As a young boy, José Santaeulalia was naturally exposed to creativity and art, as most of his family carved a career in art. Now, he is an in-house sculptor at Lladró known for creating pieces with delicate expressions and natural gestures to the highest calibre, even creating the Gondola of Venice, a section of the high porcelain marvel Carnival of Venice.
Jose with his work - Riding the Big One Figurine.
Lladró’s sculptors are technical marvels that help each piece become a reality. Even with pieces made by collaborative designers, they need to work closely with Lladró’s in-house sculptures, as not every design is achievable with the finicky firing process, and some details may be lost or unachievable with the complexity of porcelain making process.
We spoke to José about how he discovered his passion in sculpting, his influences, and the styles he is exploring at the moment.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO SCULPTING?
When I was young, I was really keen on drawing and illustration. Then at around the age of sixteen or so, I began to take more of an interest in sculpting. Looking back, I also had a lot of support and encouragement from my father and older brother, who was also a sculptor at Lladró.
WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
My closest influences are definitely my own family. Art has always been part of my life. My grandfather, father, three brothers all have careers in art. So, for me, it was always something that I have lived since childhood.
Then there are the great sculptors of Valencia like Benlliure, and of course the old masters like Michelangelo, Canova and so on.
WAS THERE A PIVOTAL MOMENT THAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE A SCULPTOR?
I can clearly remember the moment I made the decision - it was when my older brother enrolled at the Lladró sculpture school. I was able to see how he enjoyed his progress and how the access to skilled know-how made him more creative. That really drove me on to follow in his footsteps.
WHAT DO YOU AIM TO ACHIEVE WHEN YOU CREATE A SCULPTURE?
To be happy with the result.
Although to be honest, that rarely happens because there is something that I would want to change. A pose, a look… I am pretty critical with my own work.
WHAT DETAILS DO YOU FOCUS ON AS A SCULPTOR?
I really like to create figurines that have personality, and I particularly focus on the expressions. It’s a window to what lives they lead and what they feel.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS OF MAKING YOUR WORK?
There is no fixed process to creation. Or perhaps there is, but only once I have come up with the initial idea. For me personally, the most satisfying part of the process is the inspiration, that first idea. It is the most rewarding but also the most difficult part.
The process behind Lladró’s Gondola in Venice Sculpture
WHAT PIECE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
The most emblematic piece I have worked on is the masterpiece “Carnival in Venice”. It posed a great artistic and technical challenge, but it was also very rewarding. It was much more than a decorative piece. I wanted the beholder to be transported to a particular time and place. By means of closely observing, I began to discover lots of little stories that connected the characters. And that has always been my goal, to give each and every character I model a personality of its own. Even the “Gondola in Venice” section in itself took a long time to perfect.
WHAT STYLES ARE YOU EXPLORING AT THE MOMENT?
I see myself as a fairly classical sculptor, but I also like to experiment with new styles. At the moment I am focused on giving a fresher, more contemporary twist to my sculptures, while at once maintaining the foundations of more academic modelling. In searching for a more up-to-date look, I give a lot of importance to the sculpture, but also to the ornamentation, new colours and more daring decorations.
The High Porcelain piece Gondola in Venice by José Santaeulalia
HOW DO YOU DEFINE BEAUTY?
Beauty can be found everywhere. A flower is beautiful but so too is an old cracked stone. It’s how you look at things.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG SCULPTORS OR BEGINNER SCULPTORS?
Never stop learning. It is very easy to stagnate, especially in art, to settle for what you already know, and that’s the worst mistake you can commit as an artist. You always have to keep going forward and to keep learning, whatever your age.
SCULPTURES BY JOSÉ SANTAEULALIA
Lladró’s Champions Team Footballers Figurine
Lladró’s Surfer Figurine
If you enjoyed reading this edition of Sculptor Series, check out Lladró's other sculptors: