A ginger cat walking along a stone wall

A flying visit to a friend in Tuscany over ten years ago became a defining voyage for Canadian artist Jennifer Perez. “I was inspired by the charm of the people, the countryside, the architecture, the food and the colours,” she reflects. While she grew up under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Jennifer’s family is of Italian and Spanish descent and her twenties were spent in Madrid, so she was used to the richness of Mediterranean landscapes. But the pull of this region felt different, and when an opportunity arose to participate in a summer painting course in nearby Cortona, the decision was simple. Little did she expect to meet her partner, Saverio, and build a life in the hillside commune.

A terracotta ceramic pot on a wheel in a pottery studio

Her creative journey also took a pivotal turn when she arrived in Cortona, one of Tuscany’s cultural centres. “These artisans did not become artisans; they were born artisans,” Jennifer says of the local craftspeople she now collaborates with. “They live and breathe their work as the tradition runs deep – in many cases, the skill has been passed down through generations.” Days spent wandering the Medieval streets, stopping by bakeries for fresh bread and meeting Cortonese artisans motivated Jennifer to launch a ceramics brand, Ivo Angel, in celebration of both her found home and the family heritage that led her there.

Jennifer’s father, Angel, was a carpenter. “He taught me to appreciate and understand the work it takes to make handmade objects and what it is to live with those objects.” She labels her father-in-law, Ivo, a “visionary” in business. Her son was named after them, and later, so was her brand. Jennifer partners with potters from Cortona and neighbouring Tuscan and Umbrian villages whose experience with clay stretches back years. “One of our Deruta artisans talks about moments from his childhood when he was in the studio beside his father on the wheel, playing with the clay shavings that would fall to the ground.” Another 70-year-old potter simply smiled when asked when he would retire.

Splatter slipware decoration, a view of birds flying in the sky

Together, they make ceramic tableware using cherished regional techniques. “I’m driven by connections to things we use every day and might even take for granted,” Jennifer says. While the beauty of the table pieces is intentional, functionality is equally important to her. “It’s about the overall experience and being surrounded by objects that are useful and have substance.” The pasta bowls, plates and cups Ivo Angel produces have unfussy, traditional shapes, designed to be as practical as they are visually pleasing.

Jennifer’s appreciation for function is rooted in early experiences with her grandmother, Italia. She recalls the door to her home always being open, the air inside sweetened with the scent of baked goods and pasta sauce. “I remember the decorated ceramic plates and bowls that were such a significant part of her cooking. Each bowl had a specific purpose and was the perfect shape for whichever recipe she was preparing.” Jennifer was often tasked with setting the table, a ritual she happily adopted knowing it preceded the most precious time of day: sitting and sharing a meal with family.

Man working in a pottery studio

For TOAST, Ivo Angel has designed the three exclusive pieces, all inspired by an antique teapot Jennifer spotted in a friend’s kitchen. “It had a pigment splatter pattern on natural terracotta. I was drawn to its simplicity.” Ivo Angel went on to create a terracotta olive oil pourer (which features a cork lid handmade in Sardinia), a press-moulded bowl and an egg cup set with a similar hand-painted splatter effect, each crafted by Giulio Lucarini. Jennifer happened upon the Cortonese artisan’s shop soon after moving to the town – a ceramic clock on the wall outside caught her eye, and she stepped inside to a sea of green objects and vessels. ”And then I met Giulio, the hands and the soul behind them all,’’ she reflects. Having worked with clay since the age of 18, Giulio describes the process as his “natural calling”.

Colourful splatter ceramics, woman walking past a grey building

The designs, exclusive to TOAST, are made in a workshop in Deruta that has been passed down through four generations. Production of terracotta pottery in this small Umbrian town can be dated back to the Middle Ages, and many of the remaining potters revolve their lives around preserving the practice. This is the case in Cortona, too, Jennifer explains, and in several of the surrounding communities with a strong craft heritage. “They often work with their families and have lunch in their homes which are above the studios,” she says. “They live for their work.”

Shop the Cortona Splatter Oil Pourer, Cortona Splatter Bowl and Cortona Splatter Egg Cup Set by Ivo Angel.

Words by Bébhinn Campbell.

Photographs by Elia Misesti.

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