22/Mayo/2012 | 16:19
Have you seen beautiful, brightly colored, hand-decorated ceramic dishes at popular Cuenca restaurants, such as Zoe, Nectar, Monday Blues, San Sebas and more? If so, you’ve probably wondered where they come from.
Artesa – Arte en Cerámica, is one of Latin America’s leading companies that manufacture and sell hand-painted and decorated ceramics. It’s well-known throughout Ecuador for its wide range of ceramic dinnerware, bowls, coffee and tea mugs, vases and urns, flower pots, candleholders, and other artistic table and wall pieces, including figurines, especially of animals.
Artesa creates ceramics in dozens of different patterns, which it produces for various companies such as Vega, as well as for sale to the general public. Visitors to Cuenca from around the world shop at Cuenca’s best ceramic store.
Artesa was founded in the early 1970s by two of Cuenca’s most famous artists, Eduardo Vega and Raymundo Crespo. The spirit of these artists continues in the Fundación Artesa, which operates under the principles of equality, solidarity, and the continuous development of the staff and their families, along with minimizing the environmental impact of the production process on the environment.
The production process has been fine-tuned over the decades, in which Artesa’s highly skilled craftsmen employ the latest technology. The clay, which is acquired locally, is mixed in large machines, then placed in molds that produce individual ceramics. The pieces are dried, smoothed by hand, fired in kilns, hand-decorated, and finally fired again. Some ceramics, such as dinner and tea sets, are made entirely by hand. You can also order custom ceramics from Artesa.
Best of all, every Friday at 8 a.m., Artesa opens the door to its back room: a bargain-hunter’s ceramic paradise! As you’re guided to the back room, you get a glimpse at the artisans’ hand-decorating individual pieces. You can also request a complete tour of the factory, in which the entire process is described.
On a recent Friday, a girlfriend and I joined other customers and showed up at Artesa early enough to spend a couple of hours poring through “segundos,” items that, because they’re slightly damaged, are marked down by 50% to 60%. The back room is large enough, and the discounted stock is extensive enough, that you can find practically anything that is sold up front, but for at least half the retail price: extensive dining ware, lamp shades, candle holders, large decorative pots, water bottle holders, tea pots, salt and pepper shakers, coasters, tissue holders, cups, glasses, coffee mugs, oil holders, and much more.
My friend came here from the U.S. with nothing, and just wanted some bare essentials. I originally thought I would just get a few fancy, colorful plates and bowls — just to have a bit of variety and beauty. I picked up a few bowls and plates with bright earthy colors. But as I looked around, I found more and more matching items that I couldn’t resist for such basement prices.
There are thousands of pieces to select from -- all patterns intermixed. A young man was around to tell us the prices, since nothing was marked. My friend asked what to do about the small damaged areas, and he suggested painting them with fingernail polish of the same color. Not a bad idea, if you can’t live with a small defect.
A big pot with a lid normally costs $25, but with a defect, it’s only $11. A plate or bowl that runs $4-$5 in the showroom costs $1.80 in the back room.
In the end, I managed to buy 15 items of the same pattern (four small plates, two bowls, a sugar holder, five coasters, a napkin holder, a large pot with a lid, and a vase)--all for $44. This worked out to an average of less than $3 per item. I justified the purchase, thinking, “This will add class to my raw food classes!”
Be sure that you carefully examine any piece from which you’ll be eating. Make sure there is no break in the ceramic on the top part where any food or drink would touch, as you don’t want any toxic lead in your food or beverage. Run your fingers along the rim so you can feel any slight dents
The staff at Artesa is very friendly and the women up front speak English. As we checked out, some men wrapped everything while we paid, then returned with the receipts. Since the place is hard to find, we had the woman at the desk call a cab for us.
Artesa is located at Isabel la Catolica 1-102 y Av. de las Americas. If you have never been there, don’t worry because some taxi drivers have not either. Just see it as an adventure even if you pay a little more in cab fare. For directions in Spanish you can call 7-405-6457. And visit their website at www.artesa.com.ec
Susan Schenck conducts raw-food classes in Cuenca; email her at email@example.com.