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Lladró Porcelain

Author: Maria Matson
Issue: September, 2013, Page 34
Photos by Art Holeman

Designed by José Puche in 1991, the Allegory of Liberty figurine (center) is flanked by Summer Infatuation (left) and Spring Flirtation (right), both designed by sculptor Regino Torrijos. An innovative one-layer firing creates the crystalline finish and pastel tones typical of Lladró works, as seen in these pieces from a private collection.



history, Highlights and helpful Hints

Those who know just a little bit about Lladró probably are aware of this: It’s a brand of softly colored porcelain figurines, rosy-cheeked kids, playful animals and delicate flowers. That’s not wrong, but there’s so much more.

The company started in the early 1950s, when three brothers—Juan, José and Vicente Lladró—started experimenting with porcelain in a kiln at their home in Almaserra, Valencia, Spain. After just a couple of years, the trio expanded operations, moving to a warehouse in nearby Tavernes Blanques. That eventually grew to become the City of Porcelain, a 100,000 square-foot complex of studios, gardens and recreation facilities for the company’s 1,000 or so employees.

There, artists sculpt figures out of clay. These are approved by a committee that includes three members of the Lladró family: Juan and his daughters, Rosa and Angeles. If approved for production, the artist reproduces the figure in plaster to create molds for the final piece.

“There are two distinct aspects of a genuine Lladró: the quality of its modeling and painting, especially in the faces; and the technical risks it takes in the way a model’s parts occupy space,” notes Peggy Whiteneck, a collector and author of Collecting Lladró: Identification and Price Guide and The Collector’s Book of Retired Lladró. “For example, arms on human models will be gracefully extended and fingers will be individually articulated and spread out in various gestures. This requires a lot of different molds for one model.”

The Allegory of Spring figurine was originally crafted in 1995 by sculptor Antonio Ramos.
This could mean up to 15 or 20 molds for an average-sized figurine, or as many as 300 for a more complex figure, according to the company. The various parts are assembled using liquid porcelain; then details are carved and the piece is painted. After 24 hours in a 1,300-degree F kiln, the figure is examined for quality. This is the process for every piece, every time.

A number of craftspeople typically work on a single piece, as some have specific tasks. For example, some artisans spend their days crafting only flowers, one petal, one leaf, one tiny detail at a time, according to the company. Retail prices for such artistry range from $60 for a lithophane to $190,000 for Queen of the Nile, from the company’s High Porcelain Collection. The limited-edition (sometimes one-of-a-kind) pieces in this collection represent the cream of the Lladró crop. The Queen of the Nile depicts Egyptian Queen Nefertari, her children and her entourage in a boat. With a total of 12 figures and a slew of historically accurate details, this is the largest and most complex piece ever produced by the company. It measures more than 2-feet high and 5-feet long. Creating the limited edition of 100 took five years, including 400 hours to paint and 150 hours to assemble all the bits and pieces.

While the artistry that goes into each figure is something everyone can appreciate, collecting Lladró porcelain figures may not be for everyone. That said, it does seem as though there is a Lladró to suit any collection or interest: Salt and pepper shakers? Check. Disney? Check. Are you a doctor or a lawyer? Do you play tennis or golf or practice yoga? There’s a Lladró for that. The number of options is dizzying and diverse. Figures celebrating Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and LDS missionaries are available. There are figures depicting cultural traditions from around the world, as well as folklore from the netherworld. Cats and dogs, men and women, girls and boys, young and old, light and dark, tall and small, nude and clothed, slender and Rubenesque, all are represented. With all those options, the question becomes, where does one begin collecting?

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: The Queen of the Nile is made of 382 individual porcelain components and was issued in 2006. It was sculpted by Juan Carlos Ferri Herrero. • Only 2,000 of Lladró’s Gazebo in Bloom were produced. Crafted by sculptor Francisco Polope, the now-retired design measures approximately 20"H by 10.25"W. • One of Lladró’s newer creations, this colorful tray belongs to the Naturofantastic Collection. The series is said to represent “fantasy matched with forms taken from nature.” Issued in 2013, the collection was designed by Marco Moguerón. • Designed in 1986 and retired in 2005, Floral Offering was created by sculptor Juan Huerta. The piece represents the yearly display of devotion to Our Lady of the Forsaken by Valencian Catholics. The event lasts several days and includes lavish flower offerings laid at the entrance to the city’s cathedral.

“The best advice for any collector is, ‘Buy what you like,’” Whiteneck urges. “Also, people should collect because they love what they collect, not because they think it’s some kind of investment that’s going to appreciate in value and make them a killing later on.”

Whiteneck says she’s “lost count” of how many Lladró pieces she has in her collection, but estimates it to be around 300. “I caught the ‘collecting bug’ from my late parents,” the Vermont resident recalls. “They were avid but eclectic in their tastes, so when I got to the point in my adult life where I could financially afford to collect something of my own that they didn’t have, I kind of knew immediately it would be Lladró. I saw my first pieces in an antiques shop, and I was hooked. My very favorites are the animals.”

Alejandro Caceres, executive vice president, Lladró USA, believes collecting is in our DNA, but that Lladró pieces offer more to collectors than mere beauty. “Lladró has a unique way of creating an emotional connection,” he comments. “Our pieces blend artistic value and decor with the physical representation of a moment or a feeling. This is a bond that transcends the purely commercial purchase and endures beyond a passing fad. The knowledge that each piece is completely handmade, no two alike, only adds to the feeling that these pieces are much more than a material possession. Collectibles are part of our legacy.”

Parrot Parade is part of the Lladró Atelier Collection. The series incorporates geometric elements and “painstakingly realistic birds.”
That is certainly the case for Phoenix collector Pat Petznick, who got her start with Lladró when she inherited her mom’s collection. “My mother had two collections: Lladró and a clown collection,” she reports. “My sister got one and I got the other.” Over the years, Petznick has grown the collection to more than 100 pieces and had a room specifically designed to house them. The walls and ceiling are painted in pastel pink and blue, and the custom carpet was inspired by a Lladró flower piece. “I like the flowers and the women,” she remarks. “They make me happy; they make me smile.”

But, as much as she treasures the collection, Petznick will be moving soon, so will pass it on to her daughter-in-law and granddaughter. “I’ll keep a few pieces, but the rest of them will be handed down,” Petznick adds. “They’re all beautiful to look at, but some of them have special meaning to me. One my mother had initially given me, and some just make me happy because they represent my sister and myself. They don’t look like us in the face, but their actions are us. We were raised on a ranch, and there’s one of a little girl with pink overalls; she represents the tomboy side of me when I was growing up. My mother loved her, and I fell in love with her. She’s a keeper.”

Things to Know
When buying Lladró in the secondary market, it’s important to know if a piece is the real thing. Following are some tips:
• All Lladró pieces have a logotype, or mark, on the underside of the base. The company’s website has photos of authentic marks used over the years: www.lladro.com/porcelana/faq_producto.
• Note that some pieces might include the word “Daisa,” in addition to Lladró, on the base. Daisa is the name of the Lladró company that holds the intellectual property rights for the figurines.
• Not all Lladró are glossy pastel. Some pieces are left unvarnished, so they have a matte finish after firing. Still others might be more earth-toned. These are likely from the Gres line, introduced in the 1970s. The material used in this line allowed the company to make larger sculptures, and the pieces are not
painted. Instead, several layers of varnish lend a monochromatic effect after firing. View examples at lladro.com.
• You might come across figurines that look a lot like Lladró, but are marked NAO on the base. NAO is a lower-cost brand of the Lladró group. The porcelain pieces are typically simpler, but are created at the City of Porcelain by the same artisans who create Lladró-marked pieces. For more information, visit the NAO website, at naoporcelain.com.
• Two other brands, Rosal and Zaphir, are precursors to the NAO brand. Figurines with these marks look similar to Lladró and were crafted by Lladró-trained artisans. Peggy Whiteneck, offers details on the Rosal and Zaphir brands on her website, at elportalporcelana.info.
• Buyer beware. Whiteneck says the figurines of competitors “will very often have this sort of ‘scrunched in’ appearance, with all the limbs molded along the torso,” because the manufacture of pieces using multiple molds, as Lladró does, is too expensive. “Counterfeiters, on the other hand, are the real ‘fakers,’” Whiteneck notes. “What they want to do is not be like Lladró; they pretend to be Lladró.” Although typically of inferior quality, the counterfeits usually reflect popular themes, like clowns or mermaids, but don’t replicate an actual Lladró, she adds. “Then they’ll apply a counterfeit Lladró stamp to the base,” Whiteneck continues. “There will always be something ‘not right’ about these marks; they’ll be a mulberry blue instead of the cobalt in a genuine Lladró backstamp, or there will be an odd squiggle where the copyright sign should be, or an oddly shaped accent mark on the last letter of the name. The intent is to deceive those who don’t know much about Lladró and can be fooled by a bogus mark.”

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Lladró recently created a series of light fixtures. Shown here are the Belle de Nuit lamps.
Where to buy
Antiques on Central, Phoenix; Ladlow’s, Scottsdale; lladro.com; Neiman Marcus.

Branching Out
Several new developments at Lladró are helping usher the 60-year-old company into new territory. One is the recently introduced line of porcelain chandeliers, table lamps and wall sconces called Belle de Nuit. Another, the Naturofantastic Collection, includes vases, plates, bowls, trays and pendant lights inspired by natural forms. The Re-Cyclos Magical Collection is a line of home decor items, tableware and jewelry designed by Bodo Sperlein using borrowed bits from Lladró works. Picture a horse’s bent leg as the handle on a coffee cup and a flurry of porcelain butterflies forming a chandelier.

As part of its commitment to innovation, the company formed Lladró Atelier, a “laboratory of ideas” under the direction of Spanish designer Jaime Hayon. Some of the projects that have sprung from the “lab” include Metropolis, a collection of vases, lamps, mirrors and boxes in the shape of buildings; The Parrot Party—parrots perched on lamps, plates, mirrors, vases, towel hooks; and The Fantasy, a mash-up between traditional porcelain and Jaime Hayon’s artistic vision.

In addition, the company has a home fragrance collection that includes diffusers and votives in matte-white porcelain, as well as a collection of porcelain bath accessories and faucets.
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