Rosanna Bowles bought her first Limoges plate at the age of 5. Fifteen years later, while studying abroad, she fell in love with Perugia, Italy, and the area's handpainted ceramics. By the time she finished school, Rosanna had come up with a career that would incorporate her degrees in art and Italian literature: creating tableware inspired by European art and culture. She even knew something about the business, thanks to parents who ran a small giftware and tableware sales company in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. "I learned a lot by helping them," Rosanna says. "My dad is very shrewd. He's from the Lower East Side of New York and has that savvy—a little aggression, some street smarts, plus humor and high energy. It's a real 'can do' attitude."
Still, she was unprepared for the summer day in 1982 when a 20-foot shipping container filled with Italian ceramics pulled up to her Seattle home. The delivery was the first for Rosanna's new tableware company, Rosanna Inc., which she'd funded with a $15,000 loan that used her house as collateral. The driver refused to unload his truck. Not his job, he said. Rosanna cried. He caved. "Oh, all right, lady," the driver said, "but don't tell anybody." When he left, Rosanna discovered packing material stuck to every dish. Undaunted, she filled bucket after bucket of water and washed all 30,000 pieces by hand.