I first came across the unique creations of The Awesome Project, a collaboration between illustrator Mădălina Andronic and graphic designer Claudiu Ștefan, at a designer fair in Bucharest a while ago and I have been following their work ever since. It’s not complicated to understand why: every piece of their handmade porcelain decorative objects, jewellery and homeware collections is truly one of a kind. Furthermore, each one of them tells a story. They are all inspired by Romanian folklore, but staying true to a modern aesthetic at the same time. What’s really amazing is that if I wanted to find familiar figures from my childhood fairy tales transported into the present (because magic plays a part in their designs too, you’ll see), I know that these talented artists could do it. But I think that most of all I like how this project is really an invitation to beautiful living, to make every day special and celebrate the little things, like dinner with your family.
What is the story behind The Awesome Project? How did it all begin?
Officially, The Awesome Project was founded two years ago, but we had it in our minds since university years – we wanted something made entirely by hand and by the two of us, a finished piece to speak about us. We wanted to show the world that you don’t have to be a ceramic artist or a sculptor to work with porcelain and other materials. You just have to come up with a beautiful concept and do your research. We both majored in Art, but we love trying out different techniques and approaches which don’t necessarily match our degrees.
We are passionate about what we do and we’ve learnt everything by ourselves – trial and error. Consistency, obstination, love for everything delicate, beautiful and our Romanian heritage as a source or inspiration made The Awesome Project into what it is today: “an experimental journey of a multidisciplinary creative duo through the awesome milky-silky world of porcelain, with a touch of Romanian folklore. Our wish is to create heart-to-heart, beautifully adorned decorative objects for individuals and their homes.” We might not be a huge working team (it’s just the two of us), we might not have shops around the world, but we are pouring our hearts and souls into every piece we make and people around the world become more and more interested in our work.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Like we said before, The Awesome Project makes ‘porcelain with Romanian touch’. We find our inspiration in old traditional textiles, rugs, decorations and objects, but also in modern shapes and visuals. We are not creating ‘the new-old piece’, we are interested in making contemporary porcelain objects with bits and pieces of folk magic – that is why we only took a drop of Romanian traditional motifs and recreated an entirely new graphic system, our own Awesome decoration style, which gives the intimate feeling of something old and enchanted, but still finds its place in a modern environment.
What is your design process like? How do you begin and bring your ideas to life?
Since we are only two people working at every aspect of The Awesome Project (while doing our other graphic and illustration jobs too), we usually present two main collections every year, plus the occasional ‘something-else’. We started with porcelain jewellery, then moved to decorative objects and tableware. We are our own bosses and that’s the beauty of it – we can make whatever we want, whenever we want, as long as it has ‘the awesomeness’ in it. So once we decided on a theme for the collection, we make sketches, choose titles and make trials, then, attack. We are making our porcelain in the old-school, Maiolica technique, so the basic design process for an Awesome Project piece is pretty laborious:
• the clay material is prepared
• the object is shaped by hand
• the object is finished/polished/wet-sanded
• the object is fired for the first time at 800°C (bisque-firing)
• the object is decorated by hand with metallic oxides or pigments
• the object is glazed
• the object is fired for the second time at 1100°-1300° (depending on the type of clay)
Your tableware collection has a name that sounds more like a fairy tale line: “Table, Lay Yourself!”. Where did this idea come from?
We made it a habit for every collection or series to have a name. Since the folklore is our main source of inspiration and we create magic, delicate pieces, it was only fair that our tableware collection received a fairytale-inspired name – “Table, Lay yourself!” is a well known tale with multiple versions in both Romanian and international literary world, each with its own specific details, but always keeping the idea of a table which magically appears out of nowhere, all set and beautifully loaded.
Can you tell me a bit about your latest line, “Winter Blues”, and the collection of little porcelain sculptures, “Blue Bestiary”? Again, I’m intrigued by the name.
“Winter Blues” is a collection of decorative objects for Holidays and winter. We decided to keep everything in blue-ish hues against the milky white of the porcelain, giving the impression of a delicate, melancholic vegetal world frozen under the translucent ice of the glaze. The shapes were simple and dreamy (clouds, fish, birds, balloons, houses), adorned with floral and vegetal motifs, all together creating a beautiful, fragile and airy blue winter. The pieces of the collection included simple hanging decorations and mobiles with handpicked sprigs.
On the other hand, “Blue Bestiary” is a Mădălina Andronic project, a mini-series of porcelain sculptures inspired by the characters in her illustrations, delicious one-of-a-kind creatures living in the enchanted Blue China Land, guarding all sweet dreams and innocent matters. It’s a fragile family of shy and sleepy little beasts, all love, refinement, double-fired porcelain and underglaze decorations – to be continued.
Do you also create personalized items on request?
We do take orders from clients and work on commission, but there are some aspects the clients should be aware of: since we only make one-of-a-kind pieces, we do not make decoration doubles of already sold items. We do not personalize our objects with messages or decorations other than those which truly represent The Awesome Project brand and also, we do not alter the shape or concept of our already launched objects. We love and respect our brand, so we encourage a little bit of respect for one’s concept and hard work. Other than that, people can order anything and everything and even come up with really challenging requests. We are always happy to hear from your!
Is there any new project you are working on at the moment?
Right now we just got back from our winter vacation and the wheels are already starting to move. We are mainly working on a new tableware collection and also flirting with some small-series of beautifully decorated porcelain tiles, for people who love their homes.
A special thank you to Mădălina and Claudiu for accepting my invitation.
photos: courtesy of The Awesome Project