Hadrian Mendoza

ceramic artist

Hadrian Mendoza, a stoneware Potter, works with a fearless and audacious search for unusual and indigenous forms, including expressionistic and abstract shapes. Mendoza was a graduate at Mary Washington College in Virginia and a former student at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC, where he was awarded the prestigious Anne and Arnold Abramson award for Excellence in Ceramics in 1996-1997.  He also organized the 1st Southeast Asian Ceramics Festival under the 2007-2009 Toyota Foundation Japan Grant. He curated the 2nd Southeast Asian Ceramics Conference and Exhibition in Fuping Pottery Art Village’s FLICAM International Ceramics Museum in China. 

In 1997 he searched for his roots and moved back to the Philippines, where he slowly metamorphosed into an individualistic and nationalistic artist with a keen and hungry eye for Southeast Asia’s indigenous forms. He has made deliberate attempts at achieving heavy cultural undertones for his works. A humble craftsman, Mendoza serves at the feet of his own cultural dilemmas as an artist.

His works are permanent collections in museums in Cambodia,  China, Korea, Japan, and 3 of the main museums in the Philippines, which are The Metropolitan Museum Manila, The Ayala Museum, and BenCab Museum.

"For Your Table With Love" Metro Home Magazine Vol.3 #2 June 2006 by Alya Honasan

I wanted a wedding gift that was both a work of art and something that would become a part of the couple's everyday lives.  I found it in a potter's studio...

Last year, my oldest nephew Kim announced that he and his long-time girlfriend, Nikki, were getting married.  I adore my nephew, who's 10 years my junior and whom I practically watched grow up, and his wife-to-be is an equally intelligent and wonderful girl.  So, when the two asked me to be a godmother- for the first time in my life!- at their Boracay wedding, after getting over the initial shock at the realization that I am indeed old enough to have kids of marrying age, I began my search for the perfect wedding gift.

I was, of course, pressured to find something both fabulous and unique with a corresponding hefty budget.  I toyed with the idea of artwork, but somehow the idea of giving them something to hang on a wall or put on a table for static display did not appeal to me.  The couple already has a full furnished house in Davao where Kim finished school and established his business, but they have also acquired a small tract of land of which to build a home in Boracay, where Nikki enjoys her work at the Mandala Spa.  So, whatever I picked had to be appropriate for either an existing suburban home or a cozy beach house in the making.

And then, last January, I chanced upon a few pieces of stoneware pottery by Hadrian "Adee" Mendoza, the gifted young potter, one time protege of the great Jon Pettyjohn, and now a teacher and accomplished artist in his own right.  I first encountered Adee's works up close when we featured him last year in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, in conjunction with his two-man show with his mentor, and and i marveled at how his functional works had a modern edge, while remaining effortlessly utilitarian.  His artworks, meanwhile, had the same edge, tempered with whimsy;  his free-standing Tikbalang sculpture is a sleek tower, topped with a pensive little figure of mythological creature.

Adee discovered pottery through sheer serendipity, when the business graduate was looking for an elective course in his senior year of college at the Mary Washington College in Virginia.  "It felt good in my hands," recalls the 32-year-old Adee.  "And the possibilities were endless."  After training in pottery studios in the US, he came home to Manila to apprentice with Pettyjohn, leading to a first one-man show in 1998 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, "7 Months in the Philippines."  Since then, he has had about a dozen one-man shows and countless group exhibitions, the last being a solo show at the Philippine Center in New York last November, and is looking forward to a twin bill show with his uncle, stylist and designer Rachy Cuna, later this year.

Adee has moved back to Manila for good,m taking to heart the idea that pottery is very much intertwined with culture, and choosing to literally work  with the soil he was born on.  He married Kim Dacanay, also a pottery artist, last year, and they're expecting their first child in September.

Although Adee has set prices for his pieces, and charges less for big orders- a single, very large glazed platter would go for about P20,000, for example- I worked from the outer end, giving him a budget and asking him what he could do with it.  His offer was a 34-piece table set for six- glasses, plates, saucers, bowls and coffee mugs- plus three serving platters and a pitcher.

Cognizant of the nature of handmade stoneware, and of the fact that artists work best when they've got a blue sky above them, I only told Adee that Kim and Nikki loved the sea, and he could use that as inspiration.  Otherwise, it was entirely his call.  As it turned out, giving Adee creative freedom was the best thing I could have done.  "It's very important that a client trusts me," Adee says.  "I always tell clients to give allowance for change and surprises.  If somebody comes to me with very detailed specifications, I usually say no."

About a month after we spoke, Adee fired a test plate and told me on the phone how "beach" it looked.  He originally planned on white plates, but he also asked if I had any objections to using colors like blue and brown, as some apparently didn't like eating off colored plates.  "My pamangkins will eat off anything," I told him.  "Please go wild."

The results, completed after two months, and as you can see on these pages were exquisite.  Adee played around with the idea of sand, water and a soft shoreline, and the plates and saucers depicted a beach and endless blue horizon.  The mugs, the large vases and pitcher carried the colors of sand and sea at night, while the bowls called to min drops of water left on the sand after the waves have receded.  The masterpieces, to my mind was the stunning platter with different glazes that Adee had poured on while he turned the edges.  It looks like what you would see when you drop a rock in the shallows- a patch of bare sand in the center, with the water radiating in different shades and consistencies around it.  It took all my willpower not to keep the platter for myself!

All in all, I was very pleased with the results.  As of this writing, Kim and Nikki have yet to see the set, but I'm certain they'll love it.  And I'm tickled at the thought that two people I love very dearly will be eating off works of art, everyday of their lives.