Maker Spotlight: Perro y Arena | Fireclay Tile
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Maker Spotlight: Perro y Arena

By Lindsey

Maker Spotlight: Perro y Arena

“Perro y Arena is an invitation for us to dance with coyotes and hares while we sing to the moon,” according to founder and artist Sócrates Medina. A former Los Angeles Designer, Sócrates credits his architectural background with his approach to ceramics (and with his introduction to Fireclay Tile!).

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we sat down with Sócrates to talk about his folkloric and cultural inspiration, what’s next for the Tijuana-based ceramics studio, and the nostalgic significance behind the name Perro y Arena. Keep reading for the full interview!

Meet Sócrates Medina

Socrates Medina, Ceramicist

Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

Hi Sócrates! We'd love to hear about the significance behind the name “Perro y Arena” (aka "Dog and Sand")?

    The name Perro y Arena was the result of one of my first ceramic figurines, a little white ceramic dog. The dog was made of sand-colored clay that I covered with white slip and then carved different illustrations revealing the clay below. When I first worked with clay, it was very nostalgic. It brought back childhood memories of playing with sand and Play-Doh. As I explored different shapes and styles I started focusing on creating pieces and imagery that was very unique to my experiences.

    Perro y Arena Ceramic Coyote Sculpture

    Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

    The main essence and inspiration for Perro y Arena is Baja California-- her mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests, and the animals that coexist with us like coyotes, owls, hares, pumas, and rams. The clays that I use resemble the soils of the deserts and beaches and my figures and illustrations are a way of recording the flora and fauna that surround me.

    Ceramic Coyote

    Photo by: Sócrates Medina

    My project has a very strong connection to nature, to the moon, to the warmth of fire, and mimics the serenity and calmness that I experience in this natural environment. The tones of the clay also give a warm feeling that is reminiscent of Baja.

    Ceramic Vase by Perro y Arena

    Photo by: Sócrates Medina

    Most of my figurines are seated on the ground with their legs crossed or hanging on a ledge, they are lying down looking at the moon or at each other reminding us to take a moment for ourselves, to pause a little in our busy lives, and enjoy being present. Perro y Arena is an invitation for us to dance with coyotes and hares while we sing to the moon.

    Perro y Arena Handmade Ceramic Sculptures

    Photo by: Gabriela C Walther

    You began your professional career as a designer. Can you tell us about how you started working with clay and how architecture ties into your ceramic work?

      I received a Bachelor of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona with a minor in Art History. During my last semester of architecture school, I took a ceramics class as a distraction and therapeutic way of releasing stress, and it really was distracting. I fell in love with ceramics, the process, and the infinite possibilities. Much of it was thanks to the amazing professor I had, Gina Lawson Egan. Her mystical and whimsical work is very inspirational and the way she worked the clay was so familiar to me, and really sparked a part of my brain that had been waiting to come back to life.

      Sócrates Medina

      Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

      After graduating, I moved to Highland Park in Los Angeles, CA where I worked as a designer at an architecture firm, designing single-family residences and art-related projects such as galleries and art installations. Even though the style and shapes of my pieces don’t have a direct relation to architecture, the way I work is very much a result of my architectural background.

      Perro y Arena hand-drawn illustrations on ceramic

      Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

      My approach when starting a new piece is very similar to how I would start an architectural project, with research, sketches, mockups, and samples. Photographing my process to the finished piece and how the piece is presented to the public are also all skills that I used when photographing architectural models or creating drawings for presentations. There is a lot of visual and graphic design that I use to enhance the finished piece.

      One fun fact is that during my time in the architecture firm I became very familiar with Fireclay Tile and used many of the tile samples for our mood boards!

      Socrates Medina, Ceramic Artist

      Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

      You've described your creative process as "meditative and a true expression of how you're feeling in the moment." What does a typical day look like for you in the studio and how do you get into a flow to begin creating?

        A typical day in my studio involves a little bit of everything since I work on multiple projects at once and all at different stages. Each piece I make is handmade, sculpted, carved, and painted. The production of each piece takes about 2-3 weeks, this includes the building, drying, painting, glazing, and firing. I also do all the photography and marketing that surrounds each piece. And every single part of the process I enjoy is all dependent on each other. The work I make is a very true expression of how I am feeling. I do have to be mentally stable and calm to work, but the beauty of ceramics is that I am able to fully focus on one single thing since you need your mind and body to be working in harmony.

        Socrates Medina, Perro y Arena Artist

        Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

        Wow! There are so many different processes that go into each of your creations! Is there a part of your process that is your favorite?

          I do enjoy every single part of the process, from sketching out an idea to starting to shape the piece with the clay and the whole firing process. In the end, I appreciate seeing the pieces come out safe from the kiln after their last fire.

          Perro y Arena Ceramic Sculptures

          Photo by: Sócrates Medina

          My favorite part of the process has to be photographing my work once it’s all done. Here is where I am able to bring my pieces to life and capture the feeling that I want my work to portray. I always photograph my pieces in the mornings with natural sunlight.

          Perro y Arena

          Photo by: Sócrates Medina

          I set up my little photo station with a colored paper backdrop and use some dry plants and leaves to decorate the set. I also use video to capture the piece and its function, like lighting up some incense or pouring water from a mezcalero into a little cup. Whenever I go on a hike or a trip to the mountains I take some pieces with me and photograph them in what would be their natural habitat. I set my “guardianes” by a small creek and sit with them to listen to the flowing water or on top of a rocky mountain to watch the sunset.

          Perro y Arena Ceramic Coyote with Fire

          Photo by: Sócrates Medina

          When you think about all the pieces you've created over the years, is there one that is particularly special to you?

            It is very hard to choose a certain piece as a favorite because I enjoy making every single one. There are so many pieces I have made that have a very special meaning, whether I used a new technique, made it in a workshop, if I was feeling a certain way, or where I was at the moment I created that piece. I mentioned before that my process is very meditative and I am in a very calm mental state when creating these pieces.

            Blue Ceramic Plates

            Photo by: Sócrates Medina

            The coyote “guardianes” have become my most common character and most natural instinct. Whenever I feel uninspired or just need to get my hands working the first piece to come is always coyotes; from sculpting their faces, painting their eyes, to how I position their legs are all little things that make each piece unique and special.

            Perro y Arena Ceramic Sculptures

            Photo by: Sócrates Medina

            Your work has been featured in galleries all over Mexico and California. Is there an upcoming showcase that you're excited to promote?

              These last couple of months I’ve been focusing on creating work for two exhibits in San Diego and Tijuana. Opening on Sept 23, I will have work featured at the Mingei International Museum’s shop as their artist in residence for San Diego Design Week. The collection is titled “Danzando con Coyotes” and is an invitation to dance and sing with coyotes to the moon. This collection includes some of the biggest pieces I have ever made and a collaboration with artisans from Oaxaca.

              Mexican Artist

              Photo by: Lordag & Sondag

              On September 24 I will be part of Matiz Estudio’s group exhibition called Materia 2.0 with the theme “inspiration”. This small collection of earth-toned pieces will be a continuation of the coyotes and an admiration of the earth and the sun. This exhibit features the work of an amazing group of ceramicists from different cities in the northern region of Mexico.

              I have two other exhibitions/events in the planning stages for San Francisco and Los Angeles. I will be announcing those as soon as the dates are finalized.

              Does your heritage and culture influence your work? If so, how?

                Mexico is a huge inspiration in my work. I was born in Tijuana, Baja California, and have traveled throughout Mexico these last couple of years where I have been able to experience it with a different mentality of appreciation and admiration. There are so many artisans and artists that have a very unique connection to clay and there is incredible biodiversity that is also a huge influence on the imagery that is used. The illustrations and figurines that I create give a sense of nostalgia to the stories of mythologies that we were told as kids growing up in a folkloric Mexico.

                Ceramic tableware by Socrates Medina of Perro y Arena

                Photo by: Sócrates Medina

                My paternal grandmother also had a very important influence in my work; she was Greek and Mexican and would tell us stories about Greek mythology-- like the Minotaur, Medusa, and Pegasus. These stories sparked my interest in learning more about Greek art and the stories that were told through their pottery.

                Dog and Sand

                Photo by: Sócrates Medina

                What do you love most about being a ceramic maker?

                  What I love the most is all the people that I have met and the growing community that surrounds me-- ceramicists, artists, creatives, collectors, and admirers. I have been able to collaborate with beautiful projects that share similar passions and values. Perro y Arena began in Los Angeles, CA and last year moved to Tijuana. With the move, my community expanded and merged between the two cities. These last couple of months I have been attending different workshops.

                  I had the chance to take a workshop with Pai Pai artist Daria Mariscal at Matiz Estudio. I was invited to take part in an intensive ceramic workshop at Casa Ceniza in Guadalajara with Maxine Alvarez and Jaime Andres Aldaz. I am part of an ongoing course at Lustre Estudio in Tijuana with ceramicist Juan Villavicencio where I am learning different techniques. I am very grateful to everyone that makes this possible. The amount of support is incredible and reaffirms my decision of going full-time with Perro y Arena.

                  Ceramic Coyote Sculptures by Socrates Medina

                  Photo by: Sócrates Medina

                  We heard you signed a lease on your own studio space in Tijuana-- that's so exciting!

                    Yes!!! I recently moved into a new studio space in July. Having a space that is fully dedicated to working on my project is very inspiring and motivational.

                    Perro y Arena Studio, TJ, Baja California, Mexico

                    Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

                    Aside from being my work studio, I plan on making it a showroom/gallery where people can come and see my work in person. This is also an opportunity to create a space where I can offer workshops and invite others to experience working with clay. As soon as I am all settled and have a routine working I will announce it on my social media.

                    Tijuana Ceramic Studio, Perro y Arena Socrates Medina

                    Photo by: Isa Guadalupe Medina

                    Because we have to know...If you could be any Fireclay color, which would you be and why?

                      I am very split between Dusty Blue and Mustard Seed. Blue has always been my favorite color, especially a very gray, cloudy sky tone. The color blue is calming and feels balanced, resembling the sky and the ocean.

                      Dusty Blue Ceramic Diamond Tile by Fireclay

                      The mustard yellow is a warm, earthy, and inspiring color that resembles the deserts and warm sun of Baja.

                      Mustard Seed Ceramic Hexagon Tiles by Fireclay

                      These are colors I use frequently when photographing my work and also a very interesting coincidence that these are the colors of our giveaway with Fireclay!

                      Artisan Collective Giveaway: Lustre Studio, Fireclay Tile, Perro y Arena

                      Photo by: Sócrates Medina

                      Thank you, Sócrates, for giving us a glimpse into your creative process and beautiful work! We couldn’t be more thrilled to have partnered with Perro y Arena and Lustre Studio on this special collaboration. If you’d like to keep up with Sócrates, you can follow him on Instagram at Perro y Arena.

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