「陶芸と人々 」カルロタ・サンピエトロさん

「陶芸と人々 」カルロタ・サンピエトロさん

(This interview was originally conducted in Catalan. The photographs of the ceramic wotks have been taken by Carlota Sampietro, and those of the workshop, by Anna Fornieles.)

We would like to dedicate the second interview of the series Ceramics and people to Carlota Sampietro. She is a ceramist and pottery teacher, and opened her studio La Manyeria in 2015 in the district of Horta in Barcelona.

We wanted to interview her to get to know her work and to find out how her classes work. She was also the person who started teaching ceramics to Anna, so, in a way, she is also part of the Ceramics Tocoton project.

In this interview, Carlota shows us her world of clay influenced by archaeology and brings ceramics closer to all those of you who want to learn.

If you want to see her work or know more about her workshops, you can do it visiting her Instagram profile @carlota_sampietro_maruri / @lamanyeria or the web https://lamanyeria.cat/


When did you start making ceramics?

I started when I was in primary school, when I was 6 years old. I had a friend who did ceramics at Horta, as an extracurricular activity. I signed up with her, who eventually gave it up, but I didn't stop until I was 18. As life would have it, even though what I really wanted to study was Restoration, I signed up for a Fine Arts degree, and as the timetable coincided with my pottery classes, I stopped attending them. When I left university, my mother convinced me to study ceramics, as she saw that I had always liked it.

I did a Higher Degree in Artistic Ceramics at the Llotja de Barcelona, and later, finally, I studied Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage in Catalonia. Ever since I was a child I wanted to study restoration and archaeology, so studying ceramics was like a way out of a confusing period for me, and I started out on the road to a career in restoration.

How did you know you wanted to be a ceramicist?

 I never consciously thought about it. I enjoyed ceramics, and I thought about studying to organize a workshop activity in the future. As it was also linked to restoration, because there is a lot of ceramic material, I thought it would be a good complement to my career. In fact, I studied restoration, thinking that I would work as a restorer. And when I finished my degree, at the same time that I saw how few job opportunities there were, my parents, who were very annoying (laughs), reminded me that we had a shop that had been closed for ten years and that I could try to set up a pottery studio. And so I did.

I had always done ceramics as a hobby, but I got a job. As a child, I had learnt ceramics with Cristina Senin, a ceramist from the Horta neighbourhood, in her home studio. She gave me my first kiln, one more fact that invited me to dedicate myself to ceramics. I think you have to take advantage of the opportunities you have.

Did your studies in Conservation and Restoration influence your work in any way?

The style for sure, even as a child I liked objects that make you travel back in time, like Ancient Egyptian works, to give an example.

It makes me laugh when we make pieces here, and they break or are not wanted. When I throw them away, it makes me very happy. People don't understand at first, but I tell them it's for the archaeologists of the future. Everything that ends up in the rubbish will be what they will excavate many years from now. That's why I always tell the students: Sign the piece, so they know who made it!

Some time ago, the children who come to the studio made ceramic tablets. What will the archaeologists say when they find them 300 years later?

Do you have any other references when you make your pieces?

No. I do look for something that I like, and that explains something, even if it's nonsense. You don't need to be profound or go into poetry. That they explain a story or that you can imagine it. For example, the pieces in the shape of animals that I have around here, I think are like a hymn to our fellow creatures in the world, who we don't value enough. They are like little totems.

Another example is a piece of tile I made some time ago. When I made it I already imagined it as an archaeological piece found, that's why it has this point as if it was being destroyed.
Every piece I make has a story behind it that is not complex. If the cups have birds flying, you can start to imagine where they are flying from. Maybe people when they buy the piece don't think about it, I don't know.

In the process of working with clay, do you have any reference points as a ceramist or any other craft?

I don't have any in mind. I think I approach everything with the attitude that making ceramics is a craft, even with a cave-like quality.

Many tasks in the workshop I do when the need arises, I don't keep a diary. Perhaps we have lost the day-to-day. The studio is like a machine, it never stops. My father, who made iron in this studio, also worked like this. I think I reproduce his way of working, which are routines that I have always seen. Simply, when I finish my classes, I do what I have to do related to my work. Maybe I close at 12 o'clock at night. I work in a rough way.

What do you think a piece needs to be of quality?

The most important thing is that it doesn't have manufacturing errors, such as a crack. Of course, we can say that the crack is beautiful, but if it is ruined when we use the piece, I don't think it can be quality.

What is your favourite part of the whole process of building a piece?

I like the whole process, but there is a point between modelling the piece and decorating it. You know that at this point everything can go to hell, or you can have the best piece in the world.
I probably enjoy the first part more, even though the second part is the one that gives the piece more personality, even if it is a plain colour. I also think about whether I don't paint certain works because I don't want to mess up or because of an aesthetic decision. Yes, sometimes I wonder if part of my work doesn't have another style because I'm afraid or because of a decision. Surely, if the final finish were easier, maybe I would dare to do more things.

Do you always work with the same types of clay?

I always have low-temperature clay, because my first kiln, which was given to me, was a low-temperature kiln. If I had a bigger workshop, maybe I would also have high-temperature clay. As for the colours, I have red, white and black clay. The red comes from Esparreguera, and for me, it's the best. White and black are more difficult to work with because they present me with more problems.

For the regular lessons, the one I use most is white, because when I apply glazes or slips, the colours are more visible, and we are used to seeing a white background and not another colour.

When you design your works, do you look at any other field of art or craft?

Yes, I really like furniture designs from the 60s and 70s. I also like designs that arise out of necessity. My final project for my degree in restoration was on this theme. Sometimes we want to fix the same object over and over again because it's the one that suits us, and we don't feel the need to change it.

This idea is transmitted to my work by deliberately leaving marks of the construction process or small imperfections, so that as a result the piece is not valued for its aesthetics but for its functionality. I believe that sometimes it is not necessary for a piece to have a completely polished finish in order to fulfil its function.

What is the piece you would like to make in the future?

There is one type of piece that I haven't made many of, although I like them a lot. They are mobiles, which attract me because they create shadows with light and movement. I would like to make a large mobile, like an installation. It has nothing to do with what I do, but when I see mobiles made with other objects, I really like it. I would love to do it with pottery.


What kind of pottery classes do you do?

There are classes for adults and for children. They have to come for at least a month, so they can see what it's like to be a potter. Society is evolving towards very fast experiences, and I would like us to be more aware of how to work a trade.

If the student has never done ceramics before, I make them do a series of construction exercises with different techniques. People go with a bit of fear because they say they have never done anything artistic.

With the workshop for adults, I adapt a bit more to what they want to do. There are people who want to learn different techniques, or want to make pieces they have seen on Pinterest, and from there I explain techniques to them. There are also students who want to make the pieces with moulds, as they enjoy painting the piece more than moulding it.

How many students do you normally have per session?

The groups are 6, but we can go up to 8 people if there are people who want to make up a class.

What ages are your students? 

From five years old upwards. Sometimes I've done a weekend workshop for families, and then they can be of any age, although they play more with clay and don't build much. I don't have many teenagers, but I do have a group of girls who started when I opened the studio when they were five or six years old, and of course, seven years have gone by. They always come together.

Do you do workshops for children, are they very different from those for adults? Do you have to approach the didactic process or the techniques differently?

They are not very different. It's true that in principle I don't leave the black clay with the children, because it's difficult to clean, unless there's a child who works neatly. They can use the electric potter's wheel during the potter's wheel session that I do at the end of the month. I help them a lot, they put their hands in (laughs). But the way of teaching is the same.

In the beginning, we also do some exercises with the children, but they feel freer than adults, and they start to try things out quicker than adults. They are not as ashamed of screwing up.

Do you think it is important for children to be able to touch clay? 

Yes, I think they learn a lot, especially about themselves. Clay is a reflection of how they manage things: if you are careful, how you finish the pieces, if you are attentive or not... Clay is more of a vehicle.

But, on the other hand, I think that, in general, they have disassociated themselves from the material they work with, in this case, clay. They have spent so many years disconnected from where things come from that sometimes they think the clay comes from a package.

People come to me who want to order things, and when I tell them the price, they complain. They ask me not to fire it so that the piece will be cheaper. It's like buying a packet of macaroni without cooking it. We know about macaroni, but other things around us, we don't have a clue. There is a lot of ignorance.

By touching the clay they connect with themselves, but they don't know where it comes from, they don't ask. If we knew how the surrounding things are worked, the hours and the cost, I think we would have more respect for them.

Do you think that your student's careers or jobs are related to the fact that they come to the workshop to make ceramics?

Most of them have nothing to do with it. They come to find a moment of relaxation, to make something for themselves. It's more the opposite, some people think that they can make a business out of ceramics. That's why we have labour intrusion.

What do you think are the main motivations for your adult students to come to the workshop?

Most of them are women. Men find it very difficult to do things for themselves, to relate to people. Many of the women who come are teachers, especially of young children, social workers, people who come to de-stress and people who work in the digital world and want to return to a more tactile activity.

When a pupil makes pottery for the first time, what is their reaction?

I think adults feel a bit childish when they see the result. It makes them a bit embarrassed... but of course, it's the first piece! Children make you a mug with a hole in its arse and tell you it's the best mug in the world. They come to have a good time. Adults come with higher expectations than children.

Do you remember your first reaction?

I don't remember it, but I remember how I felt when I was making pottery as a child. I was so relaxed and immersed that it was as if I was awake and dreaming at the same time, like in a trance-like state.

When I'm focused and enjoying myself, it's like I'm on a journey, and it's very cool. I feel that point of disconnection, like when you get absorbed in something. I feel a sense of wellbeing, like when I stop, and I'm fine.

Do you think working with clay makes you connect with yourself? 

It makes me connect emotionally. I notice the physical aspect more when I've been doing the same thing for a long time, and there comes a moment when you don't know what you're doing. Then I do notice the tiredness, and the first piece has nothing to do with the last, and you realize it then. Mentally, you also end up tired.

Do you think that objects made with our hands are special? 

- bought object can also be special, for example, if it is a gift because it makes you think of the person who gave it to you. But if you have made it yourself, it is as if you have given yourself a present. Some people say it's like having a child. There are a lot of feelings involved, both positive and negative. When you break a piece, it's hard to throw it away, but think of the archaeologists!

What is it that satisfies you as a teacher?

-hat I value most about the workshop is not so much the clay work, but coming, relating to people... The human relationships with the excuse of clay.

Here in the studio very interesting groups have been created, some of them have been coming since I opened, and you see them enjoying themselves. There is a nice family atmosphere. As a teacher, when you see children enjoying themselves, it's very satisfying. It's also satisfying to see all the different creations that can be made.

Finally, what would you say to a person who wants to do ceramics, but doesn't dare because they assume they won't do it well?

Everything is linked to the fact that socially we set expectations, and we want quick results. It happens to me with the gym, I want to be in shape from the first day I go.

If we invest money to enjoy time to dine out or go to the cinema, why don't we do the same with activities like pottery? Let's free ourselves from the concept that we pay for something material. Pay to have a good time, without mental criticism. If you get a good piece, you can see it as a souvenir of this trip that you have enjoyed so much. Making this change costs a lot, but it is worth it.

There are students who, when they are playing with clay, have a free attitude, and I could even say that their eyes shine. We have to protect ourselves and create without so many learned expectations.

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