When I saw the ceramic pieces by A La Pata, I fell in love with the shapes and one of the sandy colours. In my past I learned that working with ceramic is a big challenge. One must encounter a lot of surprises, some good but also many bad ones. Sometimes the pieces break during the process, other times the colour comes out totally different.
Working with Diana Medina, the maker behing the brand, was a great experience. Not only is she a talented ceramist, she's also a perfectionist and you can count on her. Our collaboration was light and natural. Probably because we have a simliar taste in aesthetics and share the same work ethics.
Our new ceramic collection is branded by A La Plata only. Why? Because I simply decided on the colour scheme I wanted, the colours that suit best to Taste of Portugal and to be honest to my momentary crush for earthy and tender tones. It wouldn't feel right to put our name on it.
I'm very happy to present you our dear friend Diana Medina.
Who is Diana Medina?
I would say I am one of those cases where there’s an old person soul trapped in a young woman's body. I really enjoy anything involving handmade, specially cooking, something I find really relatable with the ceramics process. I was born and raised in Lisbon but I have always enjoyed both the city centre and the outskirts of the city by the beach, where my studio is now located. I started my artistic path in a school of Arts called António Arroio, later I graduated and took my masters in Product Design in Caldas da Rainha. Then I got back to Lisbon and started my ceramic journey!
Why did you start doing ceramic?
The first experiences took place at the Arts high school in Arroio, where we would try every different type of arts and their workshops; like ceramics, photography, jewellery, textiles, etc. This was a very good experience and when I moved to Caldas da Rainha, a city known for its ceramic tradition, I got the benefits of it and took some courses in the local ceramic centre CENCAL for mould making and pottery. When studying Product Design, I used to do everything to get away from the big machines, like saws and welds. I would get pretty nervous around those workshops since I have a thing for disaster! Ceramics have always brought me peace and independence in the experimentation process.
When did you start with the brand A La Pata?
The brand came up in Lisbon, after the master's degree, for some time I would still publish my work under my own name. But later I decided that this was what I wanted to pursue professionally so I thought it should be a brand with its own name, while analysing what worked for me as a consumer. For me it is much easier to relate to and memorise a brand if it isn’t someone’s name. And with that name you can even unveil an intent of what you want in your business.
Why the name A La Pata?
I didn't know what to choose and I still had a good two years working it out in my head. Nothing seemed good enough. But I had some rules: I didn’t want it to be in Portuguese, in order to be recognizable out there, but I did not want it to be in English either, because in my head it makes it a bit presumptuous for the Portuguese consumer. I didn’t want the name to be directly connected with “ceramics”, or even have that word in focus, because I don’t know if ceramics is the only material I want to work with in the long run. But I know that the future of the brand will always go through a manual side of production. "A La Pata" in slang Portuguese is an expression that means "handmade", I did something “with my hands”. And it means nothing in particular, because the words don't actually translate to anything in Portuguese. And I love it. It ended up staying in the back of my head for a year, and that's how I made up my mind.
How do you get inspired?
Im a very tactile person and like to touch every material that comes across as funny and I get a lot of inspiration from other materials and how they behave. I also absorb some visual references that I often photograph for later research. I rarely draw, and when I do they’re usually schematics for my ongoing process.
But I think what really unblocks my imagination is just getting my hands on! Grab a material and get to experiment with it, try different techniques and tools. Essentially, to do!
What dreams do you have for the future of A La Pata?
In the near future I plan to open the online store with items ready to buy, it's coming soon. In the medium term I want to return to teaching workshops, the potter's wheel and some manual construction as I miss the contact with the students, the studio time can be quite solitary. In the long run the idea is to have a space where I can combine a studio, workshop and a small physical store all in one place.
Which challenges do you encounter in Portugal while working as a handcrafter?
I think the biggest challenge working in Portugal is the direct sale to the local public. How do I explain to them that my pieces are worth the investment?! I would like to see more appreciation of manual labour and realization that there’s a reason for the prices of the products, the hours of work that had to be put in the making. But I also think that the trend of old products coming back and people getting interested into crafts like ceramics as a hobby really helps making the shift in mentality. Well, that just means I have to make an extra effort to reach the international market and still attract the locals!
What is your favourite place in Lisbon? This city has an amazing light most of the year, even if it’s cold you can really enjoy the city outdoors anytime! I walk a lot and in my free time I just go around the city and explore new places to snack a “pastel de nata” or any typical kiosk to have a cold beer! And to wind down even more I would say any place by the Tejo river or the nearby beaches!
I hope you like her ceramics as much as we do. Wishing you a wonderful Easter,
Buy the collection here.
Pictures of ceramic by Vanda Scazzari
Pictures of process and Diana Medina: © A La Pata