An artist’s imagination doesn’t always find expression on canvas. When Orlando de Noronha set out to re-introduce azulejos, a painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work, in Goa a few years back, it wasn’t met with the reception he expected.
Today, Orlando, whose work ranging from customised tiles, crockery to doorplates is in huge demand, is wiser in the knowledge that a work of art doesn’t need a buyer who cannot appreciate its subtleties and imperfections.
“I often encounter clients who complain that the figurines on two different tiles are not symmetrical. I tell them that azulejos is not printing, but hand painting and it is the lack of symmetry that makes a work one of its kind,” he says.
So far, Orlando has made six-foot high azulejos. Also a known face on Goa’s music scene, Orlando owns two bands, Trio Orlando and Versatyle, that are renowned for playing Goan, Portuguese and world music.
After completing his graduation in Fine Arts from the Goa College of Arts, Orlando worked in advertising before leaving for Portugal on a music scholarship.
“A couple I was staying with introduced me to azulejos and I instantly fell in love with it. Looking at the azulejos designs in their bathroom, I thought what could be a better way to leave your work behind for generations to come. And I decided to give it a try at home,” he shares.
Though the struggle of his salad days drove Orlando to the brink of despair, he did not call it quits.
“I realised that people were sceptical because they were ignorant of the art. So to make them familiar with it, I started gifting people azulejos door-plates,” he says.
His breakthrough came when the general manager of Taj Exotica, Joaquim Monteiro, approached him with the offer to make azulejos patterns for the entrance of Taj Exotica in Goa.
Though there was no looking back for Orlando after that, success also came with its fair share of hiccups, one of them being a time when he couldn’t meet a huge order due to the lack of resources and was on the verge of closure.
“It was a trying time, but I guess such experiences make you careful for the future,” he says. On the heels of the Taj Exotica project came another project from the Goa Tourism Department.
Orlando takes orders for customized tiles, crockery and souvenirs such as a single tile or a six-tile azulejos on Goa. A coaster is priced around Rs 60 while a six-tile design costs Rs 2,400, with a customized tea set hovering around Rs 6,000.
But it is not all work for this father of three, neither does he aspire to expand his business in the future.
“I am happy with what I earn. I don’t want to chase money. My family is very important to me and I want to devote as much time to them as possible,” he says.
And when not with his family, Orlando can be found hanging out with his band mates. His most cherished moment is the day the Portuguese president presented him with a guitar, impressed by his performance with musician Kapia Guerreiro.