BANGALORE: Think Valencia and images of a medieval city springs up in your mind with rich culture, beautiful architecture, magnificent paintings, intricate engravings, classic sculpture and ancient monuments. At the same time it’s a place replete with energy, gastronomic culture and vivid colours. In case you have to jot down all the things this place has to offer, also the third largest city in Spain, you can certainly not miss out on the traditional Valencian ceramics because the city is known for the same internationally.
Lladro, the Spanish luxury porcelain brand, known for its high quality porcelain figures across the world recently launched its exquisite ‘The Spirit Of India’ collection and made its first stop in Bangalore. The brand made an entry to the Indian market in 2010.
It was the first time that Lladro was flying any of their sculptor down to India and City Express caught up with their ace sculptor Raul Rubio. Though language seemed to be a barrier initially (a translator helped us communicate), Raul’s work did all the talking. He also demonstrated how a Lladro creation is born, to a live audience in their UB City outlet. We ask him about his passion for sculpture, India and much more.
What was your first impression when you landed in India?
Very pleasant. I smelled some spices as soon as I landed here. That is when I realised I have stepped into India.
What helps you concentrate when you are working on a piece?
A lot of thinking goes right from the initial sketch phase, which I regard as the most creative part of the whole process. When I start working I forget about everything else.
What inspires you — people, nature or anything else?
Nothing in particular. I always want to get better than what I have already done.
When did you realise your talent with sculpting?
When I was 19. My father was an artiste too. So, his work fascinated me and later I went on to study art for five years. I graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. In 2000, with a scholarship from the brand’s Art School I entered Lladro. After two and a half years apprenticeship, I joined Lladro’s team of sculptors at the age of 27.
How difficult was the Spirit Of India collection?
It was difficult to understand the details initially. I got a hang of it over time. It took me at least 5 years to understand the intricacies of the characters of Indian gods. And Yes, Indian culture has always fascinated me.
Which piece is close to your heart from this particular collection?
It’s a tough question. But, my series of four Ganeshas (with bansuri, veena, mridangam and dancing) are my favourite.I gifted a Ganesha to my parents as well.
How long does it take to complete a model?
Five to six months for the final product. It takes 7 to 8 months for big models as the entire process is laborious involving various stages right from sketching, moulding, decoration, technical support, to ornamentation. At every stage we need to get a nod from the department concerned to go ahead.
Take us through the process of creation.
Every creation begins with an artistic inspiration and the work requires meticulous process of research and documentation especially with the pieces which reflect other cultures. The sculptor makes the first sketch of the figure in clay, which is examined and approved by the Creative Committee, comprising many members and one from the Lladro family. The sketch in clay is reproduced in plaster to provide the first mould, which becomes the definitive mould for the porcelain figure. Around 15 to 20 moulds is required for a mid-sized figurine, whereas you need up to 300 for complex pieces.
After reconstructing the figurine, the decoration process begins. It is carved with delicate motifs in compliance with the sculptor’s instructions. At this point the face of the sculpture gets its expressions and its tiniest details. Later, the figurine is painted it is covered with a coat of varnish if it requires a glossy finish. Even while making a flower, which is our most valued feature, it is fully made, petal by petal, which is a very delicate process.
Finally, the sculpture has to go through the test of fire. It is kept approximately for 24 hours in a kiln at over 1300 degree Celsius. The true colours, so far hidden, comes to the surface after the porcelain vitrifies and varnish crystallises. After the crafting process, several quality control checks are conducted. Most pieces make their way until the end and the ones not complying with our standards are destroyed.