Paola Orsoni’s Lyrical Fusions

People / Places / Products / September 16, 2011

By JoAnn Locktov

Italian artist Paola Orsoni creates lyrical fusions of terracotta, glass, and metal.  She has harnessed the disruptive process of hot and cold to cajole the marriage of unlike materials into vibrant splashes of radiant color and dynamic texture.

Created entirely by hand in her Milan studio, each terracotta tile is first glazed, followed by the application of glass and metal.   The tile is then reheated allowing the glowing layers to meld into a single surface.  As the tile cools another process occurs, as cracks emerge and the fused elements become permanent.

Her patented system of shifting temperatures imbues each tile with a complex energy. The fate of the final composition is evident only after the molecules have finished their dance of expansion and contraction.

Orsoni has been a professional artist her entire life, abandoning porcelain painting to experiment with tile because of her necessity  “to put the light into my work,” she says.

The pigmented glass she uses is smalti from the 19th century Orsoni foundry in Venice (the two Orsoni families are not related).  Deep limpid puddles of saturated pigment are punctuated by metal garnishes of aluminum, copper, and brass.  There is an ephemeral nature to Orsoni’s designs. The borderless dripping color in homage to Pollock, the vulnerable dandelions, and the nuanced shadows belie the strength of the tile and the methodical process of production.

Orsoni has mastered the ingenious manipulation of glass. In addition to the tiles she has invented “ice” coatings in three frosty shades of stillness. The pillowed
surfaces are bordered with tiny metal studs that cause disquietude in the surreal paradox of “fluffy” glaciers.   The coatings are also used to clad brushed steel furniture, evoking a serene modern coolness.

Orsoni will frame individual tiles to create paintings, however practical, it is an unnecessary elevation.  In reality every tile she creates is unique, and even
unframed is a singular work of art.

For more on Paola Orsoni, go to

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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on September 19, 2011

Wow! Each one IS its own work of art. The process is so intriguing, and you are right – if I had some, I’d frame them, not mortar them!

on September 20, 2011

I sense a connection to molecular gastronomy here. Does that mean good enough to eat? Yes. Wonderful work and beautifully presented here. Meticulous care, but also what look to be happy accidents.

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