Sometimes I realize that I was looking for something only after I have found what it was that I was looking for. And so it was, one Saturday morning I was browsing through a large department store when, from a distance, I spotted and immediately had to have some brightly colored and richly designed ceramic plates and bowls. My hands were crowded with the things I had been picking up along the way, but the moment I spotted the Cerámica Del Río Salado bowls and plates, I put all the things that now felt like heavy burdens in my hands by the wayside and walked purposefully over to examine the beautiful delicate ceramic plates. These plates, I decided then and there, were really why I was in the store that morning, and mentally I saw them replacing the dishes I had at home.
As I stood looking at the observable differences on each of the pieces — the plates and bowls handmade with great care — I wondered who, in this day and age, made handmade pieces that could be bought in a large department store.
So I went to find out the story behind these beautiful ceramic pieces.
Cerámica Del Río Salado is a family-owned business located in La Rambla, a small town in the Andalucían region of Spain. Today the company is owned and operated by four brothers, but, says co-owner Jesus Del Río Salado, “It was my father who started the company in 1969. My father at the time was working as a young man in a company that fabricates ceramic. He really liked what he was doing and he came home and was telling my mother about it. He and my mother decided back then to start their life together by creating and operating their own ceramic company. They named their company Jose Del Río Salado, which was my father’s name. This is how our company came into the world of ceramics.”
Given the rich history associated with the company that his father started, I wondered what brought about the company’s change of name from Jose Del Río Salado to Cerámica Del Río Salado. “We are four brothers who now work in, own and manage the company,” Jesus told me. “When my brothers and I took ownership of the company, we changed the name to give a sense of our new role in a new company.”
The company makes a wide variety of ceramic products for the kitchen, for decorations, to be given as gifts, and for the garden, as well as producing one-of-a-kind pieces upon request. “Our designs, which are exclusive and patented, are made by a team of four designers who work to develop pieces that show the human handprint in the making of the pieces.”
Of course when I told him how much I liked his handmade pottery, so much so that I wanted to feature it on Meaningful Designs, Jesus was delighted. “My brothers and I, we grew up working in ceramics and we love working in ceramics. We are always on the lookout for something new, and we are always experimenting with new designs and new colors. We are always on the lookout for new customers. Part of the work that we produce and sell is for our local and national market, here in Spain. But in the last decade or so we have been reaching out to an export market, and so we are delighted that you have such a positive reaction to our products. We try to personalize the work we do here at Cerámica Del Río Salado, so that we can reach as many people in as many countries as possible.”
This method of personalizing ceramics for individuals and different markets in different countries seems to be working. The small family-owned business has quadrupled its sales volume in recent years and has expanded the list of countries that it exports to. It now directly employs twenty individuals to work in the company’s facilities, while another twenty individuals work indirectly in trying to meet the increased demands for their products.
Not bad, for a small family-owned company.
Cerámica Del Río Salado also offers a series of national prizes for ceramics. “The national prizes are held every year in Córdoba City,” Jesus told me, “and I guess we started them because for many years my father won many prizes in ceramics, and my brothers and I won some too. We started thinking that it would be a good way of ‘giving back’ to a community that has given so much to our family, by having a prize associated with the place where our company is located and where our family is from. So we have these ceramics prizes and competitions in various categories including one that is open to candidates on pieces of ceramics with no decoration, to valorize just the shape and the craftsmanship of the piece. Another prize concerns ceramic painting and drawing by hand. We have several categories, and very much enjoy putting on these competitions.”
Following up on the theme of “giving back” and safeguarding of traditions, Cerámica Del Río Salado pays particular attention to environmental concerns. “The place where we work is known for its stunning clay which has given a certain look to ceramics from this region for years going back to the Bronze ages. Our company is based in an area in Spain known for its primary materials, and for having a rich history linked to the production of pottery. The clay from our area, however, is no longer used in ceramics and pottery, so we now make our products largely with imported clay. We urge the companies that we buy our clay from to pay attention to the environment, and to work to safeguard the environment, as we do in our work. After all, this earth is the only one we’ve got!”
Contact Cerámica Del Río Salado at: http://www.delriosalado.com
Until next time.
Soumia Aamar Ikrame helped with the reporting on this article and Michelle Vassallo worked on translations.