Interview with Perla Valtierra
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from?
I was born in Mexico City. I grew up in the northern state of Chihuahua known for its beautiful hills and blue sky. My mother worked in a cultural office and my father was a journalistic photographer. Traditional craftmanship, art, and photography were a big part of my childhood.
As an adult I lived in Japan, Brussels, and Paris and I spend a lot of time traveling for inspiration and discovering traditional knowhow. My survival food: sushi, spice, and natural wine.
2. How did you come to make ceramics – what has been your path as a ceramicist?
I remember taking a class when I was about 7 and, always as a kid, playing with mud. A more official start was when I was in my last year of design school. I had the chance to spend a full semester just doing ceramics, I loved it and from then I haven't stopped...
3. What are you working on at the moment? And is there a certain question you have been trying to answer with that new body of work?
I've been living in Europe for the past 9 years, and this year I'm returning to Mexico, so for the moment, I'm setting up my new atelier, and I'm planning new ventures with clay research in Mexico, as can be seen in the Lola collection and the play on ruffles.
4. Can you tell us about the materials you are working with?
Hand thrown collections require a specific knowhow that is very hard to find. I have been working for the past 4 years with the talented Maestro Jesus Torrres, with whom we continuously experiment to create new shapes and discover new clays and glazes... For the Lola collection, we used local red terracotta that we fired at 1200C in a gas kiln with an oxide-based glaze. As all materials are natural and the whole process is handmade, each edition comes out with their personal and unique touch.
5. With the kiln process, it seems there is a moment of releasing one's work without being able to interfere with the process of change –– like a moment of surrendering –– does this have an effect on how you think about making work?
The kiln is pure magic, it is about surrendering and letting go. I strongly encourage clients to see this as part of the beauty of a crafted object. When you use natural and local materials that cannot be industrialized, it is impossible to have a smooth and uniform surface popping out of the kiln. For me, this is where we see the soul of the work.
6. Who has influenced your work?
As a designer, Charlotte Perriand, she was great at mixing cultures, and to make the most of materials and craft techniques. She also lived in a very different world than the one we live in today. But her work is still very up to date, simple, beautiful and just extraordinary. I also love the work of Atelier NL.
I had the chance to live one year in Kyoto, that year changed my life, and my senses.
7. What are some other mediums of interest right now?
I've been re-reading this traditional Japanese book that I love about an utopic way of life: Lessons in Living Green. But I need to admit, I’m also a fan of cheesy Mexican tv shows.
8. What are other activities or rituals, which work to ground or inspire you currently?
During COVID confinement I had so much work that the only thing I could do to stay sane was pilates and Sat Nam Rasayan meditation.
9. You live between Mexico City and Paris. What do you like best about the creative community and/or visual inspirations within those two cities?
I am lucky to be able to live between such different and rich environments. Today these two places are part of my balance and source of my inspiration: Mexico has a fresh and vibrant energy; Paris is exciting and full of beautiful people.
10. Does art function as a form of activism for you?
Yes, for me it is important to bring back value to the objects we buy and avoid, when possible, China imported mass market consumerism. I don’t describe my work as art, I make everyday objects from natural and local materials with super skilled craftsmen. This is my way of addressing the social and economic issues of our days.
11. How does a beautiful vessel change the dining experience for you and why is this important? Do you feel that your work is "finished" by what it holds?
I love making everyday objects that accompany our daily routines. I believe we need to learn how to sublimate the everyday. Food tastes better in a container that highlights its colors and textures. Drinking coffee from a soft and beautiful cup makes that simple moment more cheerful and pleasureful. It might sound cheesy, but this is the way I feel.
12. How do you fuse the contemporary and the traditional in your work?
These two concepts are a big part of my inspiration, I love tradition and exploring how to combine it with the contemporary. To put things simply: I think of the contemporary in the usage and traditional in the craftsmanship. The encounter of both creates something pretty cool 😊 .
Find Perla's ceramics for sale on LoQ Objects.
See more of her work @perlavaltierra.