With 170 years of experience in ceramic creation, Viúva Lamego has learned to work in synergy with artists who appreciate the comfort of its workshop-factory and the know-how of its craftsmen. An art of collaboration that seduces designers as famous as Manuel Cargaleiro, Bela Silva or Joana Vasconcelos to carry out ambitious handmade projects, with warm and colorful visual designs.
Founded in 1849, Viúva Lamego was one of the first companies to produce ceramics and tiles in Portugal, contributing to make this company one of the pioneers in this field of reference of the national industry and crafts.
In its factory in Sintra, a suburb of Lisbon, where the company has been located since 1992, Viúva Lamego perpetuates an age-old art and production largely oriented towards a human-scale creation, where it particularly emphasizes the principles of close collaboration with talented artists. In 1945, the great Jorge Barradas began his refined research of ceramic effects in his workshops, which revolutionized and internationally popularized the new figurative stylization of the famous Azulejos.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Viúva Lamego played an important role in the development of the use of earthenware in the public space, in the streets and in the metro of the Lisbon metropolis. The tiles for the famous wall panel O Mar, created by the painter Maria Keil in 1959 and still visible on the Avenida Infante Santo, which itself has become a veritable open-air museum of staircases decorated with ceramics, were produced in its premises.
Chromatic palette and hand painting
Since then, Viúva Lamego has continued to perpetuate these collaborative artistic practices, oriented towards finesse and precision, leaving a great deal of room for the unique finishes of enameling and hand painting techniques. Its unique manufactured tiles can be found at the Casa da Música in Porto (built by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas) or in the imposing gallinaceous sculpture, Pop Galo, designed in 2016 by artist Joana Vasconcelos, a regular here. During the pandemic, the company was even able to learn to work remotely, as was the case with Canadian Deb Chaney, whose abstract painting work was translated into four large panels of hand-painted earthenware tiles and brought together in the large-scale decorative project West Coast Abstract, now located in a building complex in North Vancouver.
The quality of the rendering of the Viúva Lamego tiles is due to the warm tones of the colors. A specificity that attracts all generations of creators – like the young visual artist Add Fuel, famous for his remarkable ceramic street panels, and who recently collaborated with the brand for the realization of an original piece in the Luster hotel in Lisbon – and that the artist Bela Silva explained about the panel of hand-painted azulejos, A Mexican Bird That Travels In Time From Mexico To India, made with the company, during its presentation at the Maison & Objet 2022 show in Paris. “ I wanted to get out of my usual chromatic palette and be daring, using other colors that are not so usual in my works, like reds and oranges,” she said then. “Now I want to explore warmer colors.
Residencies that seduce the artist
In the warm and luminous interiors of the Sintra factory-studio, the artist feels a bit at home. Several of them are regularly invited to spend a more or less long time in residence to refine their creative work in comfortable spatial conditions. On the top floor of one of the buildings, the lucky visitor can discover real panels in progress, where the missing tiles are missing because they are just being created. A way of reminding us that it was here in 2016, that the 1800 tiles of the Odyssey mural by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei were painted by hand. “Artists like to come and work here because they have the opportunity to work on large surfaces,” says marketing director Catarina Cardoso. “Artists come, we learn from them, and through contact with our artisans and master painters, they learn from us. That’s how it works here.”
In 2022, in addition to Bela Silva, several artists and creators have come to spend time in residence, including Maria Emília Araújo, Hervé di Rosa and the master Manuel Cargaleiro – author of the abundant geometric tile decorations in the Champs Élysées-Clémenceau metro station in Paris – who is just 96 years old! The year before, the designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrence, whose Made In Situ design and production studio is located in Lisbon, also came to complete a project, in the wake of his joint project with Viúva Lamego, entitled Azulejos.
The work in progress here is monitored as closely as possible and protected from prying eyes – the work done with architect Miguel Saraiva is expected to be revealed. But among the big projects soon to be in the spotlight, we must mention the monumental Wedding Cake by Joana Vasconcelos, a 12-meter high sculptural pavilion in the shape of a wedding cake, entirely made of shiny ceramic tiles glazed in pale pinks, greens and blues, which will be open to visitors from June onwards in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor in England. Joana Vasconcelos’ most ambitious work to date and another artistic and technical achievement in Viúva Lamego’s gargantuan catalog.