At the invitation of Lladró boutique in Baku, Nigar Gahramanova, the editor of the Lux section of Nargis Magazine, had the opportunity to explore the world's only porcelain figurine factory nestled in the suburbs of Valencia. While her visit to Spain naturally included tasting local cuisine and enjoying the vibrant art of flamenco, the main purpose of her journey was to get acquainted with the heritage of Lladró. The visit to Lladró's exclusive porcelain factory and its museum offered a unique glimpse into the painstaking work of the artists and the many stages of the artistic process each piece undergoes before it is ready.
Each piece is a story, and every detail represents enormous labour. These masterpieces transcend mere elegance; they exude life and emotion. It's important to note that each piece is crafted by hand, and the artists place their personal signature next to the brand's name, adding a special personal touch to the products. Collectors of Lladró porcelain often have their favourite artists, whose creations they prefer to buy. Working at the factory is akin to magic, unfolding within a sort of enchanting workshop. During our visit, we were shown how various elements are made from liquid porcelain paste, how they are attached, and more. This process is quite labour-intensive and physically demanding - so, it is mostly men who do it. Following this, the decorative part begins, requiring the utmost women's patience. Attentive quality control is conducted at every stage of the process for all products. Elegant, delicate, and surprisingly plastic figures captivate with their aesthetics and unparalleled quality. Their uniqueness and masterful execution have led the Lladró to a global stage. Lladró porcelain graces the residences of royalty, presidents, embassies, banks, offices, and the world’s elite. The Papal Palace in the Vatican, Hermitage, the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels, the International Ceramics Museum in Faenza, Italy, the National Ceramics Museum in Valencia, Spain, the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, acquire Lladró porcelain for their collections. We invite our readers to step into the marvellous world of porcelain art, illuminated by the guidance of Lladro's Creative Director, Mrs. Nieves Contreras.
Congratulations on the 70th anniversary! Could you share the brand’s history and your involvement over the past 5 years?
The brand was founded 70 years ago by three sculptor brothers Juan, Jose, and Vincent Lladro. They were pioneers in porcelain, developing new techniques through extensive research in France, Germany, and other countries. Eventually, they began producing and the pieces were successful, so people started buying them. They had some connections in the US, so they started distributing to the US market. The brand quickly gained popularity there, leading to an expansion into global markets and attracting collectors who cherished small, valuable figurines. Over the years, the brand’s style evolved, moving towards a more romantic and culturally-inspired design direction, like the boat on the Nile, and exploring the compositions of the porcelain. The brand also delved into creating floral designs and introduced new sculptural decorative elements, which received significant acclaim. However, around 2000, the market experienced a slight decline as people’s tastes began to shift. About 5-6 years ago, the company had a visionary idea: to equip the brand with all the necessary tools and talents to make a successful transition into the contemporary world while preserving the classical collection, which is the heart of the brand. Having joined the company a year and a half ago, I was inspired by its legacy. It became quite a challenge to establish a new creative strategy that harmoniously combines the work of sculptors, designers, and collectors into a new unified direction for the future.
What is the foundation of the brand’s success?
I believe it’s authenticity. From the beginning, it’s something that the brand is creating, what we do, the material and its authenticity, producing the things always in the same place, right here in Valencia, in the same factory and with the same processes that had been in the history of the brand. Innovation is equally important. When the brand was established, the founders introduced pioneering techniques in porcelain production, such as the single firing process. Something that is in the DNA of the brand today, allowing us to explore new creative directions, languages, and territories. Each year, we introduce so many different products, and every time it is something new, that will give a lot of value to the creation and the inspiration of the pieces.
How do you manage to introduce your passion and Spanish spirit via creations?
Each artist has his own heritage. When you create things, you always express your culture. When we produce our pieces, they inherently reflect our cultural influences. For instance, we draw inspiration from Mediterranean culture, and you can see how the bright lights and colours in our products convey the joyful Mediterranean essence. It’s something that is done in a natural way.
Every decade, there’s an evolution in the sculptures’ style, for example, we had a transition from 1950s tender and classic style, to 2010s contemporary masterpieces. What was the driving force behind the evolution style of the brand in recent years?
In recent years, we have been exploring new artistic languages to expand our horizons. It has led us to experiment with various elements to explore modernity: more simplified shapes, but at the same time, unique qualities of porcelain in terms of surfaces and textures. We’ve also ventured into larger shapes, sometimes drawing inspiration from nature, like altering the size of an object can be complemented by the addition of sandy shades. Sometimes, when we take traditionally realistic and beautiful classical pieces and just change the colour, like Bold Blue collections. So, this is what inspires us, always looking for a new finish or applying in a new, different way.
What is the main inspiration behind Lladró?
Well, the inspiration always revolves around nature, people, stories, and emotions. That is the thing that always drives us – working with "living" elements, as they tell stories, whether in a classical or modern manner, as we’re doing right now.
How about contemporary art?
Contemporary art is a new way for us to explore things. It’s quite interesting because we collaborate with artists who can manipulate our materials and take our porcelain in a new direction. We are also excited to explore limited editions and unique pieces, which is a new approval that we will be having in the new year.
What is the feature of the brand’s pieces that makes them unique?
We take a lot of care in what we do. We do a lot of research and try to be very specific. When we work with any culture, we try to be very close to it, since we don’t want to be wrong about interpretation. Love is at the heart of our creations, driving our development process, and it’s evident in the care we invest in production to achieve the highest standards. We take challenges and that is what makes us unique because not all the brands are able to go, explore, and not be afraid of pushing the techniques. Lladró's 70 years of experience and experiments make us experts in the art of porcelain. Everything is handcrafted and at a high level of quality. At least 20 people are involved in making one piece, from shaping and firing to painting and finishing. I think, when you see our piece, you can feel its uniqueness.
What distinguishes Lladró art from other brands?
One of our unique strengths lies in colours and laboratories. The porcelain is our porcelain exclusively, we’re not buying it from a supplier. We’re creating our materials so no one can share what we have and the creative part – it’s something important for us equally as the main part. Because we’re not going to copy, we’re always launching new, and sometimes people take our inspiration, but we need to be above the trends, we need to always go beyond that, to be top-level grand in the creation and the quality of the porcelain and products.
Which masterpiece is the most complex and iconic for you?
For sure, it’s the Carnival in Venice. Nevertheless, each of our new creations has technical challenges. Sometimes, we think that small projects are simple, but porcelain is a very delicate material, and even the simplest product has its difficulties and challenges. Without a doubt, lighting is the most complex area, because you need to match different materials. It involves the intricate coordination of diverse materials, including metal, porcelain, glass, and various lighting systems, making it one of the most demanding aspects of our work.
The inspiration always revolves around nature, people, stories, and emotions.
You’re working in a team; how do you feel about criticism? Do you hear the voices of the team?
I like to work in a team, and I always give voice to everyone, to hear what they think. I don’t want my team members to be afraid of expressing ideas and criticism, as I believe that’s how we learn and grow. Sometimes the most innovative ideas come from unexpected sources, which is why we have a lot of meetings, where everyone can tell what they think, even regarding technical solutions.
Which pieces from the latest collections won the most success?
I guess it’s still our best seller because we’re continuously launching new collaborations, and our collectors are waiting for it. It’s a unique and exciting project. The Origami collection has been incredibly successful, inspiring us to develop new animal-themed pieces. We have exciting upcoming collaborations with iconic characters like Mickey, Star Wars, and Snoopy, which are very well-received in popular culture and highly anticipated in the market.
What are your thoughts on the Azerbaijani marketplace? I believe there is an opportunity for collaboration with our artists, which would be a great pleasure. Could you share your feelings on this matter?
For me, being able to discover new cultures and new decorative elements is always very enriching. For the last few years, we’ve been exploring Mexican and Japanese cultures, their details, colours, and finishes. Azerbaijan, with its rich history, offers another exciting avenue for us to explore. In fact, we've introduced a pomegranate-themed collection exclusively for Azerbaijan, as it is a symbol of the country. This collection has become our best seller, and I've heard that it was limited and completely sold out.
The exclusive distributor of the Lladro brand in Azerbaijan is the ITALDIZAIN company. The brand is represented in the Lladro boutique, 28 May Street, 7A.
Phone: (012) 498 00 53 / (051) 201 92 89