From her home near the ancient Roman port of Ostia, 36-year-old Alessandra Carelli is single-handedly revitalizing the ancient art of porcelain painting. Studying museum pieces for details and working on anything from teacups to urns, she creates pictures of horses and dogs, elegant ladies and dreamy landscapes. Carelli fell into porcelain painting in 1994, when the Brazilian artist Mara Correa took the young watercolorist under her wing, teaching her both old brushwork techniques and an innovative process, used primarily for floral decoration, in which the little finger replaces the paintbrush. "It lends the work an Impressionistic and naturally spontaneous feel," Carelli says. She hopes her plates aren't just for display: "They're fired at 800 degrees, so you can put them in a dishwasher." (We don't suggest this.) Carelli has just completed a series of limited-edition plates for the venerable German company KPM. Her one-of-a-kind pieces are available from Gump's in San Francisco; for individual commissions, contact the Guilde des Orfèvres at 212-683-6672.

—Sonali Rao