Jaume Roig

“With my hands I create stories”

He made his first piece at the age of 4, and by 12 he was already working in the workshop owned by his mother, the artist Malena Roig. After spending a period during which he came to “hate” this trade and working as a builder and plumber, the Mallorcan ceramicist Jaume Roig (Palma, 1981) now exhibits his works in art galleries and sells pieces in Paris, defending the love of “useless things” and the pleasure of playing like children.

Jaume Roig plunges his hands into a block of damp clay on the work table dotted with white paint. The clay penetrates between his fingers without touching his long, thin arms. He pulls it, hits it, kneads it, hits it again, squashes it, moulds it, hits it once more…

The cadence of movement swings his light, curly hair, covering half his face. The piece will be a goblet, or a jug, or a plate. Or perhaps one of those huge ceramic vases over there that await their journey to France from this little workshop in Ses Salines, in the south of the island, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and sky and this calmness that inspires him to work when night falls. “It’s automatic: as the sun starts to go down, I am activated, re-encountering myself. I can work until three in the morning – there are no factors to distract me at that time. I can’t work during the day, I cross the threshold and everything is full of life: the birds, so much nature...”

“Everyone has their strong point and mine is my hands. They work on their own for me. With them I create stories, I can learn and play...”. As well as clay, the wheel is a necessary ally for Jaume. And the gas bottles connected to the square kiln next to the wall, beneath some dark jugs that were deformed because one fateful day the pyrometer failed to measure the temperature correctly and melted these defective pieces at over 1300 degrees.

In the workshop large pieces share space with small ones, different types of pots, wires, an old radio, the odd painting, lots of clay, animal crania, pieces of wood and buckets. Dogs wander at will in and out of the space, which forms part of his simple house, decorated with commonplace furniture, some of his own works and tapestries designed by Adriana, his partner.

Jaume shapes his pieces without gloves. He is an artist and a person who is more connected to the earth than to concepts, someone who sees ceramics as a philosophy for life, as a process in which water, earth, air and fire take part, all of which he has worked with since he was twelve years old. “We have to take care of our inner child, develop it, seek out a taste for nonsense. If we focus more on the artistic theme and not so much on the utilitarian side, when you create a sculpture you are paying tribute to the most useless thing that exists: a piece of junk you are going to place in your home. And that is very childish. Of a child who plays for the sake of it, to while away the time and nothing more”.

The son of the artist Malena Roig, Jaume was raised with his brother Joan, “a very good wheel operator” and ceramics teacher in Marratxí. As a child, after school he would sometimes go and play football with the neighbours, and other times he would go to his mother’s workshop to help or just pass the time. He would draw, dismantle toys which he sometimes put back together again. Because his calligraphy was so good, he would write congratulations cards as communion mementos on pieces of ceramic, he remembers proudly. “I learned to knead clay from my mother. Back then all the money for the household came from the workshop; we were raised without our father. I made my first piece there. I had a rubber pilot in my hand, the kind that were on toy motorbikes, I took a piece of put the little man inside it and started rolling it around really fast. I was four at the time”.

Ceramics shaped his personality, defined his vision of the profession and his conception as an artist and labourer. “There was no money at home and I wanted to study sculpture. The possibilities were to go to Barcelona, to the Basque Country or to Valencia. But I wasn’t sure about it and at the same time I wanted to live my life... My mother had a storeroom near the workshop which she didn’t use. She told me I could have it if I fixed it up. So I turned those 20 square metres in the Santa Clara neighbourhood of Palma into my first workshop. In it I would create moulds, figurative sculptures, I learned to work on volume...”.

...Until one day, when I was 18, I began to doubt. “I had an intense crisis, to the point that I came to hate ceramics and everything I had done until then”. He forgot about the profession and tried working as a plumber, then as a builder; he also did boat maintenance... And then one fine day the love of ceramics ensnared him again, has not left him ever since. 

The winner of the Premio Benet Más 2017 at the Marratxí Ceramics Fair, in January of this year he held his first solo exhibition at the Aba Art Lab gallery in Palma. In it he invited spectators to enter into “a new, sincere and visceral world”. His work can also be seen at the Maison d´art de Amélie du Chalard, in Paris.

Jaume Roig believes that Mallorcan art is every bit as good as that of Paris or New York. He thinks that the new generations are unaware of the rich local artistic tradition. And he admires the work of the ceramicist Margalida Escalas, the painter Rafael Joan and the sculptor Ferrán Aguiló, amongst other names from the Balearic Islands.

“My modest demand is to travel on the path from ceramics to painting, not from painting to ceramics. Until a ceramicist is considered a painter, we won’t have equal conditions. At the end of the day, it is a creative issue, but you don’t achieve anything without work. I don’t understand that art which is about sitting down and thinking. Creativity and great ideas come the more work you put in. And for my, this profession is everything”.

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