One of my biggest loves in life, aside from plants, is ceramics. I’m always fascinated by the process, from the type of clay, the quality of its texture, the shaping, the firing, glazing. Each piece tells a story and sometimes even the maker’s marks can be found somewhere on the surface. So I thought that it’s high time I brought you more from my travels to Spain back in July and our visit to meet designer and ceramist Xavier Mañosa at his workshop, Apparatu. It seems a world away now as we said goodbye to Marset and headed out of Barcelona to a quiet industrial estate in Rubí, wondering where on earth we were! The only tell-tale sign was a large skip filled with broken shards of pottery and a stack of rejected vases…
Inside the large unit was a hive of activity, despite the heat from the midday sun and the large kilns. Everything was covered in dust, with stacks of pottery at various stages and large casts slowly drying. Absolute heaven for me!
Apparatu is a very close knit team with Xavier and his parents at the heart of it, who began the pottery workshop forty years ago. Growing up in such a creative environment must have had some effect on Xavier, although despite studying industrial design and moving out to Berlin, he didn’t find his way back to ceramics until he started collaborating with design trio Mashallah Design, experimenting with more graphic, three-dimensional shapes. He moved back home and into his parents workshop, bringing their very traditional business into the here and now, producing pieces for the likes of Marset in the Scotch Club and beautifully fluid Pleat Box lamp collection.
The lamps are made using moulds filled with a liquid clay (secret recipe) allowing them partly to dry before draining the remains away and leaving a shell to form. It’s this that becomes the basic structure of the lamp which is fired several times throughout.
You get the sense that you are entirely at the mercy of a slow and exacting process here – if the air is too moist or too dry it greatly affects the quality of the casts. Each piece is painstakingly examined, sanded down for smoothness and glazed by hand. Anything that doesn’t make the grade is discarded. Although I was captivated by the glossy gold insides of the Pleat Box lamp (did you know that the glaze is brown?) my real loves were seeing the stacks of shades at their bisque stage after their first firing – a clean, crisp white. Aren’t they stunning?
It is hard to capture the feeling inside this space from a few photographs, the close bond shared by the Mañosa family or the connection between their past and future as Apparatu, but Xavier goes some way to explain it in this beautiful film ‘Reflections on Light’.
The Sunny Design Days Tour was kindly organised by the Association of Spanish Design.