Open Fires is a collaboration between Liliana Ovalle and Colectivo 1050º that explores firing processes used in vernacular pottery in Oaxaca. The series includes five one-of-a-kind vases crafted by the artisans Mujeres del Barro Rojo—a family of female ceramists in Tlapazola who inherited an ancestral technique for utilitarian red clay pottery. Each piece is skillfully shaped by hand and subsequently exposed to a fire that produces a black smoked finish. The vases are designed with flat extensions where organic combustible materials like agave leaves and dung are placed to create a small contained fire. The permanent black traces remain as a unique imprint of the intensity and direction of the flames. All the materials used in the clay and the firing process are sourced locally by the artisans. Due to the handmade process, variations in tones and texture are part of the finishing.
Born in Mexico, Ovalle is a London-based designer who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2006. Her diverse practice encompasses commissions and production pieces—for MAXXI Museum, Nodus, Plusdesign Gallery, and more— and often explores vernacular craft techniques.
Ovalle’s work has been widely exhibition at international venues like Design Miami, Gallery Libby Sellers, and Museo Poldi Pezzoli and is part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts & Design, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2006, she received the Talent Award by the British Council and in 2008 the Mexican Clara Porset Special Award. In 2015, she was granted the Talents à la Carte recognition by Maison et Object. Ovalle is Research Fellow at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths University of London.