Exploring the Apparatu Workshop in Barcelona
This is my dream as an interiors blogger! Recently I was allowed to have a nose around a ceramic workshop on the outskirts of Barcelona - the home of Apparatu. Their ceramic lamps and home accessories are all made by hand here on-site, which includes moulding, firing, painting and glazing. It's truly a family affair: Xavier Mañosa runs the show with the help of several family members, including his father (pictured top left carrying a large geometric lampshade). A couple of weeks ago a bunch of journalists/bloggers (including me) rocked up in the sweltering Barcelona heat to watch the team bringing their beautiful lampshades to life in real time.
When we arrived at the atelier we were greeted by the lovely, eccentric Xavier - who surprised us by leaping out from behind a trolley of lampshades wearing what I can only describe as "short shorts". I've included a photo below as I think they're worth sharing. Tiff (Curate & Display)'s expression in this photo cracks me up.
We were then taken on a walk around the atelier, following the process of making their lamps step-by-step, from creating the first moulds to adding the final touches of colour before they're sold. The entire place is a treasure trove: at every turn you'll find tall storage trolleys crammed with interestingly shaped pieces, experimental designs (Xavier likes to play with compressing and warping the clay before firing) and shattered cast-offs in various beautiful colours.
One of their most striking designs is the Pleat Box light, which mimics the pleated shape of a piece of fabric. These are made for and sold by Marset, another Spanish brand which I had the pleasure of meeting on the same day. This is a collaboration between Xavier and a studio called Mashallah. The soft, folded design of the lampshade was originally made by experimenting with a piece of fabric, folding and playing with it until they liked the shape. This was then made into a digital model, which is now used to create the moulds for forming the lamps.
The production process is long and rather technical. First, one of the moulds is filled with clay and allowed to set around the edge. After draining the excess, you're left with a few centimetres of solid clay in the pleated shape of the lamp. This is fired in a kiln before the colour is added to the outside of the lamp. It is then fired again, after which a glaze is applied to the interior to give it a glossy finish. Then it goes back in the kiln. At this point I began to lose track, but Xavier tells us that in total each of these lamps will be fired no less than four times! This is due to the complexity of creating multiple finishes on the same lamp: the matte exterior and glossy interior both require different approaches in order to get them right.
A whole bunch of these lamps can be made at once: the picture above shows Xavier standing with the many moulds they use to create them. They can all be filled with clay at the same time and then drained simultaneously into a gutter beneath the table (as in the photo below). If you're a magpie like me, you'll love the optional gold interior finish on these lamps. Apparatu buy liquid 24 carat gold (I didn't even know that was a thing!) and use a paintbrush made with extremely fine natural hair to paint it onto the inside of the lamp. Then a glaze is applied to give it a glossy sheen (and because it looks "like crap" without it, apparently) before returning the lampshade to the kiln. It comes out looking something like this...
Neat, huh? I'm such a sucker for gold. Here's what they look like hanging up in a residential setting. There's no gold finish on these ones, but you get the idea.
So nice. Anyway, if you're interested in finding out more about Apparatu's studio and their family business, you can take a look at their website. More info on Marset's Pleat Box Lamps can be found here, and a list of distributors in your area here. I'll leave you with a few more snaps from the workshop...
This post is part of a series on Spanish design here on Decorenvy, following the Sunny Design Days blogtour to Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid. You can find more posts from this trip under the tag #sunnydesign.