Lladro Figurines History
The Early Years

Lladro Early Years

Porcelain. The word evokes thoughts of beauty, artistry and history. It also brings to mind the name Lladro and it's hallmark collection of figurines. Few, if any, would guess that this intentionally renowned firm, a relative new-comer to the porcelain business (historically speaking), came from such meager beginnings, and was born of little more than perseverance, creativity and family unity.

It was here, five kilometers from the city of Valencia, that Juan, Jose and Vicente Lladro were born to Juan Lladro Cortina and his wife, Rosa Dolz Cortina. The Lladro brothers would have been farmers like their father had not their mother's will prevailed. This tenacious and persuasive woman wanted something better than a life devoted to agriculture for her children, and she guided them towards an education and occupation in the arts. Juan, the first born, had dreams of becoming an electrician. He recalls however, that his mother's influence intervened; "My mother looked for a job for me as a ceramics decorator, which was cleaner and nicer, and I obeyed."
The three brothers learned about cultivation from their father while attending primary school. But at the first opportunity, they were guided towards their paths to success. At 14, Juan Lladro was registered at the San Carlos de Valencia School of Arts and Crafts as a night student. His classes in drafting and artistic and ceramic design, where he studied under several notable instructors, were combined with work as an apprentice at the Azulejera Valencia, where he painted porcelain by hand.
The two younger brothers followed in Juan's footsteps and attended the San Carlos School, too, just as their mother wanted. "She guided our tastes, our studies, our friendships," reminisces Juan. But while Jose, also an apprentice at Azulejera Valencia, studied artistic design, composition and other subjects under many of the same teachers as Juan did, Vicente per sued his interest in sculpture. Despite the influence of Salvador Tuset, his professor in color theory, Vicente was drawn to the classes of Robert Rubio. From his apprenticeship to Rubio remain the busts he sculpted of his father and mother. His brother's contributions to posterity from this period include watercolors, oil paintings, and painted fans.
As the years passed, Dona Rosa continued to guide her sons, repeatedly advising them, "Stay together and help each other. Things will go well for you if you work like this." And the Lladro brothers have firmly followed this advice during the more than forty years since they founded their successful organization.
In 1951, drawing upon limited economic means, they built a moruno (moorish) type brick kiln. Shaped like a beehive and measuring one meter tall, the kiln was located in the yard behind their house. Using rosemary and furze from the nearby mountains as fuel, they achieved the temperatures necessary to fire ceramics. The rest, as they say, is history. The kiln enabled them to make small flowers for decorative lamps, projects the three collaborated on originally. However, their individual artistic interests soon introduced specific and different endeavors for each. Although all three continued to shape the porcelains, only Juan and Jose continued to decorate them, while Vicente supervised the firing.
It wasn't long before a great demand for these small pieces developed and the brothers found it necessary to increase their labor force. Several young women from the area were hired and taught to shape the flowers from clay. The brothers would then decorate and fire the porcelain. Within two years, Juan, Jose and Vicente resigned from their respective factory jobs and with a loan of 2,000 pesetas from a friend, they founded Lladro Figurines. They began to investigate new procedures for glazing and firing and subsequently combined their experiences with the findings of an exiled Polish chemist, Adolfo Pucilowski. It was at this time that they learned, through trial and error, hot to mix the proper proportions of kaolin, water and mineral substances to make their very extraordinary porcelain.
Lladro Factory
Persistence and ingenuity are traits shared by all three brothers. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear that their first fuel supply was financed with money earned from the sale of two bulls. They earned the boys 3,000 pesetas with which they purchased the wood for their kiln. Masters of making-do, the Lladro brothers soon built a new kiln from discarded bricks that they salvaged from the Sagunto blast furnaces. Although still rather rudimentary, this kiln could produce the temperatures necessary to vitrify porcelain - and the first Lladro porcelain figurine was made. The ballet dancer, whose arms were delicately intertwined above her head, brought 145 pesetas from a neighbor. Today the only piece known to have survived from this early Lladro period is a vessel made of "bucaro" clay. Its acquisition cost Lladro 500,000 pesetas acquire. 1,000 times what it originally sold for!
The early Lladro Porcelain years were marked by the lack of a definitive artistic style, but it was a time of great technical achievement for the brothers. Understandably, they eventually sought to progress from ceramics to porcelain production. Juan, Jose and Vincente lacked the 100,000 pesetas needed to realize their newest dream, but fate intervened. They learned of a kiln in Almacera which was left unfinished due to defects in constructions. These enterprising young men, so full of their future plans, rented the premises and, eventually, rectified the kiln. Jose recalls that they took turns working on the interior, taking the kiln apart while "pecking in a 50 centimeter space". When re-built, however, the kiln worked superbly.
Early Lladro
The beginning was very difficult - only three stores in Valencia agreed to sell their porcelains. In addition to their multitude of start-up problems, they encountered other blockades, including dishonest salespeople and normal, but unexpected, breakage. But in the end, unyielding business ethics, quality of craftsmanship and fair pricing delivered them a constantly growing customer base.
The secret "Lladro miracle" is among other things, the family solidarity that has characterized the company to the present day. It is also a reflection of the family's willingness to recognize those who contributed to their success, especially those who had worked side by side with Juan, Jose and Vincente during their early, trying years. An oriental proverb says that "a brother supported by another brother is stronger than a walled city." Herein lies a fundamental truth that has brought strength and success to Lladro Porcelain Figurines.
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