An energetic, fighter, engineer, honest and inspiring woman. Ana Bridgewater is a ceramist and an icon of the new generation of professional craftspeople. Founder of the Abalon project, she is known for her impressive candles. Ana elaborates with care and delicacy each of her pieces, combining porcelain, gold and wax. Some of them have been exhibited in the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain. Recently, one of her designs was chosen as a cover photo for the Handmade Britain at Kew 2018.
Today we present the most human and original part of Abalon. For a few moments, this young ceramicist from Spanish showed her workshop and shared her personal and professional experiences with us.
Porcelain and candles by Ana Bridgewater – Abalon
How would you describe yourself as a ceramist?
I consider that I have a very high technical conscience. I think in general artists have a more visual and harmonic vision, but in my case I can have a more grey and industrial perspective. My education has been closely linked to engineering and this has made me understand the changing processes of the materials I work with. Thus, I developed my own work system, my way of being a ceramist. Sometimes I think that this may have influenced the aesthetics of my works, giving them a more “masculine” and industrial look.
Why did you start your interest in ceramics?
I started the career of fine arts in Bilbao and I had my first contact with clay there. That was the moment I decided that I wanted to do that. In addition, I was lucky that my best friend at the university ran a ceramic workshop in Bilbao.
For a long time I was learning pottery in different places. I remember the happiness of getting up every day and knowing that there were kilos and kilos of ceramic and stoneware that I could use. I literally lived among ceramics. So, I started making my first pieces, playing until I found a way of expression.
What is the origin of Abalon? When did you start making candles?
The first candles I made were not for sale, they were the gift for my family on my wedding day. Candles were my concept of love: porcelain represents a translucent heart that beats and the edge of gold symbolizes the union with the wedding ring. I love porcelain for its translucence, so I combined it with my passion for lights. I created my own porcelain, mixing it with cellulose to achieve greater transparency. From that test, 80 pieces came out well and about 200 were errors. Since then, I have been learning and improving to create this company, Abalon, with which I have been for 3 years.
For me it has always been very important that the entire process and the final product was sustainable and environmentally friendly. For this reason, all our candles are made of essential oils such as lavender, cinnamon, bergamot … These components come from a distillery in England. Also, the packaging we use is totally biodegradable and adjusted to the quantities of each order to reduce the environment impact.
We have seen that you have a very busy calendar, with several fairs and events. What kind of clients do you usually have?
My main clients are galleries, boutiques, interior designers … and in general people who know and appreciate the design. For example, I am now about to deliver 12 pieces to an internationally renowned interior design studio.
In my daily work and when I go to fairs I know many people who work in the same environment and I am creating a very important network. You know that these people are behind understand you and they know that the product is created from dust, as if it was magic. It is in this network, based on teaching and explaining what I do, when people finally understand what there is behind my products, what they represent. For this reason, communication is basic in our company.
What are your strengths?
As we are a company with a small team I have total control of my production and it gives me flexibility and adaptability. If I had a larger team, I would have more responsibility and the ship could be destabilized with a simple mistake. Thanks to this speed, makers can defend us.
On the other hand, we are focusing more and more on communication, even if it means to reduce the creative time. It involves an investment and a risk but it is important for our project to be economically sustainable.
In the recent years we have seen a remarkable recovery of handmade ceramics. We found more craft workshops, more ceramicists and more customers looking for this type of products. What do you think about the progress of handmade ceramics?
Ceramic has always been and it will be the material that makes the humanity grow. It is the material that is in greatest mass on earth and is also very easy to use. If the energy became cheaper, we could all have an oven at home that we could plug in and create our own utensils. Ceramic is a product that we can use for almost everything. It is a green material that has a life until it breaks, then it decomposes and becomes sand and then the cycle starts again. From my residual pieces, sometimes I restore them with other pieces. It is part of the fun of the craftspeople.
To finish the interview, what do you recommend to a young artisan?
You must have the idea very clear from the beginning that this work is the love of your life and that you would die for it, because there are hard times and it will change your life. It is important to have someone nearby who can help you economically to start and be very clear that you will work as no one. Like any business that starts, you have to consider how much it will cost the first 2 years and even say a 3rd or 4th. And keep in mind that, of what you have calculated, there will be a 30% more cost.
We finish our interview here. We really appreciate the participation of Ana Bridgewater, who has answered all our questions with patience and honesty.
See you in the next post 😉