Linda di Zepponi: Painting Passion into Profit

story and photos by Crissy Benage

Linda di Zepponi found her passion creating ceramic works of art.

“When you have a passion, you have to do it,” she says. “You have to do it your way, and you cannot be under anyone else’s rules.”

That passion dominates her life. Linda now owns a ceramics store in Cagli, Italy, but she took an indirect route to the life that she leads.

Linda di ZepponiAfter finishing art school in Cagli, she took a job as a metal worker.  Bronze and glass served as her materials, and she created various items with these mediums. Linda learned to incorporate ceramic beads and pieces into her work, and she gradually realized that transforming clay into art was her passion. She trained in ceramics and moved to Italy’s ceramics capital, Urbania, where she taught her new skills to pupils ranging from kindergarteners to master’s candidates.

Although she was teaching at a renowned ceramics school and making a decent living, she felt that her classroom duties kept her away from creating her art. At 23, Linda broke away from teaching and opened her own ceramics shop in Cagli. Moving back was a difficult decision because Linda says she craves adventure. However, she felt there was an entrepreneur opportunity in town due to the lack of professional ceramics artists.

Linda currently creates and sells her art in Cagli but still has adventures. Traveling anywhere she possibly can, Linda sees many different styles that she incorporates into her work. Sand from Jordan melting onto a ceramic mosaic creates a new and different texture than any other medium.  A trip to Morocco shows Linda how to use dark colors to frame brighter ones for a contrast piece. She brings these different styles home to become part of her personal ceramic style.

Although she loves her work and is inspired by the new opportunities, Linda understands that her customer’s taste in ceramics differs from her own. Buyers want the signature “maiolica” that is indicative of Italy. To make money to finance the art she loves, Linda makes the expected pieces and accepts commissioned work from clients.

Italian artists are trained to create one-of-a-kind pieces, and they earn a regional stamp if they are good enough. Linda toiled for seven years to earn the stamp of La Marche. This stamp proves the bearer is an accomplished artist whose work is worthy of sale under the title of the region. The stamp also comes with a promise from the regional government to financially support the artist’s work.  Linda says that although she worked to earn the stamp of La Marche, she “has yet to see any money” from the region. The La Marche credential, however, is her ticket to fairs and markets all over Italy where she can sell her art. She dresses in renaissance costumes and travels with markets all over Italy as a representative of La Marche.

Even though she is accepted as an artist, Linda still struggles to compete with the artisans who undercut her prices. Putting personal passion aside and settling for what sells is “the difference between being an artist and an artisan,” she says. Artisans are not aWhen you have a passion, you have to do itlways professional artists who have been trained in art schools. However, they can produce lower-quality ceramics and sell them at lower rates because they use cheaper materials. Tourists and people who understand less about art are swayed by the lower prices, Linda says. The popularity of the artisans depletes the value of trained artists’ work. If artisans and peddlers continue to drive out professional artists, passion for creating art will continue to wane and be replaced by art made to sell.

Linda di Zepponi follows her passion.  She wants to learn more about the art that she loves.  Next, Linda plans on visiting Arab countries and learning their ceramic mediums. She is always open to trying new techniques and honing the ones she currently uses. When one of the new techniques does not work, she is not discouraged. “You have to work on what you are good at,” she says.

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