Pussel began as a game between 12-year-old Xavier Manosa and his father. Together they created a ceramic modular shape that you could stack together mixing different colours.
This game, measuring a metre and half, was mutated over time by Mañosa, who took his references from children’s modular puzzles, where shape, colour and materials intermingle with their various functions as lamp, vase and candle holder.
An object made in Barcelona using entirely traditional methods with painstaking detailing and finishing.
Made from high-temperature ceramic and blown glass
The world has its share of design couples — husbands and wives who work together in the studio day in and day out with seemingly infrequent urges to kill one another.
But Xavier Mañosa, the 28-year-old Spanish ceramicist who goes by the name Apparatu, may be the only designer we know who works every day alongside his parents.
Upon moving back home last year after a five-year stint in Berlin, Mañosa set up camp with his father, Juan, and his mother, Aurora, inside a dust-covered workshop in the affluent Barcelona suburb of Sant Cugat.
“To work with your parents can be crazy,” admits the lanky, bespectacled designer — though no crazier than working full-time with a temperamental studio-mate. “With your parents, you can have a really hard argument, shouting all sorts of mierda, and two minutes later, it doesn’t really matter.”
The Mañosas studio is a short drive from the city center, next to Sant Cugat’s legendary indoor antiques market.
The space is outfitted with an office — “it’s the only computer we can have because of the dust,” Mañosa says of their old-school equipment, below — a kiln, a wheel, and dozens of tables and shelves stacked with prototypes, experiments, molds, blocks of clay, unglazed forms, boomboxes, and finished products.
It’s easy to spot whose work is whose. The elder Mañosas work with more traditional forms, flecked with Miró-like strips of color, while Xavi finds inspiration in readymades, his cast objects taking the form of traffic cones, fire extinguishers, cow udders, beer bottles, inner tubes, or the sleeves of hideously unattractive puffy coats.
Lately, however, the three have begun working together. “My father started the workshop 40 years ago,” Xavi explains. “And for a long time the business was working. But the shops are disappearing, and my parents were feeling like they were obsolete.
Now that I’ve come, we’re doing different things together, and suddenly my mother knows all about these young, cool, trendy designers.”
I draw inspiration from the workshop, from understanding what it means to produce artisanly, to make vases, to number and limit a product.
What does numbering mean? I always thought that making limited editions was a bit absurd, that it was like saying “I make 50 but I could make 5000″.
But then I realized that to be making a vase and knowing I would keep on producing it forever was a bit of a strange idea. On an craftmanship level, I find the sense of limiting the production in the fact that making something indefinitely gives me a feeling of vertigo.
When a project is done, there comes a point when youre not that interested in it anymore. And when you lose affection for a piece, things start to happen at the crafting level.
I’m colorblind. Not completely, but I can’t see blues and greens well, I get lost in the tones. I don’t have a proper foundation in color theory.
Right now I make everything in the natural color of the material. If the clay is red, the piece is red, if the clay is white, it will be white. I tend to use transparent glazes.
What is happening is that I’m going to the basis of everything, I’m going backwards. Everything is more primal, more basic.
I want to start from the bottom in order to move forward, to grow.
The grey of the Pleat Box lamp is the only glaze that I developed. In the world of ceramics, every potter has his own colors, his blue, his white. I have my dirty grey, a glaze that came out of an attack of sensibility for the environment.
Glazes are highly polluting heavy metals, so a while ago I decided to develop a water filtering system consisting of some barrels coming out of the drain. On day I noticed those buckets full of glaze remains and I came up with the idea of reusing them to create a new glaze. The outcome was a grey color that looked like cement.
That new grey or “dirty grey” as I called it was made of leftover glazes from the workshop. What we did was go to the deposit and glaze with this new color. Depending on what we had been working with in the last month, the end result varied, the grey could be greenish or blueish. I really liked that random element. These kinds of details would be a mistake on an industrial level, but on an artisan level they make a piece truly unique, unlike any other. It’s like a freckle.
I want to try making products that are simple, accessible, functional and well- made. On the other, I want us to be able to sell.
The basic idea of exchange, which I used to reject, is something I’m interested in now. The idea of working oriented towards selling our products.
I want to keep an open mind about what may come, or stop coming.