Fresh Starts and Hot Kilns
Industrial Designer-turned-ceramicist Patricia Luevano shares her life-changing journey into ceramics
Fresh starts are sometimes years in the making before that final push that makes us give in. Other times, they are sudden and all-encompassing and completely upheave our lives. For Paty, industrial designer turned ceramicist, change happened slowly over the course of years of work as a lead designer in an aerospace company but was precipitated when she became pregnant with her first child, Nicolas.
After her degree in Industrial Design and Master’s in Innovation & Human-Centered Design, Paty spent some time working in colleges as a careers advisor and teacher, helping shape young students’ minds. Her design calling was insistently pushing her towards a different career though, and Paty found a job in a prestigious aerospace company, where she quickly became the lead designer and specialized in plane interiors, focusing particularly on seats.
“The job was amazing: I worked on stimulating projects with a team of very competent people who all came together to combine their skills towards a common goal,” Paty remembers. “But the management wasn’t always fair, and very often my days at work turned into way too much stress that I didn’t want to inflict on my baby. When Nicolas was born, he gave me the final push to let go, so I really owe it to him and to becoming a mother if today I am doing what I love most, ceramics.”
The job Paty left was, however, a fantastic platform to learn about chain production, manufacturing processes, how to develop relationships with vendors and suppliers, and, most of all, work to a deadline. After Nicolas was born, Paty worked as a consultant in the University while experimenting with her practice. Even though she had a good grounding of the technique thanks to an earlier scholarship she had earned to the Kyoto Institute of Technology, the first years were a challenging mix of failed experiments and half successes.
“The time I spent in Japan was really amazing to set the foundations of my practice, that’s where I really fell utterly in love with ceramics. Today, all of my work is an exploration of the very Japanese concept of balancing rigor and harmony, as well as a celebration of the beautiful imperfections of nature.”
Learning in a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language meant that Paty’s approach was immediately hands-on, feeling the clay’s different consistencies, getting familiar with the varying states of the material, and learning from trial and error rather than theoretical knowledge.
Her experimentations continued in Chihuahua, Mexico, where she apprenticed with master artisan Lila Silveira in Mata Ortiz, learning about traditional pottery techniques from Mexico that use exclusively organic and local materials, in everything from the clay mixes to the kiln fuel, which is powered by cow’s dung. “I loved that technique and kept experimenting with it for three years, but found it incredibly hard. Because of the nature of the process and the exacting science behind it - managing heat, firing times, clay consistency - it meant for every successful piece I would have loads of failed prototypes, and I quickly realized that would not be sustainable as a business.”
A move to commercial clay and an overwhelmingly successful kick-starter campaign that allowed Paty to buy her own kiln, as well as Nicolas starting to grow up and getting pregnant with her second child were the final push Paty needed to quit her day job and dedicate herself solely to her craft.
Moving from a high-pressured job as a lead designer to consultancy and learning her craft, to a fully set-up workshop with a very distinctive style and aesthetics was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, always led by Paty’s intense love for the craft and her willingness to explore the material.
“The thing I still struggle with today is managing time and making the most of the hours I have when the kids are with their grandparents or the nanny. Since my second and third children Andres and Emma were born, I feel like I am perpetually late! Somehow I always pull through though, because I can be flexible with my time and often do take work home with me… My kitchen has been taken over by clay more than once!”
Today, Paty’s work is a wholesome mixture of her varied life experiences. Her industrial design background shines through the functionality of her pieces, while her foundational Japanese aesthetics appear in the simplicity and cleanness of her lines and compositions. Paty’s work is fully rooted in her Mexican heart, as the use of local materials and suppliers shows, which helps local commerce. But the foundational force behind each of her creations remains her love for her family and her children.
“My children are still the single most inspiring element in my work and life. I hope that by developing my ceramics as a sustainable small business I can teach them about conscious consumerism, the importance of creating things with your hands, and the value of building a community around that.”
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