Amy Rees Anderson

One Painstaking Petal At A Time Creates A Masterpiece

I promised this week I would share some life lessons I learned during my families recent European Adventure. Today I want to start by sharing my experience in Spain, specifically, during my visit to the Lladro factory in Valencia, Spain.

First I need to explain my love for Lladro porcelain statues. My Mother once received a Lladro porcelain statue as a gift and I was completely smitten with how beautiful it was. The statue was so elegant and I was amazed at how every detail was so delicate. Over the years her collection grew a little at a time and with each one I continued to be amazed by its elegance. When my husband and I were married almost nine years ago I bought my own first Lladro statue of a bride and groom.

When we planned our trip to Spain I begged my family to make the drive with me from Barcelona down to Valencia so I could tour the Lladro factory and see where the statues were sculpted. They weren’t excited about making the nearly four hour drive down and then back again in a single day (understandably), but because they knew I was absolutely dying to go they said okay.

It would be impossible to put into words how cool it was to go to the Lladro factory and tour the floor to see how they make their statues. Each statue begins with a sketch. From there a somewhat crude clay sculpture is made so it can be reviewed by their Creativity Committee which includes a member of the Lladro family. Once that is approved the figure is made into a plaster replica so an actual mold can be made. The creation of the mold itself is incredibly intense. A single figurine can require 15 molds or it can require more than 300 molds depending on its complexity. A porcelain paste is used to bind each of the porcelain mold pieces together and once assembled the actual detail work of the sculpture begins. All the details are hand done on each individual statue. The motifs are all hand carved, the detail of each face is hand done, and most impressive part to watch was the way each fragile flower is individually handmade petal by petal with no two petals ever turning out the exact same. The woman making flowers the day of my tour had worked there over 34 years doing nothing but making handmade flowers petal by petal each day – truly incredible.

Once all of these details are completed the statue now goes to the painters who must carefully paint each one and the paint colors they paint on it are not the same colors they will remain once it has been fired. The true colors of each piece won’t be able to be seen until the statue has completed its final firing process. And I forgot to mention that at each point along the way if any mistakes are made the sculpture must be destroyed and they start the process over again.

The artistic talent that resides at the Lladro factory is clear – these people are true artisans. The work they do is meticulous. So of course I had to inquire as to how they find their people – they explained that before anyone is hired they must complete a three year training program BEFORE their 18th birthday! And then from each training group only a select few will actually be hired on at the end of those three years. But get this – their average employee had been there for 30+ years!!! Unbelievable!  I wish I could have stayed and done an entire case study of their employee retention practices because it is almost unheard of for a company to have people average 30+ years with the company anymore.

The life lesson I took from this experience was that in order to get a Masterpiece it often takes the same patience and attention to detail that building a porcelain flower by hand takes doing it one petal at a time. And although the process may seem arduous the end result will be breathtaking!!!

For those who want to see it firsthand here is a YouTube video that shows the history and process at Lladro. Watch from the beginning until 3:15 to see the process itself. Then the rest of the video shows some samples of their work. Truly beautiful.

~Amy Rees Anderson

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