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Featured Shop: Ross Lab

Feb 11, 2013

by RossLab handmade and vintage goods

Hi, my name is Rossella Manzini, also known as Ross. I’m the one with the muddy hands behind RossLab. I make colorful and playful ceramic wares inspired by mid-century Scandinavian and Italian pottery. I was born and raised in Italy, but I now live in San Jose, California with my husband and cat.

I have loved art and handmade things all my life, but it was only few years ago that I discovered my love for clay. What I like the most about making ceramics is knowing they will brighten someone else’s home and life. There is a story behind every piece that I make – it begins with me and my design/making process, and ends with my customers and how they choose to use my creations. This is the beauty of being a potter: I make things that are beautiful to look at, yet functional and made to be lived with.

I begin my process by surrounding myself with visual inspirations from art galleries, old films, flea markets, books, and nature. I then draw on paper how the final piece will look, and select the clay body and glazes to use.

I create my piece on the potters’ wheel, then finish it when it is hard enough to be handled by carving, trimming, and working on details. Two separate kiln firings with a glazing in between completes the process. All told, each piece takes about four weeks all to complete. Making the ceramic piece is the longest part of my process, but also the most rewarding.

I constantly work on my designs and process because I believe colors and patterns are just as important as shape and functionality. Some of my pieces take up to an hour to paint, and I often use four different glazes that have to be applied at different times. Every step is necessary to obtain the final result. Details are key to me – from testing and selecting the best raw materials to using extra care to pack every piece on its way to my customers.

I came to Etsy by chance, opening my shop when I had no more room to store all my pieces. I wasn’t planning to start a business, but after some positive feedback I decided to turn it into a full-time job. Since then, my shop has grown bigger and my creations have evolved. Etsy gives me the opportunity to do what I like the most and reach people all over the world from my home studio. It also gives me flexibility to manage my time – making, shipping, doing paperwork – and all the other tasks I am in charge of as a one-person team.

My favorite piece to make is the ceramic vase from my Black Bird Fly collection. I throw it on the potter’s wheel in the same relaxing and meditative way I throw all my pieces, but decorating it is truly special. I hand paint nine black swallows on each vase, and afterwards I see a flock of birds before my eyes. It’s like staring at the sky on a clear spring day, and it always cheers me up!

There is something special about handmade objects, because every time you use them you can’t help thinking about the hands that made them and the joy involved in the process. That is why I make all my ceramics by hand and with love from start to finish. I believe in making special things for special people to enjoy everyday.

All photographs by Ross Lab.

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