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Attua Aparicio Q&A

London, UK

Fusing waste borosilicate glass and clay, the otherworldly work of Attua Aparicio has been recognised by the Design Museum, which has crowned her the 2024 winner of the Ralph Saltzman Prize for young makers. Here she talks to DA/UK about experimentation, her approach to materials – and why she was surprised to win the award

Sprout bench

DESIGN ANTHOLOGY UK: Firstly, congratulations on winning the Ralph Salzman prize. How did that feel?

Attua Aparicio: At first I was like “Me? Really?” – especially because, with my practice, I’ve been kind of distancing myself from ‘design’ and getting more in to my original work. I’ve always felt that I don’t quite fit in, only that my work is a bit strange. So to be recognised by the Design Museum makes me feel like less of an outsider.

DA: Can you give us a potted biography of where you got to where you are now?

AA: I came to study in the UK in 2009, where I met Oscar [Lessing]. We graduated together and worked quite intensively over the next eight years as Silo Studio. Then life just went in different directions for us, he started teaching more and I wanted to work on my own practice. One of the reasons I started working with ceramics was that I wasn’t comfortable with the environmental impact of my work.

Attua Aparicio
Solaris de Esgueva, made in collaboration with Aparicio's sister, artist Saelia Aparicio

DA: How did you develop your technique of working with both glass and ceramics together?

AA: With my basic knowledge, I knew that both ceramics and glass needed heat, so I thought maybe they could be combined together. And with both ceramics and glass, they’ve been worked by humans for many millennia, but there’s also a kind of dogma about the things you can and can’t do with them. With Silo, we were always very much about hands-on work with experimentation – finding answers ourselves rather than relying on scientific papers.

So I developed my technique in 2018 during a residency at the EKWC [the European Ceramic Workcentre] – they like to work with people who don’t have any previous experience with ceramics, and they like projects where they don’t really know what’s going to happen. And when you get there they have these amazing technicians and facilities.

I want to work with textiles as well, because that’s another place where we have a lot of history and knowledge. I like how simple textiles are, and how you can work directly with your hands, the same as clay.

Stoneware and glass vase

DA: How do you balance how much clay and how much glass to use?

AA: I always use as much glass as possible, I want it to look like something strange is happening. It makes people curious about how it’s made.

DA: Is the research and development side your favourite aspect of what you do?

AA: Yes, I think that’s in my nature – my mum always says I like to start things but never complete them! But now I’ve trained myself to see the satisfaction of making a piece and finishing it.

DA: What are the overarching ideas and themes in your work?

AA: My work is almost always domestic. I would love to work on more projects where you can do the whole interior. I want my work to inspire people to realise that materials are full of potential; the division between virgin and recycled materials is really sad, it’s not helpful. Waste materials are just another material.


I want my work to inspire people to realise that materials are full of potential; the division between virgin and recycled materials is really sad, it’s not helpful. Waste materials are just another material
Digit Texture sculpture
Collaborative work with Jochen Holz at Alcova Project Space, Milan Design Week 2023

DA: Why do you work with borosilicate glass?

My raw materials come almost exclusively from Jochen Holz’s studio. I got inspired after he did some glasses for us for Studio Silo. I was in his studio helping him make them, and I realised he was throwing the glass away, but not in the recycling bin, and he explained how borosilicate glass has a different composition, it contaminates regular recycling. Coloured borosilicate glass only came out around 10 years ago – it’s all made in this one factory in China.

DA: …and you’ve also collaborated with him on finished products, too?

Yes, I thought that, since I used his waste materials, it made sense to create something that was his work and my work combined. Once the ceramic is finished, he makes the neon to fit.

Wedgewood plate, with waste borosilicate glass added by Aparicio

DA: Is collaborating with others a process that you enjoy?

AA: I really like collaborating with people. The deepest collaboration I had was with Oscar, because we worked together exclusively for eight years, and we decided everything together: I could see the parts that came from me, but then there was this big grey area where you don’t know [who the work belongs to]. I’ve also worked with my sister, but on that I can more clearly see what my part is, and what’s hers.

DA: What can we expect from the show at the Design Museum that coincides with the prize?

AA: When I found out I won, I was finishing a residency at the EKWC, so there will be some pieces that I did there, all wall hangings.

DA: What do you think winning the prize will lead to next?

AA: I’m sure some things will come, but I don’t know what that will be, so that’s a good thing. I’m kind of ready for the idea.

Created by Lisa Saltzman on behalf of the Saltzman Family Foundation, The Ralph Saltzman Prize is named for Ralph Saltzman, co-founder and president of materials company Designtex. The winner receives a £5,000 bursary; see work from all the shortlisted designers as part of a free display at the Design Museum, on from 1 February–15 April 2024.

Images Thomas Joseph Wright PenguinsEgg for Gallery FUMI/Carmel King/Jixiao Tong/ Sylvain Deleu/Agnese Bedini
Words Emily Brooks