ceramics in Barcelona

The Rise of Ceramics in Barcelona

You can't ignore the resurgence of ceramics in Barcelona (and all over the place, really)—handmade pottery is everywhere!

Restaurants and cafes are commissioning potters to create unique plates and cups that bring distinctiveness to their dishes. Boutique shops and trend-setting magazines highlight ceramics as a coveted design feature. Ceramic artists are pushing new limits and making headlines in the world of contemporary art.

New pottery studios open up every day, offering a healthy creative outlet, a strong sense of community and artisan products that bring warmth and quality back into our lives. And consumers are taking notice. They're rejecting factory-produced dishware and rediscovering the soulful nature of hand-crafted goods.

This trend has been going on for a few years now, and the rise in popularity of ceramics shows no sign of declining; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Let’s look at why ceramic art is on the rise all over the world and what benefits it can have for us and for our society.

Moving Towards Conscious Consumer Choices

The re-emergence of ancient clay arts is a natural response to our single-use, throw-away culture. People have grown tired of buying mass-produced products—objects which are not unique, meaningful or memorable. They have no personal connection to these items, so they can simply be thrown out with next month’s passing fad.

...the true perfection of a handmade pot comes from the impossibility of ever creating another piece exactly like it.

In contrast to those “perfect” (symmetrical, even, identical) objects produced by big industry, the true perfection of a handmade pot comes from the impossibility of ever creating another piece exactly like it. Each object has marks from the making process. And when an artist creates something, they inevitably leave a little piece of themselves in that object.

Pottery has reemerged with a new and important role to play in our society. It enriches everyday objects with purpose and beauty; it gives them a soul. When an object is made by hand—by you or by a craftsman— you won’t want to throw it away. You will care for it and cherish it.

A Grounding Refuge in Hyperconnected Times

Clay arts are the perfect antidote to our electronic devices and fast-paced society. You cannot rush clay. And you certainly cannot make a pot while looking at your mobile. You need to be present and focus your mind on the material in your hands, disconnecting from your to-do list, worries about work and inner conversations.

Pottery is a form of meditation and that’s why people find it so relaxing. Hours in the studio can easily pass by without thinking or caring about anything else. It’s almost like slipping into a trance, or what is commonly called a flow state. This can happen with all kinds of activities and art forms, and it seems especially likely when working with clay. You have to be in tune with your material and react to what state it’s in to be able to work effectively.

REN Cerámica
REN Ceramica

Read more here about why arts and crafts are good for your health.

Clay Arts Provide Therapeutic Benefits

Clay is a living material; it has energy, texture and temperature. Molding clay is a tactile, sensorial experience that’s grounding and good for the soul. Like gardening, pottery is an activity that allows you to thoroughly enjoy getting dirty and reconnect with Mother Earth.

Local artist and facilitator of the Arte Sentido method, Javier Hernan Rubinstein explains, “When you come into contact with clay a dialogue takes place. As in every dialogue, you listen, ask and answer but you do it in your own language—by touching—you tell the clay what you feel and what you think by squeezing, caressing and playing ... The external vision is silenced, allowing a space of self-knowledge to open.”

Clay Turns Us into Alchemists

Pottery is not magic, but just ask anyone who’s created something with clay from start to finish and they’ll probably tell you it’s as close as they've come to it. The process of taking a lump of mud, mixing it with water, giving it form, sticking it in the fire and walking away with something beautiful, functional and completely unique is a magical experience. It brings an overwhelming sense of joy and satisfaction to anyone who does it.

But don’t get me wrong, pottery is not easy. There are many steps involved and there are many things that can go wrong along the way. At times, it’s downright challenging; you need a lot of patience and perseverance to consistently create pottery successfully.  The silver lining here is that patience and perseverance are good skills to hone.

Community Spirit Flourishes in the Potter’s Studio

Clay art studios are places where experimenting, sharing and learning happen on a daily basis and gratification runs deep. When people come together in an open, creative space, wonderful synergies and collaborations happen all the time.

“There is something we cannot deny about the energy of clay, about its versatility and warmth,” says Dalia Sofronie from the 137° Ceramic Art Studio in PobleNou. “I always thought that clay brings nice people together. But then I realized that it’s actually the clay that makes people nicer. When people come into the studio they bring the best version of themselves.”

Ceramics in Barcelona

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t find a single ceramics studio in Barcelona offering classes to the public with common space to work with clay. Now there are more than15! The larger studios are located in the Poblenou district, thanks to the industrial buildings, but you can also find smaller studios in El Raval, Gràcia and Sants. You can find a detailed list of them here and on my webpage, ameliajcreations.com.

You’ll find an ample selection of classes and ways to get involved in ceramics. From amateurs to professionals, courses are offered for artistic or functional pieces. The most common are wheel-throwing and hand-modeling classes offered in the evenings and weekends so you can unwind after work or in your free time.

You can also find full-time intensive courses aimed at training professional potters or classes to learn how to make plaster molds. This type of ceramics, called slip-casting, is most often used by production potters who create designer products or dinnerware for restaurants.

Every studio or teacher has their own niche, so look around to find the right space for you. Personally, I host Weekend Wine and Pottery Nights, as well as private pottery parties for special occasions.

As you can see, there are many opportunities to get involved and many benefits to doing so. Time to get your hands dirty!


This article by Amelia Johannsen was first published at Metropolitan Magazine.

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