For Joana, ceramics began as a hobby. After studying painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, it was during a course with the artist Teresa Pavão that she began to develop a taste for this malleable material. In London, she merged her two references - the canvas on which she trained and the three-dimensional nature of her new discovery. The result was an approach to sculpture that she still pursues today with her wall pieces.
In her workshop in the heart of the Baixa Pombalina, her days are divided between these and other creations, although the pace is generally slow and unhurried. Through the mixture of ceramics with iron, she began a new family of pieces that sat halfway between the sculptural exercises and her more commercial work. Orders at the Joana Passos Studio have been piling up since the end of last year, especially on the utilitarian ceramics side - the cups, plates and bowls that she has kept in stock. She has also ventured into earrings, but her fashion accessories have not gone beyond the occasional experiment.
Without moulds, the potter’s wheel is where many of these pieces originate. Over time she has opened her workshop to the outside world, both as a point of sale and as a workspace. In it are resident ceramists as well as some people who want to learn to create from clay, although here the learning is more personalised. This is because Joana prefers to give private lessons rather than offer group workshops. [Rua da Padaria, 33 (Baixa). From €200 (five sessions)]
Alexandre da Silva and Vincent Richeux arrived in Penha de França a year ago to set up a workshop that was born crooked (torto), at least in name. Bathed in natural light, with plants brought by neighbours and hyper-realistic-looking ceramic pieces, Estúdio Torto, which was once a dairy and grocery store, serves as the meeting point between a Portuguese designer, a French journalist and a shared passion for ceramics which has gone from a hobby to a full-time job.
The work takes place on several fronts, starting with pieces created under the studio's own trademark, such as the futuristically-designed pipes commissioned by an Italian brand. In addition, each ceramist also develops his own work - Alexandre explores realism through half-smoked cigarettes and cigarette butts, combining porcelain with trompe-l'oeil techniques; Vincent, who has been in Portugal for nine years, is influenced by biology and builds many of his pieces from microscopic images, especially of pollen.
There is plenty of space for all pieces, a laboratory for glazes, and there is even space to feature guest artists (not necessarily those working with ceramics) in the shop window. There are residents who use the space to develop their own work, while others show up to take their first steps, either in free mode or using specific techniques, from using plaster moulds to slip casting. You just have to be prepared to get your hands dirty. [Rua Melo Gouveia, 13 (Penha de França). From €30 (per class)]
The Eva Lé Ceramics Studio was also designed to welcome visitors. From the hospitality of the hostess to the comfort of the entrance, Eva Lé wanted to create an extension of her own home, whether for those who come here to work with ceramics for the first time or for the more experienced who come here to use the workbench or the potter's wheel. She was just 24 when she discovered her most natural vocation in this material. She started in communication design, but soon realised that fulfilment would only be found elsewhere.
She studied decorative arts in Paris. On her return, she spent time at the Lx Factory, the Safra cooperative in Lumiar and the Viúva Lamego factory, where she created a large-scale piece. In October she realised it was time to open her own space. Now this is where she explores what is already her visual identity - decorative, ornamented pieces, some of them worthy of a gallery. For the time being, they can be seen in the shop window by people passing by.
However, it is in the basement that Eva has created a kind of co-work space dedicated to ceramics. A spacious area - which has been dubbed the Ceramics Club (complete with a neon sign on the wall) - with workbenches, a potter's wheel and a room set aside for glazing. This is a space that can be used by those who no longer need guidance. Classes can be private, in the case of the potter's wheel, or in groups. She also offers individual workshops for children. [Rua Laureano de Oliveira, 24 (Moscavide). From €30 (per class)]
Nadia Frolova moved to Lisbon four years ago and already feels that it's her home. She left Saint Petersburg to pursue her passion for ceramics, which has transformed from a hobby into a profession. She gave up designing perfect systems (she was a designer in a technology company) in order to embrace imperfection and asymmetry in her pieces. She describes her own work as being something between chaos and order, abstract and figurative, art and science. It's no coincidence that the latter pair was one of the central themes of the master's degree she completed at the Faculty of Fine Arts.
The way she works with glazes is an example of this. It's an experimental process through which she obtains her own pigments. The same logic applies to the way she explores the dynamics of this material – Nadia's sculptures obey organic forms, vary in scale and alternate functionality and decorative value.
The same freedom in the approach to ceramics is reflected in the schedule of courses and workshops at her Frolamics Studio. From quick classes – where participants are challenged to create a simple piece, such as a vase or a candlestick – to longer courses – where students go through the entire process of designing, creating and glazing a piece. Teaching is Nadia's second passion, and these days she welcomes apprentices of all nationalities to her studio. Interestingly, they all have the same reaction when they get their hands on the clay: they slow down, reconnect with manual labour and almost "become children”. [Rua Vieira da Silva, 20 (Alcântara). From €30 (per class)]