When you look at a dish in a restaurant, cookbook or on Social Media – what do you see? Do you see the delicious and tantalising food and start salivating and wandering off with your edible thoughts? Do you ever look beyond the dish? To the ceramic underneath. The plate or bowl that is encapsulating all that wonderful goodness and holding it; heightening it? Well… I do. And even more so since meeting the incredible people at Gaya Ceramic. Their story is one that is truly moulded by love (and clay) and they are our guest stars this month on Meet the Makers. I met Marcello on one of my many trips to Bali and regularly use his products in both my retreats and back in the UK. You may even spot a few of them in my recent book, The 7 Day Vegan Challenge – out now.
Gaya Ceramic is now based in Bali but was birthed in a small pottery town in Piacenza – a small town near Milan by Marcello and his wife Michala. Marcello who studied Economy and Politics at University fell in love with both his now-wife Michala, who is a sculptor by trade and her clay – but mostly by watching her with her clay, working.
The company which relocated to Bali, to start “throwing pots under the tropical sun” in 2001 has now expanded to over 100 people including skilled craftsman who help to form, glaze and fire all of Gaya’s ceramics – which is “a true blessing” in Marcello’s eyes, but who has no desire to expand beyond this. “We don’t want to grow any more – but we want to make our organisation stronger and more controlled” Marcello comments. There are more important things to focus on, “production waste is a [huge] problem and we are consciously trying to find a solution. We want to create a new system to upcycle our leftovers and rejects”. Ceramic failures, or so I’m told are a natural part of the business, through both technical and production faults, Gaya Ceramics understand the frustration that comes with their work, but use it as “stimuli” to spur them forward and to “make us stronger”
Inspired by his wife’s love for sculpting – Gaya Ceramic was born out of a determination to provide exclusive handmade ceramics to meet and expand beyond their consumers wildest desires. They moulded together their love of the craft and for the craft to build a place where intuition, inspiration, beauty and creativity could thrive, and they have done just that. Each beautiful handmade creation contains both intimacy and personal meaning for both the maker and the buyer.
“Our hope is to make our work speak for itself – for us, nothing is more lovely… and we sincerely won’t change… and hope nothing will change” states Marcello who now spends his days in more of a managerial role than the hands-on creation he was used to. Teaching and overseeing production are now key aspects of Marcello’s role within Gaya Cermaic – ensuring each item has been achieved with the same excellence, creativity, technical proficiency and integrity as its predecessors. “Gaya is like a simple bowl – humble in its suggestion, but deeply connected to the essence of its use. A bowl holds. Gaya holds ideas… passion, emotion, enthusiasm… [and] fine art. It is the symbol of the space in which our entire contents are held.” And this immense passion and fire can be seen reflected in every piece of work that leaves the studio. Marcello is sparked by the joy of life, the essence of creativity and the power behind food; home-style Italian and fragrant spiced Indonesian food is the contents in which his own Gaya Ceramic creations, which he has taken home hold.
For Marcello, “resilience is the key to success” something he wishes someone would have enlightened him with before embarking on this journey, and something he regularly passes on himself and hopes to continue to do so through his educational branch at the Gaya Ceramic Arts Centre, which launched in 2010 and where, along with trained specialist and craftspeople run regular ceramic classes, intensive workshops and have a vibrant Artist in Residency program to keep the love of the craft alive. For Marcello, his wife and his entire team – Gaya Ceramic’s is where clay and culture come together – and there’s nothing more to it than that.