Gaya Ceramic is an extensive ceramic design, production and arts center complex located in Bali, Indonesia. Founded in 2001 by Michela Foppiani and Marcello Massoni as a small ceramics studio, over the years the founders have expanded the facility and built a global enterprise. Eight years after its establishment, Hillary Kane founded the separate but symbiotic entity Gaya Ceramic Arts Center, in conjunction with Michela and Marcello.
I must remark on the consistent, impressive level of quality on everything Gaya Ceramics does: their website, the ceramic work they profile on that website, and the training and instruction they offer through their Arts Center. I’ve included some examples of their work in this post. More can be seen on their website.
Gaya Ceramic offers ceramic “collections” (tableware, lighting, amenities, etc) and custom-made, bespoke items sold to top-end restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses.
In addition to design and production facilities housed under the Gaya Ceramic Design Studio, the Gaya Ceramic Arts Center organization offers ceramic workshops and art residencies. The workshop instructors are outstanding practitioners from around the world.
I corresponded with Hillary Kane who founded the Arts Center (and who remains its Creative/Executive Director). I asked her about both sides of the business: the Design Studio and the Arts Center.
GAYA DESIGN STUDIO
JW: When Michela and Marcello started Gaya Ceramic in 2001, did they always plan a large-scale production studio? Or did this develop over time?
HK: They began with just the two of them and the two neighbors in Sayan (2 employees only!), thinking they would just replicate the small pottery they were running just themselves back in Italy. It’s growth has been entirely organic and insistent. They have now near 100 on their team!
JW: What brought Michela and Marcello to Bali?
HK: Michela and Marcello came to Bali at the invitation of the original owner of Gaya Fusion, Stefano Grandi, an Italian entrepreneur and lover of the arts. He had founded Gaya Fusion as an “Art Space”, a fine-dining Italian restaurant, and a few villas– but with a vision to have other branches to the concept.
They were invited to begin a ceramics studio and were in fact a direct part of Gaya Fusion for the first 7 years or so. Then they separated as a different business entity, though of course kept the link through the name and branding. Gaya Gelato was similarly born.
I founded Gaya Ceramic Arts Center was an outgrowth from Gaya Ceramic and Design, but we stand as a separate business entity (though much more like a sister company). A couple of years ago, Eva Champagne stepped in as the Managing Director, and I remain the Creative/Executive Director of the Arts Center. Unfortunately Gaya Fusion did not last and the property has been sold as of a few years ago.
JW: Gaya Ceramic creates both its own collections as well as bespoke products for individual clients. Does one side of that equation dominate or is the work fairly equally divided between the two?
HK: The bespoke products really has led the way for their activities. They create their own collections only for sale in their showroom.
JW: Who develops the designs for the design collections?
HK: Michela Foppiani is the Creative Director and thus she, along with her research and design team.
JW: Do you sell most of your collections through the internet or through the showroom?
HK: Most sales are relationships with clients, beginning with R&D and culminating in their custom order. The showroom does well in retailing as well, and there are even clients who purchase online, though we do not have a specific online shop per se.
GAYA ARTS CENTER
JW: Was the Arts Center set up primarily to address a need for local ceramic arts training or was this envisioned primarily as a forum for international workshops?
HK: It was set up very deliberately as an international workshop center, aiming to attract artists, instructors and participants from all over the world (including of course any interest from on-the-ground individuals– ex-pats and/or Indonesians).
A list of upcoming international workshops is located on the website.
JW: How has the Arts Center evolved over time?
HK: It has grown both in the number of international workshops it holds per year (usually around 10), to the caliber and expertise of the instructors and resident artists coming to teach. Simultaneously, the population of on-the-ground interest has boomed, so our more local “fundamental” programs have also blossomed.
A complete listing of upcoming fundamentals workshops can be found here.
JW: You have some wonderful fundamental and international workshops. Is there a “logic” behind what workshops you put on and the people you bring in to teach them?
HK: For the international workshops, we try to have as much breadth in terms of making style as well as type of firing as possible within the roster for any given year. We aim to attract artists who are really at the peak of their chosen expertise, both incredibly well-known names, and those perhaps less renown but likewise talented.
The Fundamentals programs cater more to entry-level enthusiasts with a few more specified selections tailored to our local audience’s interests as we read them. These programs have only just begun in the past year and a half because of the pandemic, but have been so popular that we will continue them in between our International Workshops.
JW: Can you give me a sense of what students can expect in one of your international workshops?
HK: The workshops are two weeks in length and incredibly immersive: we basically eat, sleep and live clay for a fortnight together. Tremendous growth happens for everyone, regardless of the level of experience coming in. The schedule is such that we have time to really develop in the making, as well as concluding with firing all of the work begun (*some exceptions for large scale figurative workshops).
We share lunches daily, excursions around the island for a day or two out of the studio program, several dinners, and usually much more. Accommodation is individually selected, though we always help in giving suggestions. Most everyone stays in close proximity to the studio itself.
Hillary shared this video with me. I think it gives a sense of the scope of Gaya Ceramic and the enchanting story of its origin, growth and development.