Nicolò Morales was born in 1973 in Caltagirone, where he lives and works. He attended the Art Institute in his city, and since an early age he has been practising in the workshops of master ceramists. His atelier is in the historic centre of the Sicilian town, where he creates both functional objects and sculptures, some of which of considerable size, with inexhaustible creativity. Here he displays his anthropomorphic vases typical of the Caltagirone tradition, but also his avant-garde interpretations, as well as reproductions of 13th-century protomaiolica. Morales literally uses the colours of his land, which he derives directly from minerals collected in the countryside around Caltagirone.
Tell us your story.
My first approach with the material dates back to when I was five years old when, during some renovation work at home, I scraped a stucco-like material off the window frames and made a small ball from which I made a dinosaur, a pterodactyl. From that day on, anything that could be modelled passed through my hands and always took on different shapes. Growing up, alongside my work in the workshop, I enrolled at the Art Institute, where I graduated.
The tradition of Caltagirone ceramics will always be part of me: I grew up steeped in those colours, those smells, in the workshops where clay is bent to one's will
The territory has a great influence on my production, starting from the availability of raw materials. In terms of creativity, on the other hand, it has been penalising: Caltagirone has a centuries-old tradition and clients were and still are often only looking for tradition
What is the process of design and realisation of an artwork?
First of all, one must always take into consideration both the aesthetic value and the functional one, especially the latter. Furthermore, one must think about the purpose of the work: is it a vase, a jug or a decorative element? Before you start designing and then realising, you have to do a whole study process of this kind. Once I have a clear idea of the object I want to model, I think about how to design it and how to realise it: if it is a decorative element, it will have certain characteristics, if it is a functional object , it will have features that allow the final product to be used easily.
Your production encompasses typical Calatino (of Caltagirone) types side by side with more innovative subjects. How do you combine these two aspects?
The tradition of Caltagirone ceramics will always be part of me: I grew up steeped in those colours, those smells, in the workshops where clay is bent to one's will. I could never abandon my history; but it is possible to place it alongside innovation, without distorting the meaning of my works. I go scuba diving, I love exploring the seabed, and from my adventures in the sea come the series of fish, colourful, alive, which are part of me, just like the famous Caltagirone 'heads'. I collect experiences and then model them in clay.
LYou declared that you 'feel' the colours. What do you mean?
I am colour-blind and I kept it hidden for 44 years, because I was afraid of negative reactions from my community and the ceramicists... but it is precisely this characteristic that led me to ceramics, an art that perfectly combines sculpture and painting. I found refuge in a world of chromatic challenges, Mediterranean nuances and delicate harmonies. Thanks to this particular sensitivity, my fish, my birds and all those brightly coloured productions were born, reminding me how wonderful a world in colour is.
How much does the territory influence your work?
The territory has a great influence on my production, starting from the availability of raw materials. In terms of creativity, on the other hand, it has been penalising: Caltagirone has a centuries-old tradition and clients were and still are often only looking for tradition (perhaps not recognising craftsmanship from mass production), which for me, being a great experimenter, is a huge limitation. I was never fully understood by my fellow artisans and this is why I had to put aside part of my production for a long time. A few years ago, I abandoned this fear and gave free rein to my creativity and flair.
Is there a work that particularly excites you? And an extravagant work that you have created?
All works related to the sea are a source of emotion for me, they remind me of my great passion: diving. I have made unusual works: heads related to moods. What I liked most was that the people looking at them immediately understood my intent and poetics.
What is a moment you remember with most emotion?
Definitely when I received the MAM-Maestro d'Arte e Mestiere award from the Fondazione Cologni and when one of my works became part of the Quirinale's permanent collection, because in these cases it is my work, my passion and my know-how that have been recognised by external and important institutions.