Lladro
The Chemistry Of Color

The discovery of porcelain in China around the 9th century AD had important effects for China and Europe. First, it sparked off imports in to Europe. Second, it started a race to discover the secrets of making porcelain. The first happened immediately. The Chinese, however, were able to guard their secret well into the 13th century, when chance came to the help of chemistry and led to the discovery of one of its main ingredients - kaolin, a refractory clay that turned white when fired.
In 1711, a German farmer had the original idea of powdering his wig with some white powder he found in the Aue valley in Saxony. Half a century later, a French lady discovered a deposit of white earth she thought would be wonderful for manufacturing soap. Her husband sent a sample of this powder to Sevres, little imagining that it would supplant soft porcelain and usher in a new age of real or hard porcelain. Anecdotes aside, the discovery of gres initiated a new period of research into ways to improve the quality of porcelain. Science developed and has continued to evolve right down to our day. Lladro is still investigating the use of gres, and has become one of the world's major exponents of this material.
At first, the Lladro brothers used a porcelain paste supplied by a local Valencian company. Dissatisfied with this material because it was difficult to work with,they later approached a pharmacist friend in search of solutions. After trying various products, they decided to add gum arabic to the solution, an additive that increased fluidity without causing a loss of quality. This "homemade" component was used in Lladro creations for over five years, much to the surprise of the local porcelain paste manufacturer, who couldn't help expressing his admiration for the results the Lladro brothers obtained.
Little by little, Juan and Jose Lladro delved deeper into the complex world of chemistry, while Vicente became an expert in porcelain firing and kiln techniques. In 1960 the three brothers decided to produce their own paste using raw materials which were readily available on the Spanish market, a development that coincided with their first attempts at single firing methods. This was no coincidence. The founders of Lladro had gathered together a highly qualified group of chemists and engineers. The results they achieved began to play a major role in the evolution of Lladro production processes and creative output. Science and creativity joined hands at this stage, and have continued to play complementary roles to this day.
In the first few years, advances were spectacular: porcelain paste fluidity was greatly improved, the mechanical resistance of unfired pieces was heightened, thereby facilitating handling, the Lladro color palette was enlarged and existing hues were improved. In addition, experiments were made using a reddish-brown paste which would soon give birth to the Gres line, after a number of glaze combinations were tested.
During the seventies, laboratory staff at Lladro grew considerably. Major efforts were made in the filed of research and development, and the results brought more and more advances as the new decade began. Today, the laboratory is still one of the most fascinating places to visit on a tour of Porcelain City. Not only does this area enshrine one of Lladro's most jealously guarded secrets - the formula for making high quality porcelain paste, but it serves as a site for enthusiastic research into new ideas, new techniques. For many years, this department has achieved important milestones in the service of art, enriching and perfecting Lladro creations.
Lladro labs assist in a triple transformation of the resources given to them by nature. First, their chemists transform minerals brought in from diverse parts of the world into materials that Lladro artists can employ in making their creations. The second transformation involves man's essentially creative nature, because it is the artist who converts the raw paste and the inanimate colors into fine sculptures that look so lifelike and appealing. The third and final transformation involves firing in the kiln. By dominating the destructive nature of fire, taming it to their needs, they take a few hours to do what nature does in thousands of years, creating a highly resistant material, a material that stands the test of time.
The art of making porcelain involves integrating materials with different properties so that they can be transformed in the kiln at high temperatures, fusing together in such a way that every small detail is conserved at the end of the process. If this were otherwise, the faces of our expressions; slight blemishes produced during firing would alter or destroy the emotions and feelings reflected by our artists when creating Lladro figurines.
The work of many men and women on the laboratory staff has influenced all stages of the creation process undergone by Lladro figurines: from the raw materials to the moulds in which porcelain paste takes shape, from colors and flowers used in decoration to varnishes that provide a pure, crystalline sheen and glazes that fuse to form an attractive coat showing rich nuances and textures. At Lladro, art and science live in perfect harmony. Techniques are placed at the service of the artist, who always finds the ideal vehicle for creating his works. Inspiration never had a better ally.