Cultural blend: Spain’s Leandro Marcelino creates his own style of ceramics based on local materials. Photos courtesy of Hey Camel Ceramics
by Lê Hương
Việt Nam’s long tradition of ceramics has inspired many expats living here. Spain’s Leandro Marcelino is one among them, who not only understands clearly the different genres of ancient ceramics in the country and follows today’s ceramic workers’ process, but also creates his own style of ceramics based on local materials.
Born in Canary Island in Spain, Marcelino has been living in HCM City for the last three years, where he has discovered a rich culture in ceramics.
“Coming to a country that has rich and different cultures has inspired me quite a lot,” he said. “I decided to make my own ceramic objects based on the diversified art of ceramics all across Southeast Asia.
“After two years, I decided to launch my own ceramic brand, Hey Camel Ceramics. I felt more confident in making my own creations and sharing my experience with the rest of the world.”
Hey Camel Ceramics has taken the inspiration from the city landscape in its project entitled “Tiny Houses”.
“Sometimes I like to travel on my motorbike to observe houses and the people inside the houses. I really admire the local living culture. I reproduced that in the tiny houses,” he said.
He also produced plant-raising pots in shape of masks.
“The meaning of the masks is basically personal experiences and the influence of African culture on me,” he said. “I also blend in Vietnamese culture by using local materials. All these products are glazed by hand, some of them with a transparent glaze. It highlights the colour of the clay.”
Marcelino has also been influenced by the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”.
“It means natural, rough and, sometimes, not even,” he said. “It’s kind of different. My objects, for example, in the same collection are sometimes quite different from one another.
“For me, making ceramics is one way of expressing myself, because they are made by hand, the objects are not similar and have our soul, which convey the feelings of the person who makes them.”
Marcelino often visits Đại Hưng Village near HCM City, where he feels more relaxed and close to the land and the environment, while watching the ceramic work of the local people.
The Spanish artist also gives regular lessons to the local people and expats.
“His class is so intriguing,” Trương Thị Vân Thu, one of Marcelino’s students, said.
Adina Weinand, from the United States, said Marcelino was an encouraging, patient and kind teacher.
“Some customers come to my class and say ‘OK I want to do it’. I say ‘OK, we will do something but not the same. It’s gonna be perfect, something special, something that you cannot buy in the market, something that has your personality. It’s gonna be something about this moment in the class, the moment that we share’,” Marcelino said.
Marcelino said he would soon organise a new workshop called “Blind workshop”, where the students would be blindfolded and would be taught to make a cup by using all senses except vision.
“We want to give an opportunity to students to experience the feelings that the use of ceramics and clay involve,” he said.
The ceramic maker also does modelling for local designers.
“To me, art is not just ceramics, it’s also fashion, the beauty of life. I think that they are all connected,” he said.
“I like Marcelino’s style of working,” Thục Nguyễn said. “He works enthusiastically. Whatever I ask him to do, he follows.”
“He’s Spanish with Spanish energy. And sometimes he comes up with good ideas,” photographer Mike Phạm said.
The ceramic maker and fashion model said while he does not have much free time, once he finishes his work, he likes to visit the market, buy vegetables and then cook something healthy in the company of his two cats, Sambal and Sriracha, at home.
He said he cannot name just one or two of his favourite Vietnamese dishes or drinks, but he often has tofu with ginger syrup, phở cuốn (fresh spring roll with stir-fried beef and vegetables), and drinks herbal tea made of mushrooms or artichokes. — VNS
Art shop: The entrance to Leandro Marcelino’s workshop, where he inspires many ceramic-making learners.
Fresh face: A decorative product by Hey Camel Ceramics.