Saturday, 8 January 2011

Gemma Taccogna

Please allow me to introduce you to the work of Gemma Taccogna.

Gemma Taccogna sadly passed away in 2007 but from the 50's onwards she was a talented artist creating ceramic tiles, jewellery and various object made of papier mache. Of all her work my favourite pieces are her papier mache heads and I'm chuffed to bits to say that I own three of them!

I discovered Gemma's work a few years ago by accident whilst browsing through eBay. I can remember being in a school art class many years ago and my art teacher commenting that all the people and animals I drew had large eyes, I hadn't noticed but he was right and that was just the natural way for me to draw. Gemma's heads have large eyes too and I think this was part of the attraction for me, as well as the fact that they have a certain folk art quality to them.

In the 60's the likes of Hollywood celebrities and even Peggy Guggenheim herself collected Gemma's work and cool boutiques used her heads to display their goods.

Here's my little collection...2 heads and a head pin cushion.

At a glance you could be forgiven for thinking that they are made of porcelain and not paper as the finish is so smooth, not like those lumpy bumpy piggy banks we all made at junior school!

The floral pattern on the dress and the head scarf is indeed fabric that's been applied to the surface, edged with fine cord and then varnished over.

This pin cushion was the fist Gemma I bought, she's in perfect condition.

This one was a birthday gift, I think she might be an early example of Gemma's heads because she seems to have a naivety about her whereas the others seem to be a little more sophisticated.

When she arrived through the post from America she was in a sorry state...

this is how she looked when I unwrapped her...I carefully cleaned her up. Hopefully she's happy with her face lift.

I've also managed to get my hands on this book about Gemma's decorated tile designs.

I particularly like these designs

But what I would love to own is one of Gemma black and white heads like these.

I think they're wonderful and so it would seem do a lot of other people as the prices for these are going up all the time...maybe one day!!
Apologies to the person who owns this photograph, I can't find a credit on the Internet but if you recognise it as yours then please contact me and I'll credit it to you.


  1. They really are lovely. I have been helping Jose with her art and enjoyed the papier Mache wings so I am planning (good word that)to make some hearts.

    Hope January has got off to a good start with you.


  2. The heads are stunning - as you say they're very unlike the papier-mache we know. Well done for getting hold of your 3 - they are beautiful. How funny that the book cover only credits Gemma by her first name.

    I love picking up little wooden figures - on the shelf in one of my blog pics. There's something really enchanting about painted faces... If I had ££££s I'd love a few of Alexander Girard's wooden figures; making do for now with a picture stuck on the fridge!

  3. Colette be sure to show us all when you make your hearts and yep 'planning'is a good word. I've been using it for years now :)

    January has got off to a slow but smooth start so far...

  4. Trashsparkle I'm going to pop over to your blog and take a look. Alexander Girard isn't a name I know but I'll do a spot of Goggleing and educate myself! xx

  5. I recognise Alexander Girard's work now I've seen it.

  6. gorgeous, they are beautiful. Thanks for showing them to us.

  7. I wish I'd caught onto AG's work before the prices rocketed - it'll have to be a photo-on-the-fridge for a long time! Alison of Antoni & Alison used to curb herself of wanting to buy things by sticking up the picture of the thing she was lusting after instead...a good trick!

  8. Hi, Could you descibe further how you cleaned up your Gemma head? Was it just removing old varnish or did you need to retouch? I have a small Gemma collection of my own and am wondering if I should repair any broken noses or leave well alone? What do you think? Your conservation looks great by the way.

  9. Hi Papiermachehead,
    To clean up my Gemma I used alcohol wipes, the kind that doctors might use. I took tiny strips and wrapped them around a cocktail stick for all the detailed bits and gently rubbed being careful not to rub the paint off. I also touched up one of her eyes with oil paint. The alcohol has taken the sheen off the surface of her face but I'm pretty please with how she has turned out. I hope this is of some help x