Franco Balducci was born in Milan in 1959.
After graduating from the Liceo Classico Berchet he took a place at the Università di Scienze Agrarie. After a few years he left to devote all his time to his great passion for pottery. This began when he was 13 on a visit to a potter’s studio which was to have a profound influence on his life. From the late 1970s he mainly trained himself, by means of work experience in the workshops of the Melchiorre family and the potter Guido De Zan in Milan.
In 1984 he moved from Milan to Tuscany, in the Elsa valley between Florence and Siena. In Tuscany he met potter Pietro Elia Maddalena who organises meetings and training courses with internationally renowned potters in his workshop, and Franco often took part.
This led him to explore the techniques of high-temperature stoneware. He attended a course on glaze chemistry with English potter John Colbeck and began to create his own glazes from mineral raw materials, devoting much of his time to this aspect of his work.
In these early years in Tuscany he designed a small high-temperature kiln that he built to order for other potters.
In 1990 with his wife Esther, who makes a range of small animals in stoneware and bas-reliefs of Tuscan landscapes, he opened a showroom for their work in San Gimignano (Siena). The San Gimignano showroom is also a workshop where visitors can see the pieces being made. The main workshop is at their country home in the municipality of Certaldo.
In 1991 he built a large gas-fired downdraft-flame kiln which he still uses today to fire his pots.
Franco produces a limited series of household objects, unique pieces and some sculptures, using high-temperature clay (1300°C). He almost always begins work on the potter’s wheel, combined with other techniques (slabs and coils), and as the piece nears completion pays close attention to the surface texture, applying graffiti and lines encircling the profile of the shape. He uses ash glazes to create chromatic effects that enhance the material with a pleasing contrast between matt and semi-matt colours.
In 1992 he also began exploring sculpture, starting with research on the form of the spiral, marrying stoneware with rusted iron. “Clay and iron are two raw materials that man has learnt to fashion in fire and has made much use of them in his art and culture since the dawn of history”.
In 1992 he began working with the Galleria Continua in San Gimignano and for several years took part in group exhibitions and art fairs.
San Gimignano, a mediaeval town on the Unesco world heritage list, commissioned four of his works in 1998, 2004 and most recently 2007: the first two in the Piazza del Duomo on the façade of the Palazzo del Popolo, the second on the side of the Piazza del Bagolaro opposite the civic museums and the most recent, a sculpture entitled “Viaggatore di pace” (Traveller of peace) in vicolo Diacceto.
In 2004 he took part in an exhibition at the invitation of the town of Valbonne (France). More recently he took part in three group exhibitions organised by the Artex association, the first in Chicago in the United States, the second in Frankfurt, Germany, and the third in Paris, France.
From 2006 to 2012 he was President of the San Gimignano Arts and Crafts Association, a cultural association founded in 1999 for which he also wrote a small book entitled “Patterns on clay: reflections” for the series “Luoghi paralleli”, a collection of hand-bound booklets in Italian and English which include a reproduction of a work of art. His writings are a collection of thoughts on making pottery, analysing the various stages of the creative process.
He is a founder member of the potters’ association “Arte della ceramica” set up in Tuscany in 2004.
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