We have a friend who is showing her pieces of ceramic art in a small collective exhibition in Seville. While talking at the opening, she told us she wanted to find raw ceramic pieces that can serve as mold to hold her fine work while she is creating it. My husband, Steve, volunteered immediately to take her on a day trip to La Rambla, a small town 25 miles south of Córdoba, best known for its gifted artisans and hand thrown and hand painted ceramics.
Steve has developed a small online business, GringoCool. He exports Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oils and hand-painted ceramics to the US market. With time he has developed a close relationship with many factory owners and their families. Whenever I tag alone on one of his business trips, I am in awe, not only on how gifted these people are, but also on how tight and family oriented they are.
So, on Monday we went with our friend Marjan on a search for the perfect mold. We visited two factories, Comino, and El Titi.
At Comino, we found two brothers, Luciano and Alejandro who run the business. Alejandro greets us while he tells us that he and his daughter Isabel are starting to train again to compete in triathlons this Spring. He has his bike in the middle of the warehouse and fires up his pottery wheel to show off, with a big smile. In, literally, less than five minutes, he produced four different shapes of pots. He made it look really easy but people that have used a wheel before know that it is not that simple. Alejandro started to work as a potter when he was 16, and brought his older brother, and then his daughter on board. On the painting floor, his dad, Juan, of around ninety years old, watches women painting. He was not a potter, but a goat herder. By the way he looked at my camera, I teased him that he is the boss.
In the meantime, Alejandro´s brother, Luciano is taking care of Marjan and her quest of finding molds. Eventually she decides to take two big pieces made of white clay. She is a little bit uncomfortable that Luciano insisted on giving them as a gift.
The factory´s name, Comino, is not after the spice, cumin, but the family last name.
With her booty placed safely in the trunk, we drove to El Titi, the other factory that specialized in terracotta ceramics and Steve thinks that might be better for the mold purposes of our friend.
At the front of the warehouse we are greeted by the very ¨Titi¨, the father who started the business, and his two sons, Rafa and Mateo. María José, the lead painter, and Titi´s daughter, is at the back of the factory painting with around six or seven other women. Titi proudly shows us the second floor they added to the warehouse to store all the orders they are producing. He also took seriously Marjan´s request and started diving into an ocean of terracotta pieces. In the meantime Steve is discussing new designs with Rafa and María José. I left them both with my camera and wandered around. Finally, I see Titi, frantically wrapping a big box for Marjan. My friend told me that not only he was wrapping it, but he was not going to charge her either. Plus, he put two of each of the two pieces she liked.
While Steve finishes his conversation at Titi´s, Marjan and I decided to walk along one of the main streets and look for more ceramic stores. We ended up at the exhibition floor of Titi´s where by our surprise, we found a lady with a baby in a stroller. She started to explain to us what they have and what were the prices. Since we were not going to buy anything, I asked her if she knew Steve. Estif! Por supuesto que lo conozco! Of course I know him! When I told her I was his wife she hugged me and kissed me, and told me she was Titi´s wife, and she was babysitting her granddaughter Ana Belén who was named after her. After talking cheerfully about her family and how happy they were with the new babies that have arrived lately, Steve showed up, and we say good-bye.
We finished our trip at a local restaurant close to the warehouses. For 9 euros I ate “el menú del día”, Salmorejo and a grilled trout plus coffee and a drink. In another slice I will tell you how to make a yummy salmorejo.
As my husband always says, small businesses are the backbone and fabric of our economy and society. We have not only to support them, but embrace and understand their intricate strength and beauty. That´s what will make us indivisible.
The Comino Family
In this video you can see the amazing gift and skills of master potter Alejandro Comino, throwing clay on a pottery wheel and making art in less than three minutes.
If you are a potter yourself, you can enter Enbarro 2019, the international contest they have in La Rambla every year. The deadline is May 17.