Meet The Lady Behind Manila’s Favorite Bowls And Plates!
Ceramics play a huge role in your home, especially when you’re entertaining. In a world where Instagram feeds get fed before one takes a bite of a meal, what and how you serve dishes matter. Ceramics are more than just plates, they contribute to the overall experience of dining and entertaining. While it is easy to purchase a set from your nearby home store, locally handmade ceramics are definitely worth a try.
If you’ve eaten in Manila’s finest restaurants and checked in the best local hotels, chances are you have already encountered Lanelle Abueva’s work. She is the go to ceramic supplier of chefs and hoteliers for plates and teapots to soap dishes and lotion pumps. However, before being the pottery expert of the country, Lanelle saw clay like every other kid: as play.
When she was a kid, Lanelle, her siblings, and her uncle would go to the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman where they would play with clay. Her uncle is National Artist Napoleon Abueva, whom she regards as her biggest influence in the field of arts. While Lanelle’s tiny hands were playing with clay she knew what she wanted to be.
In 1977, Lanelle graduated with a Certificate in Fine Arts from UP. In the same year, she moved to Japan with her family when her father Jose Abueva was offered a position at the United Nations University in Tokyo. “I saw ceramics everywhere! In museums, galleries, restaurants, the alleyways, specialty restaurants, everywhere! Everyone was using all kinds of ceramics. I got interested so I joined a hobby class,” she recalls. The hobby class was held twice a week but Lanelle wanted to pursue more than that. After a while, she moved to Hachijo Islands where she apprenticed for a Japanese potter named Shokichi Aoki for three years.
“In Japan, I could only make pieces that were designed by sensei. In the third year, I got really tired of making things for someone else. The students cannot design their own, even at night. We could only create what sensei says,” she adds. Lanelle moved to Idaho, USA where she enrolled at Sun Valley Center for the Arts. In Idaho, she was free to create anything she wanted.
Ten years later, she came back to the Philippines with the goal of setting up her own pottery studio. “When I come back to the Philippines I wanted to run my own kiln, make my own glazes, create my own form and designs,” shares Lanelle. Today, Lanelle specializes in creating handmade stoneware ceramics glazed with volcanic ash—many would dub this her signature style.
While restaurant and hotel owners give Lanelle specific designs and measurements they would like to attain, the pieces come with one catch. “The plates are uniform in size but it’s not uniform in color because it’s individually glazed. The chefs know that it would look one-of-a-kind. Even if we use molds, the colors will be different because they’re handmade,” she explains. After the whole process, plates would be ready for delivery after three to four months.
Before, she would handcraft all the stoneware pieces by hand but she has now successfully put up her own pottery studio in Antipolo where her local artisans create ceramic stoneware for renowned restaurants, hotels, and resorts in the country. The finished ceramic products are stored at the Crescent Moon Café and Pottery Studio in Antipolo City. Indeed, Lanelle has gone from an apprentice in Japan to a mentor of her own for these local artists.
This story first appeared on CondoLiving Magazine’s November 2017 issue. Edits were made for CondoLiving.OneMega.com