Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Oct 21, 2003
Arts & Crafts
Lladro sculpturing into Indian market
Ms Trinidad Gimenez demonstrating the creation of flowers at the Lladro showroom in Chennai. - - Bijoy Ghosh
Chennai , Oct. 20
SHE pinches off a pat of clay, rolls it between her fingers, and suddenly, there are a few grey-brown petals on the work tray. Curl some, now it's another flower. Score some with a sharp instrument, now there are leaves. Press the knot of clay against a fine mesh, and you have the centre of the flower. A dab of glue, and the parts are tacked on to the stalk to make a porcelain blossom, which will later be painted, glazed and fired in the oven as one of the many components in a Lladro figurine that adorns many a home and office the world over.
Ms Trinidad Gimenez Tomas is a flower artist at famed-for-its-porcelain Lladro, based in Spain's Valencia. Visitors to Chennai's Lladro boutique at Ispahani Centre watched spellbound as Ms Tomas fashioned graceful flowers out of the nondescript lump of clay that lay to a side. A brush for the glue, two flat, pointy tools, a mug of water to clean her fingers, some cream to dab on them so that they remain moist these are the tools of her trade. And the porcelain clay is actually made up of kaolin, soda potash and some other ingredients that are known only to the Lladro family.
Ms Trinidad heard about the Lladro school of porcelain from her mother, who encouraged her to attend a drawing and painting course there as the best students from each course were always asked to work at the company.
At 15, she started on the painting line and worked there for six years. When the company expanded the flower-making line, she joined that as she felt that was a more delicate and artistic job and wanted to put her skills to the test.
After more than 20 years in that section, she thinks of it as her hobby.
As forewoman, she teaches colleagues the tricks of the trade. She also works with tulle to make parasols and mantillas for the figurines.
She is touring India to demonstrate her craft to customers and connoisseurs, and discovering a taste for many things Indian in the process, including the six saris she splurged on in a bout of shopping in Chennai.
There are about a 100 flower artists at Lladro, says the India Country Manger, Ms Angelique O'Brien. Not only that, there are artists solely to paint the eyes and the lips! Lladro figurines, which are bought by collectors and as investments, are increasingly being used for gifts by corporates, she says.
Prices in India start at Rs 3,000 and go on to Rs 16.5 lakh, but the items in the Rs 6,000-10,000 bracket are slowly replacing the traditional silver gifts, she adds.
Pointing to a porcelain Ganesh encased at the entrance, O'Brien says that is an investor's item.
One of the limited editions it put out a few years ago, it cost Rs 69,000 then, but now it's been sold back to Lladro as its price has appreciated to Rs 3 lakh.
Lladro buys back limited edition pieces as they have the potential to appreciate and be sold over and over.
Collector's items though they may be, there are usually no unique pieces, as that would drive costs too high. It takes a lot of time and investment for even one design, and that kind of investment for just one piece is not feasible.
"And will make it unaffordable," says Mr Roberto Marco Andreu, Sales Executive (Special Markets Europe), Lladro.
However, even the replicas are unique in small ways of their own, as they are all hand-made. Lladro artists can easily identify the piece he or she has worked on even later, he says.
Lladro was initially founded as a small artisan's workshop in the '50s in Almacera, a village that is now part of Valencia, by farmer-brothers Mr Juan, Mr Jose and Mr Vicente Lladro.
Fifty years, hence, its stylised sculptures, fairy tale characters, puppies, kittens and portraits of daily life are recognised as some of the world's best creations, sold in some of the most tony shopping areas and housed in major museums.
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