People | Where Angels Tread

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Where Angels Tread
Text by Shirin Mehta
Published: Volume 21, Issue 11, November, 2013

Angeles Lladro, vice president Lladro, the 60-year-old Spanish luxury porcelain company, meets Shirin Mehta at the Mumbai flagship boutique, on a fleeting visit and, surrounded by intricate works of art, speaks of the grace of these creations

It is hardly a coincidence that she was named Angeles. For those who are in fact familiar with the fine art porcelain that her family has been creating for the last 60 years, angels are one of the motifs that move through the collections – ethereal, delicate, other-worldly and denoting a certain classicism that Lladro contines to possess even through recent and more contemporary collections.

We are at the Lladro boutique in Churchgate, Mumbai, that has been festooned with strings of white gladioli around the intricately created figures of Lakshman and Hanuman deities, being newly inaugurated today as well as Lord Ram and Sita, earlier works that together make up the Ram Darbar. What is special today at the store is the presence of Angeles Lladro, vice president, Lladro and daughter of Juan, one of the company’s founding brothers. Part of the ‘Spirit of India’ collection which started some years ago with the first Ganesha, these figures have all the fine, handmade details that Lladro is known for. The figures are embellished in jewelled details and finery while the garlands are so minutely sculpted that they boggle the mind.

Why is Lladro creating these mythical Indian figures, so remote from their own origins in Spain? “We are so happy to be in India,” she says in her strongly accented English. “You love what we do and so we pay tribute to this wonderful relationship that we have.” She adds, “lladro, in our philosophy, has always traditionally mixed beauty and symbolism. The things that I have learnt about Ram Durbar, Ganesha, Lakshmi are very special. It is talking about the values of life, the importance of family – these are things that we have been talking about since the beginning of Lladro. Now, we are saying the very same things in another language which to us is also very exotic.” She continues, her eyes sparkling with intensity, “We love that India is so colourful. We are facing a new aesthete, a new challenge to work with new colours. It gives us a new goal as well.”

She is here to personally sign some of the pieces that have been pre-ordered by enthusiasts. Being a member of her family has always been an inspiration for her, she says, to grow in an artistic way, having studied graphic design, sculpture and painting before working for a year at the implementation of the Lladro Museum in New York. She returned to Spain to continue her training in the production department of Lladro for a further three years, including participating on the Creativity Committee. She has learnt the business from the ground up, spending time in the department that conceives the first pieces with the artists, that go on to be perfected and created in the factory. “Highly-trained technicians then translate the original piece,” she says. The years spent in this department, she now feels, were the most important for her. She did create some pieces of her own and continues to give her inputs for designs that may be more contemporary but rooted in classicist beginnings. She feels privileged for the years that she spent working with the same people that worked with her father and her uncles. “My father still comes to the office every day, though he is old,” she says. “It is his life.”

As it has become hers, it would seem, as she energetically calls for certain pieces to be brought to her desk for me to see the nuances of a skin colour in porcelain that she had re-introduced to great success or a minute detail that I might have missed. Her masala chai that she loves, lies on her desk quite forgotten as she caresses an artistic leg, or pats a cherubic head with easy familiarity. Regarding the growth of the brand, “Some things have changed,” she maintains thoughtfully, “but essentially it remains the same.”

To illustrate this, she points out photographs of a collection from the ‘Art of Table’ series of exquisite tableware, a relatively recent field that Lladro has ventured into. ‘Celestial’ in white porcelain sprouts angel wings for handles and is studded over with a sprinkling of golden stars. A blend of a contemporary ethos with the figurative – and all put together in a simple and elegant package. Another area that Lladro has entered is in lighting. “Lighting has always traditionally been in crystal,” she says. “Now, in porcelain, we have opened up a whole new world.”

“It’s very special when you realise that you are part of the life of many people around the world,” she now tells me candidly. Lladro’s pieces adorn homes in various countries, are gifted on special occasions and are mute witnesses of celebrations and ceremonies. She is privileged, she feels, that this is so. “I feel very proud and glad that we have a mission to fulfill around the world,” she says, “and it is not just an artistic thing.” To celebrate their 60 years, Lladro will be running a road show of graphic and audiovisual material, with sculptures from the ’50s to date, across the world and this will be available for public viewing in Mumbai as well.

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