Fernanda ‘Julieta’ Cortes Garcia, Ceramics and Glass, Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholar 2014 – 2016

Julieta has approached ceramics from various angles ranging from industrial design, where mass production and hard structures come into play, to art, where she has the freedom to explore ideas and emotions. A graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – UNAM), Julieta hopes to share her knowledge of traditional Mexican crafts and ceramic techniques to create impact in communities.

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In Conversation with Fernanda

Q: Please talk us through your research/areas of interest over the past two years and work produced.

A: I had the privilege to study at the Royal College of Art, Ceramics & Glass department as part of the first generation of five students awarded with Abraaj Innovation Scholarship. During my studies, I acquired personal and professional maturity. I spent time in the studio with different professionals from around the word and I had the opportunity to meet and share with them my passion for clay. Throughout the challenges I had to face during the last two years, I had the chance to express my unique voice as an individual and I feel I started to leave my own mark as an artist in this world. As a brief lesson, I understood competition is not determined by the standard of other people; it only can be satisfied by personal ambitions.

These two years were the birth of ‘my own Master.’ I recognised my intellectual capacity, my knowledge of the material and manual skills. I observed the potentiality of my BA in Industrial Design because I demonstrated high qualities through different exercises during the first year, for example: I designed a double casting cup for hot drinks inspired my investigation thesis, which addresses the subject of Mexican cooking utensils, I reinterpreted a Tulip Vase from the 18th Century, I created a series of plates and graphic design on them and also, I drew different versions of a Mexican Vessel. I identified my particular and personal matter to abstract and create objects. However, my process of thinking was educated towards mass production and I felt curiosity to create objects not reproducible with unique characteristics.

So, during the second year of the master I decided to sculpt with the motivation to express my ideas and emotions through an object deprived of machinery control but with the freedom to approach clay with fresh eyes. I finalised with a series of sculptures entitled ‘Sharik’s leftovers’ inspired by the book ‘Heart of a Dog’ by Mikhail Bulgakov. I talked about different feelings through animals, as if human postures, gestures and emotions were not so far from the main character of the book. I received brilliant feedback and comments from the audience, tutors, curators and writers.

Q: How do you think your work in ceramics can positively impact Mexico City?

A: Ceramic is commonly viewed as a craft in Mexico. I would like to promote ceramics as a specialist artistic discipline by experimenting with different European and Asian techniques on native Mexican materials. Additionally, I would like to work with Mexican student artists and designers to encourage them to develop specialist skills in ceramic art and combine this with design and innovation.

Q: Overall, what difference you think an RCA MA degree has made to your practice?

A: As a recent graduate from the RCA I can tell my professional practice is considered one of the best and with a high-rank of professionalism in my field.

Q: How instrumental has the diversity and community experience contributed to your growth?

A: Through collaborating and interacting with students across colleges, I learn about various disciplines and cultural art techniques. This mix brings innovation into my projects.

Q: What plans do you have now that you have graduated from the RCA?

A: I want to continue working with clay as a principal material and develop my career as a recognised Mexican Ceramicist. In order to achieve this, I would like to stay in Europe for a couple of years to develop professional connections, work and projects (e.g. working with makers, artists, curators, writer, industrial, etc.) then, come back to Mexico to share and teach this invaluable knowledge as the Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholarship has inspired me to do. The foundation of my own studio is my main ambition.

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