Alex Mandli + Pampa Mia Argentinian Cuisine


A wet piece of clay to build a pot. A moist hunk of dough to form an empanada. Both rolled, shaped, formed, baked, and fired by masters of their craft. 

With a nod to tradition, chef/owner Marcelo Ginestel of Pampa Mia brings the flavors of Argentina to Wisconsin by sharing their culture and traditions through delicious food, like handmade empanadas and other delicacies. Clay artist Alex Mandli’s work, the iTalianate Series featured in the RAM 2019 Artist Fellowship Exhibition at Wustum, includes 30 pieces that integrate the appearance of ancient ceramic objects––seeming to be part of an archaeological dig––with the iconography of modern technology in a way that links the past, present, and future. 

See what these two modern Maestros have been cooking up together! Their individual media may even overlap in surprising ways––how about an empanada made of clay?

Alex Mandli’s current work seeks to perfect the very essence of making ceramics by focusing on the essentials––just clay, water, and fire. Using the saggar firing process, he is able to rely on his level of skill and over 30 years of experience to paint with fire by orchestrating just the right environment of combustible materials in the kiln. Unlike raku or glazing, the coloring of a saggar-fired pot starts the moment the kiln is lit and finishes when the pot has completely cooled. 

To accentuate this unique coloring, Mandli uses a vocabulary of forms built on a foundation of the traditions of ancient ceramics and honed with his contemporary understanding.

When Mandli opens a bag of clay today, the scent of moist earth still gives him a sensory memory flashback to his first encounters with the material during his childhood. 

Mandli’s work has been exhibited in many juried exhibitions and galleries across the US and around the world. Highlights of his career include the three years—1999, 2000, and 2007—his work was selected for Smithsonian Craft Shows in Washington, DC.