Inspired by the vibrant spirit of Malta, a love of craft, and, of course, creating the perfect tablespread, Villa Bologna is a pottery company with a rich history and selection of crockery. Together with her husband and their friend Jasper de Trafford, Sophie Edwards has been running the business for the past three years. She was generous enough to lend us some the perfect pieces for our Spring 23 tableware shoot, as well as give us a little insight into her world of creativity.
The pottery is 100 years old and has an amazing catalogue of designs. Initially we had to do a lot of curation, we inherited hundreds of different products and spent a considerable amount of the time deciding which pieces best represented the heritage and heart of the brand. We also introduced some new designs such as the Stripes and Palm Tree designs which complimented the traditional designs that Villa Bologna was famous for. Inspiration very much comes from the gardens at Villa Bologna and the Mediterranean lifestyle of Malta, where we are based.
A beautiful table setting makes a lunch or supper feel special. It’s all in the detail and little efforts go a long way. I love to layer the plates on the table, I like to put the side plate on top of the dinner plate. This makes more space on the table for glassware, jugs, sharing plates and candles. I also like to serve food on sharing plates. I like to let guests choose what they like to eat and how much of it. Pudding especially is such a personal preference, I love to put out bowls piled high with chocolates, dates, nuts, tangerines, chocolate covered strawberries and goodies for people to pick at. It also looks so charming. I don’t like things too matching, so I usually pick a colour and build my table around that, mixing designs, flowers and tablecloth and napkins to make a harmonious look.
The pottery has been in the De Trafford family for the past 100 years, Jasper De Trafford is great friend of ours. Three years ago, Jasper was telling us that he may close the pottery and Rowley and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to take it over as we could see what could be done with the brand and felt it had amazing untapped potential. Rowley and I have always worked together, before living in Malta we spent 4 years in east Africa doing various projects. Running a business is all consuming and takes up the majority of our headspace, so being able to bounce things off each other is really important. We spend a lot of time together, but so far so good!
The highlight of our work is the creativity. The pottery is a really beautiful space, the workshop is set in the old stable block of the Baroque Villa Bologna and we are surrounded by beautiful gardens and architecture. The light is gorgeous and the space is inspiring. Every day we are surrounded by talented artisans, each piece is an artwork in its own right, so we are constantly feeling inspired.
Figuring out international shipping has been the most challenging aspect so far! Ceramics are fragile and we are totally environmentally friendly, so we are opposed to bubble wrap and all packaging with is not recyclable or biodegradable. We have spent a lot of time researching green packaging and finally we have found the perfect solutions so we are now able to bring Villa Bologna Pottery from its home in Malta to the rest of the world.
I love working with my husband, the pottery is our life and so doing it together means that we get to spend a lot of time together. Our two children Rocco and Zadie (two and four) love coming into work with us. They spend hours playing with clay and making their own creations. They love the gardens at the villa and so we feel very lucky to have a place of work were the whole family can be involved.
I have so many dresses from Pink City Prints, in the winter I wear them with tights and boots and in the summer they are perfect for the very hot Mediterranean climate. My favourite dress this season is the Emilie Dress which is so pretty and feminine.