Elvira Keller was born and raised in Naples. After graduating, she devoted herself to learning ceramic techniques in several studios. She specialised in the art of majolica at the Ballardini Institute in Faenza: here she settled and opened the workshop where she still practices her profession. Thanks to her expertise and know-how, she has taken part in personal and collective exhibitions in Italy and abroad. Her highly personal poetics are inspired by cosmic space and nature, with architectural contaminations.
Tell us your story.
I was born and raised in Naples, where I started to develop an interest for ceramics at the age of 16 thanks to a ceramicist who held courses for anyone who wanted to approach this craft. From that moment, I immediately 'fell in love' so much that for my 18th birthday I got myself a mini kiln to keep at home, where I started experimenting. Meanwhile, after graduating, I went to a workshop for a year to learn the trade. Year after year I refined my technique and found my way to express myself, and here I am today.
My work almost always starts from my hands, which follow the images in my head.
Working with clay has always given me a feeling of solidity: I am a very mental person and when I get my hands dirty with clay and work with it, I can lose myself in it.
Is there a person or episode that influenced your decision to become a ceramicist?
For a year I attended a workshop where I assisted the owner in the work phases, learning with my eyes and hands how to make ceramics. I was fascinated to watch her giving shape to the clay. Also, in that studio there were always people attending pottery, drawing and painting classes. It was there that I realised I wanted to do this with my life. Then I discovered the Faenza Ceramics Museum and went straight to visit it, and then I discovered the school. I then decided to attend the advanced course in majolica art in Faenza at the Ballardini Art Institute.
What is the source of inspiration for your works?
My work almost always starts from my hands, which follow the images in my head, often influenced by human and natural constructions that are transformed into three-dimensional works or graphics. I almost never design, I don't particularly like drawing, I prefer to see what my hands will form, almost by spontaneous growth.
What do you feel when you 'get your hands dirty'?
Working with clay has always given me a feeling of solidity: I am a very mental person and when I get my hands dirty with clay and work with it, I can lose myself in it, I experience a feeling of ancestral, primordial calm.
What is the most extravagant work you have created?
Probably the most extravagant work is one of my latest, 'Communicating Vases'. The work consists of a set of elements that fit into each other, creating a single flowing path, just like communicating vases. It is made using different techniques and different materials, and evokes the union and coexistence of different cultures.
Is there a moment you remember with particular emotion?
Not just one moment, but small moments that follow one another throughout the day. Certainly the moment when I open the kiln and I am satisfied with what I see is a very emotional one, and it is equally touching to be thanked by a customer to whom you have sold a work that he or she fell in love with, and that you particularly cared about. However, I remember one of the most exciting moments, when I first entered what would later be my studio: I felt that this would become my own place.
What would you like to tell a young person who wants to approach the world of ceramics and craftsmanship in general?
Every year I welcome students into my workshop, Erasmus students from abroad, interns and trainees from Italy, and I try to teach them all the determination, patience, and discipline that it undoubtedly takes to master this art; at the same time, I believe it is fundamental to work with joy, to find one's own path that is as unique as we are.