The Authentic Vegas
Eduardo Vega is a treasure of Cuenca. Vega is a world-famous ceramic artist, still creating beauty and art at age 76 from his studio in Turi. When you enter his studio, you’ll see a wide variety of ceramic art, created by Eduardo and his son, Juan Guillermo, who followed his father’s footsteps into the world of ceramics. If you are fortunate, you may be able to speak with either of the Vegas and learn first-hand about their work.
You’ve most likely seen Vega’s art around Cuenca, including the Totems on Remigio Crespo and various murals in governmental buildings and hotels. His work is modern, abstract, and reflects a uniquely Ecuadorian flavor as it celebrates the beauty of Ecuador.
Eduardo Vega realized he wanted to be an artist as a young boy. His parents were very supportive of the arts, especially his mother, Carmela Malo, who was a classical pianist and devoted to social causes in Cuenca. When Eduardo was eighteen, he traveled to Spain to study painting. The sea voyage took a month. He studied for three years in Spain and later in London, then returned to Cuenca when his mother fell ill.
While Vega was in Cuenca, he worked as an interior designer and in the very first ceramic factory in Cuenca. Before that time, all ceramics were hand-made by traditional artisans. Eduardo became fascinated by working in clay and won a prestigious scholarship to study ceramics in School of Fine Arts in Bourges, France.
In 1969, Eduardo returned to Cuenca after completing his study in France and was hired to design the interior of the new Hotel El Dorado, the first modern hotel in Cuenca. Part of that design was a large mural, which started Vega’s work designing murals all over the world. Interestingly, he also worked with traditional potters in Chordeleg, blending the best of their wisdom with the techniques he mastered in France. The project at El Dorado took two years to complete and put Eduardo Vega in the national spotlight.
Since that time, Eduardo Vega has become the most honored ceramic artist in Ecuador. His pottery and murals grace governmental buildings, college campuses, and museums all over the world. His work is very versatile. He creates tableware, decorative plates, vases, and figurines that reflect his love of the flowers, animals and natural beauty of Ecuador. With everything from coasters and mugs to plates and tiles depicting the beauty of the flower market or women washing clothing in the river, a piece of E.Vega art is within reach of most tourists and expats.
In the 1970’s Vega and a partner founded Artesa, a large-scale ceramics factory in Cuenca. Vega was the creative director, formulating all the designs while his partner specialized in the technical aspects. Artesa had humble beginnings. Each of the partners had a shop in the backyard of their homes. The molds and first firings were done at his partner’s workshop, and then Eduardo did the hand painting and final firing. His son, Juan Guillermo, recalls playing with clay and observing his father at work in the backyard. Those early experiences prompted Juan Guillermo to study ceramics in Ecuador and the United States before returning to work with his father at Artesa.
The next twenty years saw great expansion of Artesa and the Vega brand of pottery. A large factory was built and Vega’s designs were exported all over the world. Eduardo signed a contract allowing his name and signature to be used as the brand for all the Artesa projects since they were all designed by him.
Unfortunately in 1998, creative differences arose between the two partners. Eduardo and Juan Guillermo left Artesa to open their studio in Turi. Artesa was later sold.
To ensure that you are looking at an originally manufactured work of art by Eduardo Vega, examine the signature. It should read E.Vega. If it just says Vega, you don’t have the real thing. Only pieces marked E.Vega or Juan Guillermo Vega are authentically manufactured by them.
Both of the Vegas offer their art at their studio in Turi and in boutiques in Cuenca, Quito, Guayaquil, and in selected art studios and museums around the world.
Their Turi studio is a bustling place with approximately twenty-five employees working in various stages of ceramic production. The Vegas create all the designs. Staff assist in building molds, firing the ceramic pieces in large kilns as well as in hand painting and glazing. Each piece, from mugs and coasters, to intricate vases, is produced to exacting quality standards with a firing process that takes 12 hours to ensure lasting beauty.
Eduardo mostly prefers creating murals, as the large size makes them a creative challenge. He may work for eight to twelve months on a single mural. First, he creates the design, then builds the work in sections like puzzle pieces. When all the pieces are finished, he will travel with a team to the location to install it.
Murals are commissioned works of art. Vega tells the story of a tourist who visited his shop in Turi several years ago and fell in love with the art. Some time later, this tourist, who was a dean at a major university in the United States, commissioned a large mural for installation in a new building on his campus. Most of the murals created by Vega are in public buildings, hotels, or in private collections.
While Juan was growing up, he always enjoyed drawing but never thought of formal art studies until he was doing an exchange year in Elliot, Maine where he got really involved in his art class and many important school projects. It was during this time that Juan’s passion for art began to blossom.
Through many years of education, travel and research projects in traditional potter communities around Ecuador, Juan has honed his skills to the point that he has also become a renowned potter. In developing a style of his own, he has been hired to do custom work including ceramic tiles, murals and complete kitchen remodels.
The Vegas are busy creating new designs and plans. They plan to expand their studio at Turi and add a small café as well as additional space for a pottery wheel and more kilns. Juan Guillermo laughs when he shares that the current studio is so full that he has to use his pottery wheel at home in his laundry room. There is no room for it at Turi.
Vega has traveled all over the globe to study ceramics. His designs have been widely copied and inspired ceramists around the world. Because of his innovative use of modern abstract design, art by Eduardo Vega is recognized and collected in major museums.
Eduardo Vega shows no signs of slowing down his work. He is constantly creating new designs and enjoying his creative life in Turi. From the sheltered young man who left Cuenca at eighteen to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist, to the world-renowned creator of murals and ceramics, Eduardo Vega is a testament to the joy of art and creativity.
Take a trip up to Turi and visit the E.Vega studio at Via Turi 201, which is open daily. You can also visit the website at: www.eduardovega.com or call them at (07) 281-7177.