Women Making Beautiful Things
Hair and makeup, Amie Johnson for CelestineSeattle.com
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.
Today, Rosanna Inc. is headquartered in Seattle's stadium district and has 19 employees. The company anticipates $10 million in sales this year and produces more than 40 collections. While the overall look is indisputably feminine, individual tabletop lines range from the Baroque black-and-white damask pattern of Parisian Wallpaper to the clean silhouettes of American Bungalow.
Despite the strength of Rosanna's vision, it hasn't always been smooth sailing. In 1995, the mammoth Federated Department Stores (now Macy's Inc.) told Rosanna they would be placing an order. In anticipation, she stocked up. "Federated did order," Rosanna recalls, "but nowhere near as much as they'd said. It left me seriously overinventoried." Her only recourse was knocking on doors of closeout retailers. She managed to recoup enough of her investment to avert financial collapse, and soon after, another significant Pottery Barn order came in, putting the company solidly back on track. But Rosanna still warns aspiring entrepreneurs to start small: "Getting an order from a big store can be a turning point," she says, "but it's a dance with the devil too; if they don't like the final product and return the whole thing, it can ruin you."
Mexican artisans make the Darjeeling line of recycled glass ($96 for six tumblers or six votives; hurricane shade, $80).
Mimmo's two sons from an earlier marriage have both worked for Rosanna Inc., and 11-year-old Francesca, the daughter Rosanna and Mimmo had together, designed her own line, introduced as part of the company's spring collections. Called "Portrait of a Young Artist," it was inspired by the artwork of the European masters ($30 for four) and mugs ($40 for four).
Fifteen percent of profits from the Mondo collection go to Doctors Without Borders ($50 for six plates or six mugs).