Rocco Gallicchio is a soft-spoken guy. His eyes flit embarrassedly when paid a compliment and his hands seem to have permanently taken on the dusty-white hue of the clay that they work with daily.
Rocco is one of just a few remaining ceramicists in a town that once brimmed with them. He ardently carries on, hoping to revive the fires of the dormant kilns and renew Calvello’s once-glorious reputation as a center of southern Italy’s ceramic trade.
Calvello lies in a high valley in the middle of Basilicata, a mountainous region wedged between Puglia and Calabria. Since the Middle Ages, ceramics constituted a mainstay of Calvello’s economy, the craft purportedly transported here by Benedictine monks. The Calvello artisans developed their own unique style that is still employed by the purist Rocco.
Rocco does everything by hand. He collects the clay from a nearby source, which he keeps secret. He throws the clay by hand, molding it into lovely, rustic objects, everything is created according to traditional methods. He gathers minerals, roots, and berries to make the paints he uses. He makes his own brushes from goat hair.
The bird is a recurring theme, as it has been for centuries in Calvello. Rocco refuses mass production methods, preferring that each piece have the natural, slight variations that are inevitable in handmade products. His products speak of Old World quality, artisan pride, and rustic charm.
He labors on in this ancient craft, creating a name for himself but also hoping to interest some of Calvello’s youth into the trade. He has recreated ancient patterns for monasteries and provided the wedding favors for Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, when she wed in her ancestral town of Bernalda, Basilicata.
Pay a visit to Rocco’s shop and take home a unique piece of Basilicata tradition.