a story of love for molding and conscious design
Beatriz is the founder of La Polaca, the ceramic jewelry brand that’s a hit in Spain due to their beautiful, conscious designs and affordable prices.
I met Bea a few years ago, when I went to her studio after seeing a friend wearing one of her pieces. Immediately I fell in love with everything she had on display in her beautiful studio: the starfish, the tiny hearts in white and gold, the trinket dishes and mugs… Everything was made by hand, with a lot of love and you could easily tell.
Paying a visit to La Polaca’s studio is always on my to do list whenever I’m in Murcia for holidays. Apart from checking out the new collection, I love having a chat with Bea because she is pure light and positive energy. By the time you leave her studio you are floating in good vibes.
I thought of interviewing her, because I was very curious to know how everything started. When did she decide to start her business and what were the good moments and the bad ones. I just wanted to learn from her, and to share it with you so that you can also learn something new and experience that wonderful positive energy that La Polaca evokes.
Make yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable because here is the story of Beatriz, aka. La Polaca.
So how did everything start and why did you decide to make a living out of ceramic jewelry?
It’s all related to my personal life as I’ve always been interested in art. I went to art school and one of the courses we could choose from was ceramics. A few classmates and I started making our own accessories just for fun but soon realised that people really liked them and that we could sell them. This is when we saw that people appreciate handmade stuff and that we could maybe start a small business with ceramics.
When I finished my studies at Arts School, I had the option to either go to University or study a higher course in art, and that’s what I did. I was so fascinated by the art of ceramic and sculpture that I stayed 2 more years to finish the higher education course. It was very clear for me that this was my passion.
Where does this creativity come from? Does it run in the family?
No, not really. My dad and my Sister are Teachers, my Brother is an engineer… So I don’t really know where it comes from. But I do know that I was bored to death at school and the only moments when I was truly happy was on weekends when I got to spend time doing what I really loved. I loved grabbing seeds from trees to make necklaces or play with mud for hours.
So when I transferred to Art school my life truly changed. I finally felt fulfilled and happy. I feel like nowadays there are alternative schools that really encourage creativity in children and really listen to them. That is amazing because it avoids frustration at that early age. Not everyone is good for arts or science.
The reason why I like ceramics so much is because I like to see the creative evolution of things instantly. This is something that you can’t have with painting or photography, as they have a slower process to see the final result. With ceramics you are really seeing since the very beginning how the shape is created. There is a result from the start.
When did you realize you could sell the pieces you were just making for fun?
When I started making ceramic pieces I started taking seriously having an extra income. I started making series of necklaces and sell them in street markets. I looked for the ones that were more interesting for me and booked a small space. I used to just lay the necklaces on the floor and the pieces just sold themselves. But everything went very slowly.
I learnt with time that I had to really be selective with where I put my product and in front of what public.
Tell me more about those experiences. Any example from which you learnt a valuable lesson for other entrepreneurs?
Of course. I remember I used to sell in medieval markets, and I shouldn’t have done that because that was not my public. That’s why I said earlier that it’s very important to know who your client is.
The truth is that at the time that was all there was. The craftsmanship and design markets that we find nowadays are quite recent but they didn’t exist here back then.
I learnt that not everyone values craftsmanship and that’s why it was important to offer my product to those who truly appreciate it. If you do design, a medieval market is not the place for you because that public, generally, is not interested in design.
But things have changed a lot since then. Today we can see that there is a boom in craftsmanship and creativity is truly valued. But despite that I attend only one event per year and I still see clients that ask things like “and this painted rock costs 20 euros?”
These are comments for which you need to be prepared. Some people don’t realise what the creation process is and the work that’s behind each piece. But even if they are not your clients, it is very important to explain everything with love and care.
Did you have another job before jumping full time into ceramics?
Yes, I used to work as a ceramic teacher with kids in schools and I also had a job in an accessories company.
So then you’ve always been involved with ceramics and design?
Yes, always. Even when I was in Arts School I was also working as a teacher with kids and during weekends I made accesories and sell them.
The idea of doing this for a living was a buzz that I used to always have in my head but to which I never paid enough attention. And when I did pay attention to it it was unstoppable.
When did the studio come along?
It took a while but the time had to come. That buzz I was talking about earlier is always with you, it’s that thing you need to do. It’s your path.
But until you feel ready for it, you start doing other things like educating yourself, mature and grow up. In fact, right before setting up the studio, I worked as a designer in an accessory company and I learnt a lot there.
I used to do sketches of the pieces, the photography and editing. I was covering a maternity leave and soon before my contract expired I went to speak with my manager to see if I was going to renew the contract. They said yes, but something didn’t work out at the end and it didn’t happen. I felt awful, but later I realised that what happened was a blessing and the best thing that could ever happen to me.
On top of that, my landlord decided she wanted my apartment back and I had to move out. It was the place where I lived but also where I made the pieces, as I had a small room dedicated to it. So overnight I saw myself jobless, homeless and workshopless
But I think in all negative there is always something positive, as long as you are able to see it.
So I had to go back to my parent’s and start over. I soon found out that there were some studios for rent in the old town, Plateria street, and the price was good. I didn’t think twice and signed a contract, knowing that this had to work out for me.
You signed a lease blindly, believing that your ideas was going to work?
Yes, exactly. I just knew that everything was going to be fine. I wasn’t scared and I didn’t doubt myself. I signed for a year. As I always say, if you can believe it you can achieve it. Once I really paid attention to the buzz in my head everything started working out. That same month I created the starfish collection, and I knew that if I worked hard, everything would be okay.
And where does the brand name La Polaca come from? Many entrepreneurs spend a huge amount of time thinking of a name for their brand. Was that the case for you too?
No, not at all! It was a name chosen by chance. I was with a group of friends and we decided that I needed a name for the brand because my own name, Beatriz Alfonso, wasn’t gonna cut it. So we started to say names for fun, La Polaca came up and we went with it. I remember that the next day I had an interview in a radio station and I had to say a brand name, and I went with La Polaca. I slowly worked on the brand name giving it different touches until I created it’s identity.
What is the creation process of a piece?
All the pieces I mould are the result of a life experience of mine. I get a feeling, a sensation and I visualize it in a piece and I create it.
I don’t use any computer software to design them. I write a lot, I meditate visualizing a piece. I narrate my feelings, think of a keyword… I look at images online but I never check what other ceramists are doing.
Ideas are in the air.
And once I have the piece in my mind, I mould it in ceramic or porcelain, depending on the piece. The I cook it in the oven and after that comes the glazing process. There are some glazes that come already mixed and prepared, and you know exactly what colour is going to come out of the oven. But there are others that you can mix yourself and that is pure alchemy. I take the oxides, the colorants, the pigments… I put them together in a mortar, sift them and once they go to the oven, you never know what colour will come out. It’s pure magic.
Once the piece is finished, I get the product photography done and upload on social media and the website.
And the materials that you use?
All the materials I use to create the pieces are made in Spain and I get them from Spanish suppliers. Except the chains for the necklaces that I wasn’t able to find here and bring them from Korea.
I have the feeling that the heart pieces are the best sellers…
Yes, I love the heart and what it represents. I believe love is what moves the world, the oxygen that we breath. The love for your job, your home, your plants, your body… Love for everything except material things. If I had to choose a shape, it would be the heart. I believe that love is the cure for everything.
You irradiate an amazing positive energy. Tell me what the secret is, please!
I always say that it’s super easy to be happy. You just need to get the exact ingredients that make you happy and not follow what’s established. Sometimes it can seem like you either do what people say or you are worthless. We live in a society with lots of prejudices that label everything. When you are able to come out of that bubble and really not give a damn about what people say, you reach a state of equilibrium that allows you to be truly happy.
It’s true that there is always an internal fight and reaching that state is a process that can take years. I make positive affirmations everyday and give thanks for having clients, for having this job, for being creative. It helps to stay out of those social labels that people make.
I also surround myself of very few people because the more people around you the more opinions and judgements you’ll get. They feel entitled to tell their views on what you do, what you are or even how you dress… And then you go to bed with all those comments in your head and you get confused about who you are and what you feel.
In my job I do whatever I want to do and that’s what makes me happy. I don’t work for money because I absolutely love what I do, I live through it and I know that if I didn’t do this for a living I would be unhappy.
Do you consider yourself lucky? Or do you think that the success of La Polaca is the result of your hard work?
I think I’m incredibly lucky. Sometimes I think about and I just can’t believe it. I’m very, very lucky but I also work very hard.
People tell me that I work too much but I don’t really realize it because I just enjoy it so much and makes me happy. This year though I’ve set myself the goal of having much more social life, because sometimes I’m not even aware of the things I miss and it’s so important to be present.
I believe that there are key ingredients that make a business work, and one of them is love. Since art is art, no true artist has ever worked for money. Artists develop art through their experiences. All my pieces carry something behind, something I’ve experienced or something I have seen with my own eyes. The truth is that I put so much love to every piece I make. If everyone could work really out of love, the world would be a different place.
The story of La Polaca is full love for arts, ceramic and to herself, because if Bea hadn’t believed in herself, despite everything that got in the way of her business, La Polaca would not exist today. There would be less pretty things in this world and also less love spread around. La Polaca reminded me how important it is to follow whatever is that you are passionate about. That in which you always invest your free time and that fills the voids of your daily routine. Her story also reminded me that you are the first one that needs to believe in yourself and not listen to everyone’s opinion, because only you know what’s inside of you and it’s the only way to discover what you are really capable of.
Tropikelle’s favourites from La Polaca:
Where to find La Polaca: