Ceramic is a sensitive art that takes its time.
Irma Jimenez is a ceramist, owner of the workshop « Huellas de Agua » in Roma Norte. I was lucky enough to learn ceramic with her for a month. It’s an addictive activity because basic techniques offer an infinite range of creation. Irma knows how to transmit the magic of ceramics, transforming the raw materials with her expert hands, she makes it seem like everything is possible. That feeling makes you want to do everything at once. Irma says that her class could easily transform into a yoga class, always reminding us to take our time and breath deeply.
When you enter the workshop, the smell of clay, the natural colors and the finished pieces, Irma’s smile and the people’s talk, make you fell at ease. I’m dazzled by the enamels she created herself.
I’m fascinated by ceramics, it’s a mix between art, design and craft, which represents the exact point of convergence of my current pondering. This is why I’ve decided to share this interview I had with her.
Why did you choose to do ceramics?
I’m a painter. I painted for many years. I started working in an optic and I painted eyeball prosthetics and eyes for wax museums. There, I met two girls working in a ceramics workshop. I decided to study it and I did really well in the exams. I worked and studied four years as a ceramics decorator. In the mornings I studied and in the afternoon I worked in the factory.
After that, I worked for 14 years in the workshop of my ceramics professor’s friend. I learned a lot, more than in school. I would do everything from cleaning to enamel. I would prepare pastes, load the oven. With her, I learned to manage a workshop. In the factory I enjoyed everything and I loved painting. In the workshop, what I enjoyed most was to load the oven. I love when I open it, specially when there’s a batch with enamel. Every time is a surprise to see if it came our right or not.
When you open the oven door, it’s the most exciting moment in ceramics.
I started the Huellas de Agua workshop with a partner three years ago. I always wanted to have my own workshop. I got the second place in the national ceramics price in Guadalajara. With this money, I bought the oven, which is the toughest thing to get to start a workshop.
It’s a small workshop. I work with designers for small projects and for restaurants. For example, the man who came this morning wanted 70 pieces to open his restaurant.
What makes you happiest?
When I was working in the factory, many wanted me to teach but I thought I didn’t have the patience. Now I enjoy giving classes, it’s what makes me happy. When someone tells you they like the workshop or the pieces, it makes me feel nice. I like to share what I know.
What are the required skills?
You only need to want it. Everyone can do ceramics. Some will find it harder but they’ll manage.
How is your work from that of artisans?
You adapt the techniques to the materials you have (clay, oven…). You also adapt the shapes to make them more modern. I have great respect for artisans. I wouldn’t copy what they do even if they inspire me a lot.
¿Can you describe the creation process when you receive an order?
Clients normally have a general idea. From there, I work the design, the shape, color. I work with them so they like it. I do many tests because it’s a very sensible art form. Designers have a vague idea of what ceramics is. I sit with them and explain the process and time it takes. Ceramics needs its times, and it evolves with the weather. For example, when it’s cold and it rains, two months for 70 pieces is not enough because they take longer to dry, moulds get humid fast… now that it’s warm, it’s ok.
Sometimes weather doesn’t help and it makes you get behind a little, but the process is the same.
What advice would you give me for my project?
Talk to designers, that’s good, but I think artisans will teach you more. They have more knowledge of material, as they are surrounded by it from their birth.