After a week of depressive weather, the other day I needed to cheer myself up and went to San Pietro di Castello to visit a friend. As you know, last week Venice experienced an exceptionally high tide, which caused general stress and damage to the city. The acqua alta was then followed by a full week of hideous rain, grey skies and, last but not least, a highly concentrated level of humidity. In such conditions, my mood was becoming too blue so, as I always do when I start having my 'down moments', I turned to one of my more creative acquaintances: Daniela Levera, my favourite ceramist in Venice.
I had already spoken about her and the shop she shares with glass jewellery designer Alessandra Gardin in Castello 998 (see post) a couple of months ago, when I first met them. From that moment on, I've become a regular client and admirer.
I have to say that, in general, the world of ceramic is slow and fascinating and that all the people I met conveyed me a great sense of calmness and patience. I suppose it's the material itself that obliges them to simply accept the wait and the uncertainty of result, all natural things we contemporary humans are not used to anymore. So, I asked Daniela if I could visit her studio and see how she works.
We had agreed to meet at her place on Saturday at 9 am, so I left the house a little earlier and instead than taking the shortcuts, I walked along Riva degli Schiavoni. The scenery in front of me was amazing: after all the rain, the sky was finally showing off light pastel shades and ultra-white clouds. The tide was still a little high (but bearable) and the reflections of the light on the water added that extra charm that made me shiver. Once arrived in Via Garibaldi, I stopped for a coffee at Opera Cafè, to say hi to Samuel, the always smiling bartender from Chioggia.
While crossing the bridge that connects Via garibaldi to San Pietro di Castello, I got a WhatsApp from Daniela with the precise location (but I'll confess I'm hopeless with Google Maps, I'm much better with printed maps or simply with the address, very old style!). The atmosphere in Campo San Pietro was quiet as usual and when I reached the address, I understood that the studio is hosted inside the shipyard area. How cool, I had never been in it before! Basically, the atelier is an apartment with a small kitchen, two bigger rooms, and an inaccessible area with the oven for the pottery.
Although on the ground floor, I found the flat extremely bright and homey. The windows are nice and wide and overlook a private vegetable garden, which is not hers. I did ask, but she replied that hers is in Lido (can you actually believe that with her super tight schedule she even manages to find the time to grow her own food?!).
While I was there she had to finish a work commissioned by an Indian restaurant I sometimes go to, so she arranged some dishes that needed to finish drying and started decorating a set of teapots. When she had finished, she moved to the other room and started working on the potter's wheel for another client. She did all this while speaking with me about natural cuisine, yoga, the passing of time and of life in general.
I was positively impressed by her ability to stay so focused and accomplish her projects. When I glanced at her weekly calendar and saw that she has hardly any free time and divides herself between the studio and the shop, I wondered how she does it. In addition to this, she also teaches (to participate in her pottery workshops, I suggest looking at her website), grows veg, cooks and -sometimes- travels. When she can she visits her family in Chile, and I enjoyed speaking with her about food because I learned about their traditions and the way she re-interprets the original recipes.
We also spoke about things that give us joy and pleasure and about the physical problems she experiences working at the wheel, which she addresses doing some specific exercises targeted to the back and aimed at improving back pain. I had no idea of how hard and how involving the process of creation is!
As previously mentioned, she's originally from Chile (but fully adopted Venetian because, as my husband says, for us Venetian is whoever lives in Venice) and she's the sort of person I'd like to see more: full of enthusiasm, creative and totally committed! As you know, my mother is a foreigner too... so I'm always happy to see people from far away choose Venice as their home.
After having spent a couple of hours with her, we walked back to the shop and I said goodbye and met my husband for lunch.