Juan Carlos Iñesta is aroducer of pottery in Manises (Valencia), Artisan Maestro and always evolving Researcher. In his workshop, experimentation is the norm, a philosophy that has taken him almost to the origins of Domanises, over 20 years ago, to collaborate with different Design studios and Art professionals, looking for new horizons. Awarded with the New Crafts award thanks to the piece Virgencita, conceived by Ane Baraja, today we want to know more about this, already consolidated, promising pottery figure from Valencia.
Once again an award. And once again in tandem with a designer. It looks like a safe bet, but how does this business philosophy come?
In Domanises we think that the collaboration with designers is a way of pushing the boundaries of pottery, this way we can provide new shapes and concepts, aesthetic and functional, to the pottery world and area of design. Excepting the traditional immobility, knowing new materials and new forms is what we have always been interested in, after all, researching.
Besides collaborations with well-known designers, we stand up for the future of pottery design, with new ideas of emergent promises and design students of different universities, as it is the case of Ane Baraja and Samuel Gallego, students of the Polytechnique University of Valencia, First Prize and Accessit in the New Crafts category.
How did the idea come: La Virgencita that has been awarded with the first prize in the New Crafts category?
The idea of La Virgencita was a project by Ane Baraja for the subject of models and prototypes of the design speciality of the Polytechnique University of Valencia. The briefing of the work was to develop an updated product design as a new promotion gift inside the Valencian Community. The idea of Ane is aimed to tourist who want to acquire different gifts, but in the long run to sell La Virgencita not only as the Virgen de los Desamparados, but to any national territory where processions to virgins are carried out: El Rocío, El Pilar, etc.
The first prize given by the Crafts Centre in the category of New Crafts provides us visibility and recognition. And a lot of hope for young designers, since new doors open when there is this kind of recognition.
Pottery in Manises is currently in a period of transit, where industrial activity reappears. Will we see pottery as a thriving industry again, or has the model changed?
For sure, the model has changed. I don’t think we could conceive an industrial development as big as the one from 15 years ago at the moment, manpower and materials are expensive, and the expenses to run large infrastructure has exponentially risen. Moreover, nowadays’ purchases usually are of almost unique pieces, relatively short runs and well differentiated.
How and when do you decide to professionally work in pottery?
Since a very young age I wanted to work in the plastic world. To the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, since I was six I always said “potter.” I feel the necessity to communicate with my hands, and what a better material than ceramics, which process through fire makes it a noble and unalterable material.
I share the pottery production in the workshop, teaching pottery since 1992. With 21 years old, just finished my studies as Artistic Pottery Expert, I start to prepare for this adventure of creating without stop products I relate to, always researching in the past and in new proposals for the future. Starts my professional career!
Could you explain the techniques you use and what they consist of?
We have different techniques to shape our products in Domanises, it depends on the necessity of production and viability.
The most common, if the quantity and equality allow us, is pottery or the potter’s wheel. Developed pieces one by one per revolution, perhaps the most attractive technique, and my own favourite.
Another one is the vacuum technique. It’s a semi-artisanal technique where the piece is made in a mould with liquid clay, it hardens, the mould is removed and goes through a manual process where it is finished, purifying the piece.
Another technique that we use in productions when we cannot use either of the latter techniques is “apretón”. This one consists of using the moist mass, which is introduced in a mould where pressure is applied, then the different parts of the piece are joined.
The sculpting technique is used sporadically.
The works from Domanises have got international attention and can be found in art centres and first class museums such as the Thyssen, in Madrid. Is this the new framework in which represent contemporary pottery now that the traditional trade has withdrawn?
It is a way, of course. It is very interesting to enter museums’ sales channels, due to their visibility and daily access of thousands of people. Although it is not easy, it is advisable to exhibit and sell pieces in museums, such as the Thyssen Bornemisza.
Another interesting way of selling in this period of setback sales of traditional businesses is the online sales, where a great amount of sales platforms are willing to sell our products.
And crowfunding is a very interesting proposal, for designers and artisans to be able to bet for their new proposals.
How do you see the future of ceramic crafts in the Valencian Community?
In my opinion, the future of crafts in the Valencian Community is promising, we have good stories to tell, and great artisans with great capacities who are ready to contribute with their knowledge. I think the good work is acknowledged in Valencia, not only from Spain, but also internationally. It is the perfect timing to show what we know and bring up our best creative self to compete.
New technologies have made it easier to access the global market of craft products, although it seems there is not an overwhelming response from the buyer yet. What do you think is the cause?
I think we need more promotion from craft workshops and a good strategy to get to the core of a suitable market. Above all, we need more capacity to manage social networks and webs. Apart from a good updated product, we must take care of the image, not only of the product but of the way we want to sell ourselves, of our workshop and environment. In general, of what we are, this is what makes the market to give a face to the artisan, which can be very different from what we can get in Ikea or Zara Home.
Your project Dovase, tries to incorporate pottery to the new technologies and allows the final user to take the decision about the desired object. We are not yet prepared or the consumer prefers to hand over the creativity to the designer or artisan. What has happened?
Dovase is born as a proposal of new creative tool, with the intention of providing an idea of the reality of the artisan versus to 3D prototype machines. It has actually been an ahead of its time proposal, the finality is to allow the final user to also be the designer. What we have observed is that the users, when given the option of choosing among different colours, sizes and, of course, generating the shape of their vase, they find themselves lost in a sea of possibilities, which are unable to validate with the final product, and they ask themselves a question: “Which of all these works of art should I choose?”
To which we answer that artisans are still an important figure in new creations, since they constantly validate the functionality, aesthetics and way of working of the created pieces, without the need of complex maps or advanced technologies, only with the acquired experience and their own hands.
Dovase is an interesting project that is still functioning and that is still a proposal we are working on.