Clicca qui per leggere questo post in italiano. (Click here to read this post in Italian.)
About a year and a half ago, I met a local artist who kindly invited me to tea to introduce me to some other creative types and give me a tour of her ceramics studio. Now, I like housewares as much as the next gal, so I was looking forward to perusing an array of lovely bowls and plates, or maybe even picking up a new tea set for myself. Because that’s what ceramicists make, right?
Apparently not up on a certain hill in Tuscany. When today’s guest, Deborah Ciolli, threw open the doors to her lab, I was transported into some kind of Lewis Carroll world populated by romping goats and jellyfish and amazing characters with crazy hair. There’s a graceful flutist and a dancer and Red Riding Hood and a woman lost in the turbulent pages of a book and men in flying bathtubs. There are these pieces I used for my Pencil and Pen love story. There’s Cinderella who spurned the prince’s advances, went to fashion school, got a Master’s in business, and opened a high-end shoe store. There are horses and stars and swirly trees and fish galore, and everything done up in crackled blue and orange and green. It is a joyous place.
So I didn’t get any plates. But I did find some cats all huddled together on a shelf, all with a look of terror that made me giggle like a schoolgirl. Deborah says they aren’t scared at all, but I say that art is in the eye of the beholder, and in my opinion, these cats are petrified! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I give you…”Scaredy Cats.”[column size=”1-2″]
Little dimpled Dora
had a horde of frightened cats.
They slunk around the corners
and hid in Dora’s hats.
If guests came by to chatter,
they’d scatter and they’d crouch
till Dora came to peel them off
the lampshades and the couch.
A creaking door could send them
into tizzies of commotion–
a caterwauling chorus
of puffy tails and high emotion.
If a wayward breeze should make
the nighttime curtains billow,
Dora’d wake to find those cats
a-tremble on her pillow.
Their eyes lit up the darkness
with a terrifying gleam,
and Dora often heard them
utter little kitty screams.
It went like that for many moons,
through years both weird and spooky,
and living with that horde of cats
made Dora downright kooky.
She cowered like a kitten,
so said everyone she knew:
“Yes, that little dimpled Dora
is a scaredy cat, too.”
Now, just look at these cats! That blue one cracks me up. What did they see? What did they SEE?
[heading style=”1″]Featured Artist ~ Deborah Ciolli[/heading]
Did you HEAR that?
What’s Up with Deborah
Deborah, who are you, where are you, and why are you making terrified cats out of clay?
I’m Deborah Ciolli, and I was born and raised in Florence, Italy. Eventually I followed my love to the country, where I now live on a hill facing the sea along with a veritable tribe of animals – many of which are cats who lord over the house and my chaotic ceramics studio. And I make cats and other ceramics because I wouldn’t know what else to do to tell all my stories!
I must say that the girl looks suspiciously like you. Is she a self-portrait? And what is she so frightened of?
Yes, that’s really me, but she’s not frightened. It’s just that, like me, she has really big eyes that are always wide open so she can observe everyone and everything…so that then she can turn what she sees into stories and ceramic characters!
Oops, hope you don’t mind that I’ve renamed you Dora! I know you love to make up fantastical stories for all your pieces. When I first saw these cats, they made me laugh because they looked so frightened. But what’s the real story behind Dora and the Scaredy Cats?
I love the name Dora. This piece was born one night when I felt a little alone and lost in memories of my childhood. So I created myself with a doll in my arms and then, seeing as all my cats had come inside to surround me with furry caresses and purrs, I decided to create them as well – but as if they were in a photo and had been surprised by the flash!
Aha! And here I’ve turned them all into cowardly kitties! What do you do when you’re not scaring up cats in your studio?
I love drinking tea, reading books, taking long walks with friends and my sweet pup Alghirius, and of course spending time with my girlfriends!
Can we see other neat stuff you’ve done?
Absolutely! My work is in a bunch of shops in various cities in Italy, in the Majolika di Karlsrhue museum in Germany, and scattered around several parks in the form of Land Art installations, including in the Sterpaia park right here in Piombino. But if you’re not in the neighborhood, you can also see some of my pieces on my blog, Il Laboratorio di Debora Ciolli.
What would you do if you found a terrified cat on your head in the middle of the night?
I would pet him and cuddle him and calm him down, and then I’d bring him to live on the hill with me, the goats, the dogs, and my tamed fox!
Thanks for stopping by, Deborah, and for lending me Dora (Deborah) and the Scaredy Cats!
Thank you for having me on your lovely blog and for dedicating a poem to us. I wouldn’t be surprised if, sooner or later, you also appear in my studio in the form of a beautiful ceramic poetess!
Aw, shucks…that would be swell![divider=”1″]
Video Location: Abandoned stone house in a pine wood, Baratti, Italy.See more poems in my poetry video library. “Scaredy Cats” Copyright © 2012 Renée LaTulippe
I’m not sure they’re scared, maybe surprised! They, however, are wonderful to see no matter what. I know my daughter who loves all things cat would love them. And, having had a cat who was scared, your line “peel them off/the lampshades and the couch.” spoke much to me. My cat retreated quickly to the top of the drapes, sat with quite wide eyes and watched, and watched. Thanks for the post, Renee.
Ha! I had two cats who were afraid of nothing! They were more like flying squirrels. One of them drooled.
Love little dimpled Dora and her horde of cowardly kitties! 🙂 Deborah’s work is so whimsical and interesting…would love to see more! Hope she’ll be visiting often. 🙂
Me too! Her studio is full of weird little critters!
Great poem! Love Deborah’s art! Thanks for sharing 🙂
You are so talented! It’s great fun to listen to your poetry. I love cats so this post was right up my alley (hee hee…I’m picturing alley cats 🙂
Deborah’s work is amazing. I’m so glad you shared it with us and that she told the tale of telling her stories through ceramics.
@ Penny – Deborah really is an inspiration as an artist. She’s always got a story!
I love the cats. I love the poem. I love Tuscany. I love “Italian!”
That was adorable Renee
I LUV cats and these are awesome, though I think they have deceptive expressions on and they are only pretending to be scared.
What fun to visit Deborah and her art. If I am ever passing that way I shall certainly stop and take a look. So glad you spotlighted someone local to you, Renée.
And, of course, I laughed at your poem!
@ Mona – ME TOO! 🙂
@ Joanna – You may be right about the pretending. They can’t be trusted. Wouldn’t that be great if you came by! Through Deborah, I’ve met quite a large group of creative women — in fact, we put a show together last summer with a bit of poetry, a bit of music, a bit of art, and a great view of the sea. Need to do that more often!
What a lovely poem, Renee! I could even see it as a PB story will a little more work. Great job!
What a wonderful post Renee! It was enchanting. The first photos where you referred to the scaredy cats, I found myself thinking that they were figures staring blankly and waiting for darkness so that they could come to life and create their mischief! I love Deborah’s creations, particularly the one of herself. I enjoyed getting to know Deborah! And, I loved your poem! What a great way to start Monday, with something fun and beautiful!
@ Donna – The wheels are turning….slowly….but I think it could become something…
@ Pat – Why thank you so much! I’m glad the post made your Monday morning happy! I like your take on the cats…hmmm….wheels turning MORE!
I love the cats and the poem. I could see the whole poem in my head.
Poor Dora. This one’s not an explorer. Loved your poem and the ceramics!
Thank you, Rena and Hannah!
Oh, and I had a beautiful, weird, and wonderful cat named Hannah. I loved that fluffy girl!
HA! Definitely not an explorer. Maybe I should change her name.
Renee — Another fabulous poem and video — loved reading the interview too.
Very cool that you are exploring this idea as a PB. It is already a really tight idea and I think it will translate well! I certainly think the “Scaredy Cats” could be the stars of the book. Their big eyes and expressions are very unique. Good Luck!
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Eric! It still hasn’t come together for me, also because I want it to be in prose. But the cats are definitely the stars!
Cute poem and cats too! Very creative.:)
Great poem! I like the cat above the caption “I am concerned”, I think he is wondering why the cat next door is crazy. 😉 I love the interview! I like the peek in Ms. Ciolli’s studio when you click on her blog link!
Thanks, Erik! That blue cat is my favorite too. And I love going to Deborah’s studio – it’s just full of wonderful characters and animals!
I think the cats saw the bear find the rabbit who took his hat.
The poem is fabulous, it really, truly is. It gave me the giggles and then when my husband and sons wanted to know what was funny I read it out loud. They all ended up with the giggles, too. However, they deny it outright and tell me that they chuckled in a manly fashion.
Congratulations on your great blog review from Laura today!
Haha, you may be right, Heather! I’m so glad the poem made your sons and husband giggle like schoolgirls! 🙂
Loved Deborah’s very creative artwork. The Cats certainly to me seem to be the type to come alive after dark. That explains why there eyes are so big..lol. Moving about the city causing mischief and mayhem….. I only say this because they also have that “Who me?” look as well…..lol. They are such fun as is your poem Renee. Great post.
Great stuff here, as usual, Renée. I love Deborah’s ceramics–whimsy and beautiful colors. And Renée, you’ve painted some great images with your poem–fun story.
@ Diane – Yes, they do look a bit shifty, don’t they? Haha.
@ Dana – Yes, I was thrilled to find that Deborah’s work had that same type of whimsy that I so love and try to incorporate in my writing. She’s so talented – and her personality is as whimsical as her work.!
Loved the cat creations and the poem! Deborah, are there any shops in Florence that sell your work? I’m going to be there in a couple of weeks!
Hi Julie! Yes, Deborah’s art can be found here:
La Mandragora Art Shop piazza Duomo 51r Firenze
Hope to see you at the Bologna Book Fair! I’m only going on one day, but not sure which yet.
This post made me smile…the poem, the kitties, the self-portrait, and the interview! Thank you, Renee! This whole post had a wonderfully whimsical life!! a.
Fun poem and cute scaredy cats!