By KATHRINA PAZ ELEFANTE
In the surfing town of San Narciso, Zambales, a potter finds inspiration and raw materials from its shores. A cluster of white bungalows just a short walk away from the beach is Clay Ave, Mia Casal’s home and workshop where she creates nature-inspired ceramic mugs, cups, and teapots.
The first thing you will notice about her place is her “front yard”–a serene view of rice fields and a brook teeming with tilapia and catfish.
“The view is really the reason that made me decide to move here,” Casal says whose ancestors are from Zambales. “That and the desire to help the locals.”
Casal discovered pottery back in 2002. “I was working for the family business, which is printing textbooks, and then I discovered that I can’t work inside a four-walled space. I was 21 and soul-searching at that time and then a friend of mine told me to go to Ugu Bigyan’s pottery haven in Tiaong, Quezon. So I went there and saw a guy forming a pot with a potter’s wheel. He let me try it and as soon as I felt the spinning clay between my hands, I felt that I wanted to pursue it.”
After that experience, she enrolled in pottery classes with Lanelle Abueva-Fernando and John Pettyjohn. “Pete Cortes was really the one who mentored me,” she reveals. She went on to take classes and apprenticeships in New York by 2006 and ceramic jewelry-making in Italy by 2012.
It comes from black sand. I wanted to incorporate a material that’s based in Zambales. I like it because it somehow represents my environment.
When she decided to move to Zambales, she was confronted with a creative rut. “I would sit at my wheel and my mind would go blank. So every single day, I would walk on the beach shore and I would find pieces of drift wood with barnacles washed ashore after a typhoon.”
The seemingly ordinary sight served as the inspiration for her most distinctive works–barnacle ceramic pieces mounted on dark wood. She also makes home furnishings, kitchen ware, and dining sets, which one can find in Ritual and Aphro Living Art and Design in Makati.
Casal’s pieces also feature subtle yet characteristic speckles. “It comes from black sand. I wanted to incorporate a material that’s based in Zambales. I like it because it somehow represents my environment.”
At the moment, she offers pottery lessons by appointment and plans to offer a couple of bedrooms to students who wish to stay within the compound. Casal is hoping Clay Ave would become a destination for ceramics in the near future. Given her beautiful place and passion for the art form, it’s a likely place where soul-searchers can find what they’re looking for.
Photos by JOVEN LORENZO