family crest for him. She bought the clay, and (again) fit in small bits of time to work on making the “stemma” while keeping up her other chores. I didn’t get to photograph the end product, but seeing her create the stemma out of clay was mesmerizing, and her talent continues to impress me. (I only wish I had seen it completed, and could have shared a photo here.)

Building up the structure for the family crest

Building up the structure for the family crest

Smoothing and cutting with special tools

Smoothing and cutting with special tools

Smoothing out the forms with her gloved hands

Smoothing out the forms with her gloved hands

Base taking shape, but still much to finish

Base taking shape, but still much to finish

About a year ago, I received a gift from Paola and Leonardo–a plaque for my doorway, which reads “Parva sed mihi apta.” That is Latin, and means “Small but for me appropriate.” Leonardo had used that phrase for several years to describe my small “ex-stable” of a house, and Paola made the plaque using his phrase, and then glazed it with a type of finish that made any ceramic piece seem aged. I loved it–and finally found the hand-forged antique nails with the huge heads that Leonardo sent me to antique markets to locate, to mount this  over my door. (Leonardo put it up for me, and each hammer stroke risked shattering the entire plaque. I was holding my breath!)

Plaque over my house's door

Plaque over my house’s door

Soon Paola and Leonardo will be “empty nesters,” and I hope to see more of Paola’s work in Spello. She is a very talented artist, in several mediums, and she has a wonderful gift to share with all of us.

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