Fiori of Laguna Beach is more than a retail store…it is actually considered an art gallery and once you step in the doors you can see why! We spoke with long time Laguna Beach resident and owner of Fiori, Bonnie Wolin, about her love of Italian Majolica.
What does Fiori specialize in?
Fiori’s collection of Majolica is extensive. Fiori has everything from antique reproduction pieces of museum quality painted by master artisans to decorative accessories with traditional motifs and contemporary designs. Each piece is completely handmade and hand painted. The artisans use a technique that dates back to the 13th century which involves firing and dipping the earthenware in a tin oxide glaze before painting the design.
We work with 20-25 small families in Italy that have a long-standing tradition of producing Majolica. These are genuine traditional artisan works that have been paced down and carried on for generations. Every piece we have in the store is hand made by artisans. We are also known for the diversity of our collection.
Were you a collector before you were an importer?
Yes, my first trip to Italy was in 1983 for three weeks. Prior I had been a collector of handmade art of many types. My father was a builder and craftsman so I grew up appreciating handmade things. I was collecting all types of things from primitive art and Columbian ceramics. When I went to Italy on that first trip I fell in love with Majolica and ended up buying a large collection of Raffallesco dishes. It is a classics pattern with a dragon and is the most recognized pattern of Italian majolica. I came home and started entertaining with it. It was in 1989 that I decided to start importing and my first store opened in 1990 where I was for five years. We moved to our current location in 1995.
Do you ever get involved in the creative process?
Yes, for instance “The Chianti Countryside” was a design that was previously nonexistent. I worked with a small family is Montespertoli, just outside of Florence, to create it. They were looking to develop a new design and I said to them, “you live in such a beautiful place in the countryside of Chianti lets adapt the landscape to ceramic pieces.” So we did. It took about two years of samples to come up with a design that I felt would be successful for the American market. It is now their most successful design. I love being apart of the creative process in this way.
Another example is the exclusive designs of the Vittoria Majolica.
These are part of their normal production, except that they usually have portraits on them. Instead of portraits I had them put names of herbs, biscotti, and other items. I also designed the handles, which are pears with leaves. This is something that they make specifically for me and do not sell to anyone else.
What else is Fiori known for?
We are known for having the biggest collection of masks anywhere in the States. Traditionally the masks are known for bringing abundance and good luck to your home. Each element you see on the mask is hand rolled clay. Generally one artisan produces each mask. Sometimes one person does the clay and another the painting. It is a very involved and long process.
Also we have one of the biggest collections of the Masters. Our collection includes the work of Italian master Majolica painters whose pieces are already in private collections and museums around the world. These are limited production pieces that can be viewed and purchased at Fiori.
When you’re in Laguna Beach next time a visit to Fiori is a must! I plan to make it my go to destination for all those hard-to-buy people on my gift lists. I know they would love these handmade Majolica art pieces.
214 South Coast Highway
Open Daily 10am to 6pm
800.373.9853 Toll Free
You can now like Fiori on Facebook!
By Anne-Marie S.