You just need to take a look at them to understand that they are not stoves like the others. The hand-crafted ceramic of Sergio Leoni stoves must to be touched to appreciate the materiality, their solidity and their identity of art work. Even more enchanting is the possibility to assist to the craft process that takes place in San Polo d'Enza (Reggio Emilia, Italy), where there is the laboratory of Sergio Leoni. It is a story of slow gestures, humility, precision, which are part of the craftsman knowledge passed down from one generation to the next and represent the real heritage of businesses like this one.
Sergio Leoni's workshop starts from a large pit, a sort of sunken vase which cointains the ceramic mixture, that is maintained soft by constantly moving revolving blades.
"We use a coarse grained clay," says Matteo Leoni, production manager and director of the company since his father, Sergio, took a little well-deserved rest. "It 's the one that guarantees the highest quality and it is perfect for large pieces like those we produce here."
The recipe for this grained mixture is a secret, a formula that the craftsman has gleaned from years and years of experience and will pass only to close assistants.
THE REST IN THE MOULDS
We are at the second step. The clay, called “barbottina”, is poured into the plaster moulds. Each mould is hand-made and used only for a limited number of items. After that it must be produced again, in order to keep guarantee the same performance. The function the plaster is to absorb excess humidity that the mixture contains. The time of the rest inside the plaster moulds is about 24 hours, but can be even more during humid winter days or for the pieces with large thickness or important sizes.
THE PIECE IS TAKEN OUT AND REFINED
When the time to rest is passed, the piece is taken carefully out from the mould, like a cake taken out from its mold. This step is critical, because the clay is dry, but still quite soft. This is the exact moment to polish and finish it by hand to remove even the tiniest imperfection.
AIR DRYING AND PAINTING
Once refined, the pieces are paired together, tighly packed with some air chambe, to ensure they fit together perfectly. "Basically, we marry them", Matteo Leoni said. Then, they are left dry again in air, for a time ranging from 3 days in summer and 15 days in winter. Once the piece is well dried, it is backed a first time and then it passes to the painting stage, where shiny and soft hues are created.
THE HAND-MADE DECORATION
If required, a painter carries out decorations and ornaments with natural oxides whose colour changes after firing in the kiln. Finding the right combination of pigments that will be able to not change completely after firing is based on the handcraft experience of pottery art.
THE "CRAQUELE" EFFECT
It is really interesting the so called "craquele effect", which is created by highlighting fissures and small cracks naturally occurring in ceramics with a pigment. The result is a “cracked” surface with an elegant antiqued effect. This finish is available for all Sergio Leoni stoves.
The firebox made with metal and refractory material is covered with various ceramic pieces to check whether it was carried out to perfection. The ceramic cladding should fit the stove like a custom-made suit. This philosophy governs the creation of each component, which is tried on after each step, to ensure that ultimately thall the pieces will fit together perfectly. This step of assembling before shipment is made for any product and is one of the plus of Leoni's products, which will arrive at the customer's home without surprises. The stove is shipped fully assembled, but the pieces of the cladding were born to stay together and can easily be separated and reassembled, like Lego pieces. Even if detached and reassembled several times in the course of their lives, the various components will continue to coincide perfectly with their "brothers" and there will never be among them unsightly gaps or spaces to be filled.