Lladró connoisseurs look out for Gres pieces, but it is still relatively unknown to the general public. It’s not commonly seen in-store either, as these pieces are snapped up quickly.
But what is Gres?
When the Lladró brothers were experimenting with colours and pioneered the pastel colours they are known for today, they tried many different ceramic paste mixes to see what would work better. They’ve gone on to also discover the high temperature single firing technique, but along the way, have also discovered a porcelain mix in the 1970s that was unique and was nothing like anything else they’ve seen: Gres.
Gres has the fine texture of satin porcelain, and caries intense colours in a subdued way, mostly in the warm colour palette and earthy tones. Where porcelain is known to have an innate luminescence that comes through as translucence, gres has the warmth and depth of the Spanish countryside, and the boldness and spirit of flamenco.
The formulation of gres, is similar to porcelain, other than the the addition of clay. This gives gres its earthy tones, as gres is naturally earth-toned takes on colour differently than traditional porcelain. Because of this, adding colour to a gres piece is extremely different to how its done with a traditional porcelain piece. For Lladró's traditional porcelain, colour is either painted on or blended into the porcelain paste, and both are easier to manage and predict, as traditional porcelain is white and it takes on the colour added easily.
Colouring a gres piece isn’t as straightforward. Enamels are applied in layers on the surface of each piece. The artisan needs to be careful and meticulous about the thickness of each enamel layer, to balance the colour of the enamel, as well as ensuring that the natural gres tones comes through the enamel layers. The combination of those two elements create unique colours and a palette that is only achievable by using gres, creating standout pieces that have a strong presence.
Firing gres pieces is also more complicated than traditional porcelain. As the enamel colours are added to the surface, special care is needed to ensure that the colour sets properly, and that there is no displacement in the kiln. As such, gres needs to be fired for double the time required for porcelain. The cooling time is also doubled to ensure that the enamels crystalise properly on the gres, and that the finish is even throughout the piece.
LLADRO’S GRES COLLECTION
Subtle Moonlight Woman Figurine is limited to 500 numbered pieces.
Nude with Shawl Woman Figurine, with details of Spanish culture.
Peace Offering Woman Figurine, with a white dove sitting on her right hand is starkly different from the variant in matt white with silver lustre.
After making gres pieces for more than four decades, Lladró’s has a repertoire of more than 200 gres colours at their disposal. The rich colours and impact of gres pieces is unparalleled in the world of porcelain, a unique subsection of porcelain that looks nothing like the traditional porcelain we all know.