DENISE KAUR is the owner of gorgeous rugs and homeware store Living DNA, and she’s passionate about her products being truly “hand-picked” and artisanal. But what does this mean? We caught up with her after a trip to the Amalfi Coast, where she went on the hunt for beautiful ceramics.
Tell us about your latest sourcing trip.
I went to the ancient town of Vietri Sul Mari (“Vietri by the sea”) on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. This is an important location in the history of ceramics; it was known for making the best ceramic tiles for the palaces, baths and holiday mansions of the Roman emperors. As other places in the world began to discover largescale ceramic making, this quiet remote town became somewhat forgotten. Over recent decades, though, as travellers have started uncovering the beautiful holiday destinations of South Italy, the artisans of Vietri have been rediscovered.
How do you get there?
There are lots of idyllic stopovers on the long drive along the Amalfi Coast. Everyone knows about the Instagram-perfect destinations of Positano and Capri, but few know the secrets of Vietri. To get there, you need to drive for two more hours down those idyllic winding scenic roads. When we arrived there, I was amazed by how the town walls were covered in ceramic tiles painted with pastoral scenes, biblical stories and everyday life. The streets come alive with old storefronts and their colourful ceramic signage.
My last trip to Italy was a six-month study trip 12 years ago, so I had to revise my Italian skills very quickly to be able to work with an artisan family who didn’t speak a word of English – that was a fun challenge! It was also a feat managing a carsick toddler along the dizzying drive. Luckily, there was no shortage of splendid secluded beaches – plus gelato and granita stops – to refresh the whole family.
Tell us about some of the artisans you met.
Out of many old families making ceramics we met, I felt most at ease with a workshop run by two brothers. One of them, Carlo, admitted to me that the master painter in the family is their “Papa”, Egidio. Watching his effortless work was mesmerising; he would skilfully paint vines on platters while watching Italian football at the same time! Needless to say, Egidio worked on all the ceramics I chose for Living DNA on this trip.
What did you like most about his work?
Traditional Vietri ceramics are painted with rustic elements like animals, trees, fruits and vegetables typical of the southern coastal Italian climate. I’m sure many people will agree the prettiest would be the lemon trees that you see on the region’s picturesque cliffs. So, I chose lemons as the main design theme of our collection as I loved Signor Egidio’s depiction of them, with thick brush strokes against the recognisable Mediterranean blue and white.
Who would the ceramics suit?
These are items that are meant to be put in the spotlight, and what better opportunity than when entertaining? Our Italian ceramic collection includes large serving plates, modular platters for dips or starters, dinner plates and cutlery holders. Everything is hand-painted, dishwasher-safe and meant to be used over and over again for generations. It’s part of the “buy less, buy well” sustainable living practice we cultivate at Living DNA.
The Vietri collection is available now, both online and in-store.
Living DNA is located at Space@Tampines, 18 Tampines Industrial Crescent, #01-10B.
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