Italy: Art, Culture, and Wood Fired Terracotta with Don Davis

June 16-July 1, 2014

Program Website:

Program Coordinators:
Don Davis

1117 Cedar Place, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37604 USA

423 439 7864 office


Preferred method of contact:
e mail


Join us for a memorable experience in one of the most stimulating places on the planet. Your sixteen day course fee includes lodging, all meals at Spannocchia, studio access, all materials and firing, Italian lessons, use of the pool, hiking trails, wine on the terrace every day at 7, guided course excursions to surrounding towns & cultural sites, transport from the Florence airport on June 16, transport back to Florence on June 30, two days & nights in Florence, and farewell dinner on July 1. This studio course serves as a vehicle to experience the incredible cultural and artistic history of the region and conversely the surrounding Tuscan landscape, art, and architecture provide inspiration for the work done in the studio. Rapid hand building techniques will be used and the course will culminate with the firing of our pieces in the Nuovo Forno Etrusco. In summer 2010 this new kiln based on ancient Etruscan design was built by Davis & crew and successfully fired at Spannocchia. The course celebrates its 8th year at Castello Spannocchia, a cultural gem in the Tuscan countryside near Siena. Spannocchia is a self-sustaining agricultural estate dating from the 12th century that has become a center for international study. Spannocchia produces its own wine, olive oil, and most of the vegetables, fruit, and meat served at meals. Our group is housed in the Castello Fattoria, the delicious traditional Tuscan meals are prepared in Spannocchias kitchen, and the evening meal, served in the outdoor dining area is always an event to remember. Cooking classes, car rental, & travel advice are available. An extension in Italy is possible. Space is limited so don't delay if interested. Open to all levels from beginner to professional. Non credit participants are welcome. Register through ETSU for college credit: ARTA 4117 STA & ARTA 5117 STA

Coordinator Biography(ies):

ITALY - The summer of 2014 marks Don Davis' eighth year conducting the course at Spannnocchia. As a boy he was fortunate to live in Naples, Italy for two years, which is as long as he lived anywhere else while growing up. He has visited and studied in Italy almost every year for the last thirteen years. He has taught at La Meridiana, been awarded an artist residency at SACI in Florence, conducted research on Etruscan & other ancient kilns, and explored many of the museums and cultural sites in Tuscany.

EDUCATION - Don received his MFA at Rhode Island School of Design and BFA from the University of Florida and feels that travel and independent research have served as equally informative components of his educational training.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE -  Don is currently Professor of Art, East Tennessee State University, has taught at RISD, UNCA, and was the initial Director & Instructor, Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts in Asheville, NC. He has also taught numerous workshops including La Meridiana, Italy, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, University of South Carolina, Chautauqua Institution, and Alelier Cirkel, Belgium.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE - Don Davis was a full time Studio Potter from 1974-2001 in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of Wheel Thrown Ceramics, published in 1998 and his work appears in several other publications including Contemporary Ceramics, Working with Clay, and Handbuilt Ceramics. His work is exhibited in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

PERSONAL - Don lives and maintains his home studio in Johnson City, TN with wife, Marian, and son Will. Don's eldest son Micah lives, mixes music, skateboards, and works at The Hundreds, in San Francisco, CA.

RESEARCH - Ancient Kilns has been an area of particular interest for Don, initiating research journeys to Crete, France, Belgium and Italy. Davis was a presenter at the 'Artisans and Craft in Ancient Etruria' symposium at Syracuse University in Florence, Italy, in June 2013. He and his crew constructed the Nuovo Forno Etrusco, a kiln based on ancient Etruscan design at Spannocchia in summer 2010. In summer 2009 he collaborated with archaeologist Nancy DeGrummond to construct a model of the Etruscan kiln (300-200 BC) excavated by her at Cetamura del Chianti for an exhibition (june 13 -  july 19, 2009) at Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno, Italy. His presentation, "Ancient European Kilns / Crete, Italy, France, Belgium" was given at the 2006 NCECA Conference in Portland, Oregon. .

"The balance between studio time, lessons, field trips and relaxation is just right."

"I'm so happy my first experience in the country was through your course rather than simply going to travel from place to place."

"Everyday in Italy, at Spannocchia is a treat."

This course was a life changing renewing experience. I benefited greatly from seeing a different culture, and being able to not only see, but to live life in this different culture for a while. We were absorbed into the culture from the moment we set foot at Spannocchia. The fieldtrips that we went on and the people we met will always be inspiration to me and to the new works of art I will create. I feel like I changed on this trip, and I feel like I grew as an artist.

"I want to come back and do it again."