In 1954, when the Civita Castellana ceramic industry workers went on strike and their demands for better salaries came to nothing, 23 young workers decided to start a company of their own. To find the necessary funds, some of them took loans, others put their plans for a wedding on hold, but all of them, with hard work and undivided commitment, contributed to the realisation of a dream that had seemed impossible: they established Ceramica Flaminia, which in January 1955 began producing sanitary ware.
At the time, bathroom fixtures were made by handicraft systems. A ceramist began forming the product by modelling clay slabs with the aid of ad hoc supports, and all subsequent production stages were also carried out manually.
The products were fired in a wood kiln whose structure was modelled after the renaissance kilns. There were no instruments to tell the temperature or indicate the various firing stages, it was up to the expertise of the fornaciari (kiln operators) to complete this final and critical stage of the production process successfully.
Market requirements changed appreciably with the economic boom, and, instead of individual items, ornamental series consisting of toilet bowl and tank, bidet, washbasin and column became the vogue. All-white products began to be flanked by colour versions, ushering in the era of colour sanitary ware, which in a few years time would lead to the adoption of a rich and diversified chromatic scale.
Production and conveyor tunnel
In the wake of these changes, new production technologies came to the fore: slip casting systems using gypsum moulds were adopted and the old kiln was replaced with a modern conveyor furnace fuelled with naphtha.
At the same time, the company began publicising its products with catalogues showing photos and the technical data of the individual products.
The early 1970s saw an expansion of the company’s production facilities to keep up with growing domestic demand and the first requests from abroad.
The time had come to start designing bathroom fixtures and fittings in an original manner, and the ferment of Italian society at the time facilitated this development, enabling the company to propose to the market bold, innovative forms, which marked a break with the classical shapes of the past.
Florale, Choc and …
The ornamental series conceived at the time left a long-lasting mark. Some of them, such as the Florale collection, continued to be sold for years, while others, such as the Choc collection, catered to the taste of the time and shortly afterwards, when fashion changed, were discontinued
The 1980s were characterised by a partial mechanisation of the production process, through a transition from fully manual operations to automated systems, especially in the casting shop, which resulted in greater productivity and streamlined operations. In 1983 the company changed its legal status to limited liability company.
Independent product design, while keeping pace with changing fashion, did not go beyond the revisitation of classic shapes and the creation of items featuring soft, rounded forms. These products were characterised by a good quality-price ratio but were not received enthusiastically by the market.
The early 1990s saw a period of slack, and the company realised it had to change its course to get out of a critical situation. In 1996 it changed its status to joint stock company and a few months later a “revolution” got underway, as Roberto Palomba assumed the art direction and began to design new products together with Ludovica Serafini. It was decided to focus on design to renovate the product line-up and the bathroom environment, also by resorting to external collaborations, such as the one that in 1997 led Giulio Cappellini to create the product that would become the icon of change: the Acquagrande washbasin.
Work in progress
The expression “Work In Progress” identified the innovative “design line” that was soon enriched with new items. This line had a strong visual impact and was promoted on the media and in company catalogues with forceful images and innovative furnishing solutions. This new approach to the design of ceramic sanitary ware featuring a highly innovative content are well exemplified by products such as Acquagrande (generously sized, square-shaped washbasin), Link (suspended bowl and bidet with visible discharge system and no fastening holes), Twin Column (pedestal washbasin for installation in the centre of the room), Twin Space (shower tray for installation in the centre of a wall).
The success of the new products, which entailed significant manufacturing problems, led to an upgrade of the production lines, resulting in the adoption of systems embodying leading-edge technology and the creation of two new production areas. This decade also saw a second generation – the sons of the founders – take the lead of the company.
Giulio Cappellini Art Director
Innovative products combining original design and new technical solutions continued to be produced. In 2004 Giulio Cappellini was appointed art director and inaugurated a series of joint projects with both young and well-established designers: Ceramica Flaminia became a point of convergence for the most diversified design experiences and was able to claim it was the sanitary ware maker with the greatest number of designers.
The crisis that broke out in 2008, and still shows no signs of coming to an end, confronted the company with the challenge of facing up to an increasingly difficult and selective market. On the production front, the challenge was to create top-quality products while maintaining costs at a suitable level, by taking full advantage of the professional skills of the workers and the opportunities afforded by technological innovation.
Even when the crisis was in full swing, the company never stopped searching for new technical and stylistic solutions for its ceramic products. The recent collaborations with famous Italian designers such as Alessandro Mendini and Paola Navone, and international ones, such as the Nendo studio and Jasper Morrison, are evidence that Flaminia intends to continue making design sanitary ware, entirely manufactured in Italy, in the belief that such characteristics are fully appreciated by the market.