Etruscan design by Mario Montanari

Maestro Montanari

Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy's Line
Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy’s Line

Although I have been writing about ceramic tiles for decades, and have visited Cersaie every year for over a quarter of a century, I still get a flush of excitement at the thought of this year’s show. I guess I really am a Tile Addict!

So, in just four weeks, Hanna and I will pack our bags and head off to Bologna … full of anticipation.

Every year I follow a similar schedule. I take the first three days to fulfil the journalistic and commercial imperatives of Tile & Stone Journal, Tile Today and The Specifier’s Guide to Tiling; and then dedicate at least one day to feeding my tile addiction.

On the first three days I will visit all the large tile manufacturers, mosaic experts, and adhesive and grout specialists, watch a few tool demos, and look over the latest tile display systems.

By day four it is time to search every nook and cranny of the Bologna exhibition centre in search of the unusual, the unexpected, and the awesomely beautiful. I can’t think of a year when I haven’t unearthed at least one gem, or made contact with a new manufacturer … an artisanal Italian factory, a high end Japanese atelier, or a traditional Spanish producer.

Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy's Line
Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy’s Line

One of my most memorable encounters was in 1999 when I came across a tiny but extraordinary stand in Hall 22. At first glance I wasn’t sure I was even looking at tiles at all. The tiles appeared to be hand-carved stone, ivory, or bone, decorated with gold leaf. The results were exquisitely crafted and simply stunning and, if I turn my head, I can see a framed example hanging in the hall of my house.

Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy's Line
Arché range by Mario Montanari for Katy’s Line

This cushion-edged 100 by 135mm tile is one of the Etruscan designs from the Arché range by Katy’s Line. It depicts two robed figures carrying swords and spears, their torsos picked out in gold against a subtle ivory coloured, lustrous, background. It is simply magnificent.

Katy’s Line stand at Cersaie that year also featured Egyptian-inspired relief tiles that paid respectful homage to their source. These incredible tiles were conceived and wrought by Katy’s Line Creative Director, Mario Montanari. Atelier, in my opinion, ranks as one of the ceramic tile world’s finest hours.

Mario Montanari, Katy's Line
Mario Montanari at work

A popular and well-known Maranellian artist, Montanari passed away on October 27th 2010 at the age of 71. This means that he must have been around 60 when I met him for the first time on his stand at Cersaie. I was instantly captivated by his enthusiasm, deep knowledge, and sense of humour. He was also a very modest, self-effacing man, and delightful company..

As well as designing and fabricating tiles, Montanari also applied his great artistic and technical expertise to the manufacture mosaic artefacts, sculpture, and painting; but I feel he will be best remembered for his pioneering ceramics.

Maranello's Coat of Arms
Artwork depicting Maranello’s Coat of Arms by Mario Montanari

Several of Montanari’s works can be seen in Maranello, including a large 16,000 piece mosaic of the municipality’s coat of arms in Piazza Libertà. This depicts the chosen tree emblem, a symbol of strength, with its roots in a fertile meadow. The mosaic was completed in 2000, 69 years after the municipality adopted this emblem.

Maranello also has two Montanari works dedicated to the carabiniere Emanuele Messineo who tragically died in the line of duty; one outside the Ferrari middle school.

If Cersaie 2019 introduced Tile Addict to anyone with half the talent of Mario Montanari it will still prove a very worthwhile visit.


A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, August 2019.

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