Bobo Choses series
Julen Ussia Guillén was born in Amurrio, a small village in the Basque Country, 27 years ago. As a child, he liked to spend a lot of time in the garden and the orchard. He used to build tools and objects with sticks, leaves, rope, and wire. He loved to see how the courgettes grew so big. He loved to draw, and it all triggered a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts and Design. During his studies, he became obsessed with the potter’s wheel and the craft. When he finished, he did a Masters in Ceramics, and almost without realising it, he was back in Barcelona teaching at the same school where he studied.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember I wanted to be an archaeologist or a cook.
You studied design, right? How did you get to know the world of ceramics, and what attracted you to it?
I studied a degree in Arts and Design at Escola Massana. During the third year, I signed up for a seminar on black ceramics in Quart organised by the university. No previous experience was required, so I took the plunge. The course was about moulds, but sitting next to us there was a man, Ricardo Campos, working on the potter’s wheel. I was so fascinated! When I came back from that seminar, I decided to go to the University workshop to try out the potter’s wheel, and after trying and trying… I’m still doing it almost eight years later.
What project are you currently working on?
Last week I sent some pieces for an exhibition in Milan. Now I’m preparing the exhibition for Paris Design Week. On the other hand, new things are coming up with the Il-lacions gallery in Barcelona soon. On a personal level, I am starting to shape my Ph.D., for which I will return to my origins in ceramics in Quart.
What are your sources of inspiration when working?
Nature’s growth rates, the alternation of walking around the city and the countryside, hardware shops, music, playing with spoken language, geology, that moment in bed before going out in the morning, garden shops, architecture, and many small anonymous objects made by unknown people with the resources they have at hand.
Tell us about the inclusive workshop you did on ashtrays.
It is a workshop that we organized with Joel Blanco for the Mayrit festival in Madrid, directed by Miguel Leiro.
When a beginner student uses the potter’s wheel, the piece goes wrong, and it twists. An unexpected form appears, and we often say ”bah, it could serve as an ashtray”. What a way to save the error by giving it use and place it in the world as something of importance!
We found it interesting to apply this idea to the Design field, where you follow a process and a methodology to reach a more or less expected result. This workshop was quite the opposite. We gathered a group of people who had never made ceramics before. We proposed them to create the first thing they could in a short time, with limitations (with their eyes closed, with their left hand, etc.). Everything came up in an unexpected, surprising, and valid way.
Are your ceramic pieces available for purchase?
Anyone can buy the pieces at Il-lacions gallery and A Mano Studio Gallery in Biarritz. They can also be purchased directly from me, for a specific custom-made job.
What would be the invented profession of your dreams?
I would love to dive without any time limits or conditions. I would spend the day submerged in water. That would be my profession; I don’t know if it would be in Julen’s body or in a fish or crab’s body. I would start my journey like a river stone to reach the sea one day and live it in all its forms and possibilities!