Understanding Ceramic Handcraft

It's here, our new ceramic collection! This time we partnered up with the amazing Anna Morgado. Anna is actually a graphic designer but her passion is dedicated to the art of ceramic handcraft. We both are Portuguese but grew up in different countries, Anna in Brazil and I in Switzerland. We both found to each other while looking for our origins in Portugal. Our ceramic collection is inspired by the simply things in life – we both find happiness in getting things done with our hands. We wanted to combine the traditional handcraft with a modern and minimalism touch.

With this post I specially want to point out the art of the ceramic handcraft and the hard work behind it. When I was in Lisboa elaborating the new designs with Anna, I also got my hands dirty. I've learned so much about ceramics and the complex process of working with it. I'm still no professional and I don't want to bore you with technical details. But I feel the need to tell you a bit more about it.

I've always appreciated handcrafted things and I know that it has its price. But now that I know how long it takes to produce one tea cup by hand, I think that we are all paying too less. We wanted to obtain high quality and design. We focused on a very limited edition. When one day, I walked by H&M and saw a promotion of one tea cup with plate for € 2.50, I got very sad. I pictured a poor young mother in China working for nothing, so we can afford our shopping madness. A mother leaving her child behind with her own mother, so she can at least get some money for food to send back home. I felt so ashamed.

When you work with ceramics, there are always some surprises. The process is very complex and sometimes unpredictable. I showed Anna the colors I wanted to work with. Together we worked on shapes and different methods. We had some ideas but did not manage to implement it. We had to change our ideas and find new solutions. Anna worked really hard in finding the perfect colors. The dark blue came out beautifully pretty fast. But she had to test quite a lot with the pink one. Here's the very simplified process of how one of our tea cups was made:

  1. Knead the clay to make sure it has no air bubbles

  2. Center it on the wheel (sounds easier than it is)

  3. Shape your cup SLOWLY otherwise the clay may be thrown off center

  4. Let it dry a little bit until it's hard enough to trim - this point is called leather-hard

  5. Study carefully the curve of the bowl interior

  6. Trim the base of the piece so you can shape it accordingly

  7. It's a good time to use a stamp or attach details - such as handles

  8. Let it dry even more until it's ready to sand - this stage is called bone dry

  9. Time to fire it for the first time (note: fired clay has a different color that when wet)

  10. At this point you've got a bisque-ware

  11. Glaze the piece

  12. Let's fire it one last time - our pieces went up to 1260°C

  13. DONE! Well, if you're very lucky and got the color you wanted. The color can change a lot after firing and sometimes it's really hard to predict!

So, you always have to count with a process of 4 weeks at least (when you're producing more than 10 pieces all by yourself). To be honest, this is what we love about it. This truly is SLOW DESIGN.

Anna and I hope that you love our collection as much as we do. We (specially Anna) put a lot of effort in it. Taste of Portugal wants to raise awareness for the slow processing of handcrafts and support young designers from Portugal. Choose well, buy less!

Thank you for your trust and support!




Pictures by Bernardo Laureano