During many days volunteering at Red Monkey I have admired the vibrant colours, shapes, organic patterns and uniqueness of their plates and bowls. I wondered if there might be a chance we could meet the artist behind these functional works of art and last Friday we were blessed with such a meeting in Cochabamba.
Entering Marcelo’s workshop we could feel the creativity, experience and passion that has created this small craft business, MTM Ceramics. For more than 30 years Marcelo has been collecting the clay for his pieces from local rivers to then shape it into plates, bowls, decorative pieces, mugs, bonsai pots and more. He feels he was born for the purpose of playing with mud and as he explained his processes to us we were impressed by the combination of his passion with the satisfaction one gets from fulfilling their purpose in life. Marcelo is humble yet confident as he shows us how he filters and refines the clay to prepare it for hand modelling or pouring into moulds that he makes himself from plaster. He also shows us how he glazes and bakes them. He explains that there is nothing toxic in his glazes, free from worrying chemicals like lead, cadmium and zinc.
It seems like such a full and peaceful life Marcelo has – he spends his days alone in his workshop, which is large and airy, creating right next to his home and garden that he has filled with fruit trees like figs, mandarins and pomegranates. We are happy to find connection through our shared interests and we delight in tasting the fruit he picks for us. However, Marcelo is looking for even more life balance. He knows what is important to him and has been downsizing over the years, doing less standard orders and more custom unique pieces along with giving workshops and classes for children. He also wants to put more of his efforts into his bonsai pots which feed his other passion. Once, a group of people doing bonsai approached him for pots and he offered to trade with them instead – he’d make the pots for free if they taught him how to make bonsai.
We choose some pieces to take with us and I smile thinking about the future in Australia when we will sit down to a meal presented on Marcelo’s plates and remember this beautiful afternoon with this gentle, creative man.