Michele De Lucchi’s post Memphis group transformation

This is the story of the very first product that was the inspiration for the creation of the company that is nowadays known as Produzione Privata. This is the story of our Vaso Bianco ('White Vase') that spelled the beginning of a long journey of experimentation of design and a constant dialogue with italian artisans to create the unique artworks of Produzione Privata.

It all started with Michele De Lucchi’s passion for ceramics which was born during his time in the Memphis group. Memphis was a radical design movement of a group of artists and designers that emerged in the 80s and was at the forefront of the postmodernist era.

Since 1987, De Lucchi started drawing white objects with black decorations. This was part of his Memphis study to explore the contrast you could achieve with this dichotomy of colours. The decorations in time transformed into an in depth study of patterns of diametrically opposed shapes and colours. This study translated into adaptations for items which had various purposes: from fashion dress collections, to jewelry, to paper decoration and most notably, ceramic vases.

The ceramic vases and objects with black and white ornament (limited edition of 5 pieces), 1987-1990.
Source: Sybille Kicherer, The Complete Collection of Michele De Lucchi’s Produzione Privata pp.16-17

Michele De Lucchi began to draw vases towards the end of the Memphis period. He had lost an important channel to transform his inspirations into reality when his master Ettore Sottsass decided to shut down the Memphis Group. As a result he found himself abandoned, with plenty of corporate work, but without the means to express his creativity and experimentation without commercial limitations. So. Without any client demands, order assignments or even potential buyers, he stubbornly decided to follow his passion for a special material: ceramic. And he started to build vases for himself instead.

This is Vaso Bianco. The vase that ended his mourning and creative ties with memphis and began the inner journey of creativity that allowed Michele De Lucchi to find himself into the designer we all know today.

Vaso Bianco, Michele De Lucchi, pencil on paper, 1990

This vase represents the beginning of a new design era for Michele De Lucchi beyond Memphis. This new beginning is best illustrated by inadvertedly abandoning all the critical features of what defines a Memphis product. A Memphis product is has provocative and edgy shapes, it contains bright striking colours and a displays careful succession of repeting patterns. The Vaso Bianco is completely white, it consists of only curves and yet it still reminds you of Memphis without any of its characteristics. In Michele De Lucchi's words this vase «abandoned the technique of decorum and begins a reflection on shapes, on matter and its specificity.»

Memphis was closed because it was not keeping ahead of its time with experimentation because it became too popular with the masses. Produzione Privata on the other hand, as the name implies - Private Production-, went back to the roots. It was Michele De Lucchi's perfect cover to repudiate commercial success, conformity to the masses' demands and the traps of large scale productions, to become a lonely artisan. Why an artisan? Because it allowed him to experiment without any creative limitation.

«Even today I would still make the ceramic vases white and I cannot think of doing anything different. It is a colour, it is not just white, it is a specific and magnificent material and it can vary so much from clay to clay, from baking to backing» Michele De Lucchi

Three large ceramic vases, Vaso Bianco and two white vases (limited edition of 15 pieces) 1990.
Source: Sybille Kicherer, The Complete Collection of Michele De Lucchi’s Produzione Privata. Ph. Tom Vack

This was the beginning of Produzione Privata. This is the founding product that upholds the noble quest of experimentation, ground breaking, hectic disruption of Memphis while adding the calm, down to earth inner journey of hands on discovery of craftmanship.

From this study of ceramics, shapes and the collaboration with artisans, Produzione Privata the company was born. Its philosophy is maintained to this day by Michele De Lucchi’s credo of: Cultivating experimentation and encouraging craftsmanship.


The imposing character of white vases represented a real challenge for small artisanal manufacturers because of the difficulty of handling and cooking such large objects. But once you stimulate and challenge a craftsmen conviction, passion and desire to express their manual skills and know-how, no challenge is too big and difficulties are turned into opportunities. In this case the fruits of breaking through is the satisfaction of slowly touching and feeling the finished product as if it were alive, remembering all the hard work and difficult moments.

Now is the time to tell you the story through some pictures. This is the sequence of photos illustrating the birth of the first Vaso Bianco and the essence of Produzione Privata craftsmanship.

1. The process of lathing give Vaso Bianco the shape

The first processing step is the preparation of the 'mother shape’ of the vase. The ‘mother shape’ is a kind of prototype lathed in the image of the designs of Michele De Lucchi.
The skilled hands of potters shape the clay on the lathe until it is as close as possible to the original intuition.

2 | The Lathed mother shape is used to create the cast for Vaso Bianco

The mold which is made of plaster is an imprint of the mother shape. Once the mold is ready and the mother vase removed and some minor revisions are made. Then semi-liquid clay is poured into the mold solidifying into position by slowly losing its water content.
The next step is the drying part, by natural means which means waiting until the clay loses its last remaining water contents and slowly solidifies into its final shape.
After the drying process the vase is removed from the mold.
The crude vase naturally has some imperfections where the two mold halves meet, so the craftsman removes them by slowly and carefully scraping them by hand.

3. Next the clay vase is prepped for the first cooking in the furnace oven

The vase is now ready for the first baking at very high temperatures in the blazing oven.
After this process the pot takes on the classic 'red brick' color known as terracotta.

4. To become White Vase must then be glazed and cooked at higher temperatures

The final product, the Vaso Bianco, is a spotless beacon of light.
The glazing of the second cooking gives it a particular transparity that creates a beautiful game of light and shade despite being completely white.


After 14 years of the Vaso Bianco he realised he was missing something, just like the ying and the yang, Adam and Eve, the dark vase was missing. So the Vaso Nero was created. Black and white are opposites in the popular imagination (and very often are not even considered color) but when 'play' a glossy surface result in a range of shades of light and color. Black is scientifically lack of light but a shiny black vase has a bright light and does not reflect on itself the colors of the environment. In contrast, white is 'the presence of all visible light' but a white vase reflects on itself all the colors of the space around him. The Black Vase entered production in 2004 is therefore a valuable companion to his twin brother.

Speaking of twin brothers, identical twins, just like the white & black vase. Did you know that Michele De Lucchi had an identical twin?

So. In the same way Michele De Lucchi differentiates himself from his twin brother Ottorino De Lucchi with his black beard, he could not leave Vaso Bianco alone without his identically opposite brother Vaso Nero.

Vaso Bianco with iris, Ottorino De Lucchi, drybrush and acrylic on Schoeller cardboard, 2010

The play of shades that the glazing creates even on an the entirely white surface such as the Vaso Bianco's becomes a philosophical finding of shade wherever there is glare and darkness wherever there is light.
Black wherever there is White.

«The White Vase, a classic of Produzione Privata, now has a companion. As the white color in the ceramic has its own characteristic, shades and its own elegance, so does the glossy black just in reverse. Black Vase has a bright light and a depth never matched by artificial materials.» Michele De Lucchi

Vaso Bianco and Vaso Nero, black and white ceramic. Ph. Michele De Lucchi


Vaso Bianco and Vaso Nero in their purity of colour and design are beautiful and emphasise any environment they fill with their presence.
They are beautiful on their own and where born to be adorned with flowers and leafs.

Vaso Bianco at a private home. Ph. Michele De Lucchi

Vaso Bianco at a private home in Milan. Ph. Alessandra Chemollo.
View project on Archilovers

Vaso Bianco at aMDL studio. Ph. Michele De Lucchi

Vaso Nero at a private home. Ph. Michele De Lucchi

Vaso Nero at 'Il Chioso' atelier. Ph. Michele De Lucchi 2004

Michele De Lucchi (Vaso Bianco and Vaso Nero with flowers)
Luca Tamburlini / Polifemo fotografia (still lifes on white background)

aMDL - Michele De Lucchi's Archive


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