My Folklore: Ila Ceramica Founder Camila Apaez on Staying True to Her Voice
Founded by Camila Apaez in Mexico in 2018, Ila Ceramica is one of the Latinx-owned brands that form part of The Folklore Connect’s diverse community, bringing a unique point of view and cultural heritage to the marketplace.
Through its home goods, Ila Ceramica encapsulates the essence of ceramics and handcraft as a space for reflection and self-expression. The meditative process of working with clay allowed Apaez to find solace and delve into the cyclical nature of life, inspiring her unique creations that mirror inner landscapes, the beauty of nature, and the poetry of the human form.
A creative outlet and a source of inspiration, Apaez’s passion for pottery began as a solo journey, which has now evolved into a thriving ceramic studio, entirely powered by the dedication of women. Today, Ila Ceramica stands as an embodiment of authorial ceramics, seamlessly blending sculpture and functionality in its Permanent Collection, One of a Kind pieces, as well as bespoke commissions.
The brand’s artisanal pieces range from vases and table lamps to banquitos (footstools) and candleholders, all made by hand at the studio in Guadalajara, where sustainability is an important part of the process.
The Folklore Edit speaks to Camila Apaez about her creative process, balancing function and aesthetics, and prioritizing sustainability in her studio.
Camila Apaez, founder of Ila Ceramica
What is your creative process? How do you decide what to sculpt and the shapes to make?
My creative process never stops or begins, is a constant awareness of my surroundings and my inner experiences; sometimes a certain movement or physical exploration triggers ideas of silhouettes, sometimes looking and being immersed in nature gives rise to a question or exploration. Research also comes in handy when I feel a bit stuck, so I read about things that interest me mainly concerning anthropology or psychology. A mix of all of these helps me to bring shapes to life.
How do you balance creating pieces that need to function as vases, lamps or Banquitos while being visually and aesthetically appealing?
In my mind, aesthetics and function are not something that are in friction with each other. And maybe if I saw it as a conflicting concept it would be harder to achieve, but I see it as two parts of a whole. I find that when I think about shape, since they are inspired by the body or nature, they have a natural ergonomic harmony with humans.
I also think that being in touch with my own physicality kind of helps me to think about function in a much more intuitive way. Also, I think the functional pieces are appealing because I have created them with my artistic pulse of creation, not trying to achieve something that responds to trends or sales, but trying to stay true to myself and my voice.
Sustainability is an important aspect of the Ila Ceramica studio. How do you ensure your materials or production processes are environmentally friendly?
We have made several improvements in our studio so that the message that the pieces contain are in harmony with every step of how they were made, taking care of the environment and the resources used for their creation. We have changed all of our energy sources to solar power, we changed our packaging to be completely biodegradable and we have also installed a tramp system that allows us to reuse water and to collect sediments for recycling. We are in constant improvement of our infrastructure and production processes so that with each piece we have a better relationship with the environment.
I am also really careful not to brand them as a fully sustainable or regenerative product, as the materials come from mining and we use a lot of energy (though solar) to fire them, but nonetheless it’s not something that doesn’t have “an impact”. But with that knowledge, we try to make extra efforts to reduce it. I am also currently working in developing pieces and processes that use local clays and lower-temperature fires to bring my work even closer to nature and more simpler materials.
Expanding into wholesale can be a significant milestone for a brand. What led you to consider wholesale, and how do you maintain the unique identity of Ila Ceramica designs while reaching a broader market?
It was actually a pretty organic process that I was not really prepared for. I was invited to an online platform of a fair that was usually in person, but this was during the pandemic so they tried the online format. That was when the first big sale came up. Ila had been around about two years by then, so I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to make every single piece by hand if I was going to sell on a larger scale. That’s when the right hand of the team, Cintya, joined because it was impossible to do everything by myself.
I made casts of the most requested pieces and that’s how the Permanent Collection was born. From then on, everything has been a process of challenges and stepping up our game accordingly, but I feel that I have never sacrificed the voice of Ila (which is very personal to me) for sales or the market. I also intend on keeping our team small so all of our processes can remain clean and clear. But now that I look back at the time when wholesale began to be an option, I think it became the best way to make this an actual business that can be my “full-time” job, because those sales are the backbone of our team and studio. With that safety, I can also explore more experimental paths in the One of a Kind pieces.
Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals for Ila Ceramica? Are there any specific milestones or expansion plans that you hope to achieve in the future?
Growing and expanding is not something that I want to do mindlessly. Part of our philosophy is to slow things down and take time to stop and admire and process what happens around us and inside us. In terms of the team, I think being able to offer a full-time job for everyone and just generally keeping the team well taken care of, with good medical insurance, vacation days, and a good work environment is a great sign of success for me.
Also, continuing to move towards more sustainable practices is something we always have in mind so that would reflect in creating pieces, like I mentioned, that include local clays and primitive fires. I am interested in having more time to make One of a Kind pieces since that is my favorite area for exploration and development of new works.