The Guest, 10 years as an icon of contemporary craft.

Lladró celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Guest collection, a defining creation for the brand’s New Concept line. In 2012, the awarded designer Jaime Hayon created Lladró’s most captivating character, conceiving it as a blank canvas which, over the course of the years, other renowned artists have used to tell the most fantastic stories. Creatives of the stature of Paul Smith, Supakitch, Henn Kim, Ricardo Cavolo, Tim Biskup, Devilrobots, Gary Baseman and Rolito were invited to join in the party of concepts, designs and colors, all applied over the same base: a sculpture which is irreverent and distinguished in equal measure, and a true 21st-century icon.

Over the last ten years, both the designer and Lladró have continued to push the envelope of handcrafted porcelain into new expressive and stylistic territories. In fact, as happened with collections like The Fantasy and The Guest, Hayon’s latest creation for Lladró, called Embraced, once again materializes this collaboration’s ongoing commitment with the preservation and enrichment of the brand’s craft legacy through contemporary and conceptual designs.

Today, Hayon tells Lladró Magazine how the groundbreaking The Guest project came about ten years ago: his vision, the first steps, the challenges … in an interview that evinces the grandeur and creative possibilities of porcelain through an always unique and contemporary character who has a lot to celebrate this year.

How did The Guest come into being?

It was a time of hectic activity but what I remember most is that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had been working for years on vinyl toy design in Hong Kong and I was fascinated with the idea of customization and collecting, and so, right from day one when I joined Lladró, my idea was to transfer this concept from vinyl to porcelain. To take the most iconographic part of urban collectible toys to the world of traditional porcelain. I was really excited by the idea, because it was like a kind of experimental mix of two different worlds, to see what would happen and what would come out of the experiment.

And the truth is that already in the first trials we were very happy with the results. There was something in the character, an energy, that really caught our attention and I believe that this is why it took off so well and has continued being such a success.

What brought you to this character?

I wanted it to partake in my personal worldview, and so I gave it some of my own gestures. It has the kind of forms I draw, but at the same time the concept was inspired by the straight lines of collectible toys, which do not have a lot of gestures but do have very strong graphics. My idea was to find a figurative object that would allow you to see the porcelain, that wouldn’t be that simple, that would have the kind of subtle gestures which speak of handcrafts, and that would be a little human but at once was not. In other words, that it would be a little childlike but not childish, which is why it has no face and no eyes … it would be somehow neutral.

At the time of creating the objects, these details were very important. And this was by no means easy because Lladró sculptors were so used to focusing precisely on the face, because that is what usually defines the expressiveness of a figurine. With a smile, a wink, an upwards or downwards glance you can change the message you wish to convey.
That is why when I said “don’t give him a face” the response from the Lladró team was so interesting. They were shocked, but I didn’t want it to have a face because my idea was that each individual would give it its own face. And although at first it sounded crazy, in the end I believe it is what gives it its strength. The pure simplicity of it.

How was the idea for The Guest transformed into porcelain?

At the end it was really very simple and rewarding because I discovered something that you only realize when you work with Lladró and which most people probably don’t notice, which is that each figurine is like an actor in a movie. Everything you do to it, however small, is saying something. That’s why the gestures are so important, and it counts a lot whether the fists are closed, whether they are standing straight or bent over, and so on. Depending on the pose, it can convey a sense of defeat or determination. In that sense, you can see that The Guest is a proud character, a guest who wants to stay, who looks at you like the artist wants him to look at you. A character that expresses himself through the graphics of different creatives from anywhere in the world. That is the strength it has, and it will be around a long time to come.

How did the collaborations with the other artists come about?

There was a very clear idea from the beginning for one single creation to offer variety so that collectors would want to get their hands on more than one unit. With that purpose in mind, we had to increase the creativity, and what better way than to bring on board different artists. In addition, we wanted to discover local artists, to give a voice to different disciplines, to foster an exchange of graphics. The idea was to give an opportunity to another artist to express him or herself, to do with The Guest whatever they wanted, and that is why it has a double meaning. On one hand, it enters your home as a guest and, on the other, there is the guest artist who intervenes creatively on it, who brings his or her own vision and story.

Do you think that The Guest can be extended to include other characters?

I believe that it is very good as it is. The idea of repetition has already turned it into a brand icon, many people all over the world already identify it and eagerly await to see who is the next guest artist. Therefore, I think it would be difficult to give it brothers and sisters. It could be bigger or smaller, but I don’t see it expanding to other characters. If it did, they would be equally personal, they would tell other stories, they would say something new. They would be actors in another movie.

Sometimes you have to do less, and keep insisting more on something that already exists because it sticks better and longer in our memory. It is the object itself that changes over the course of its evolution. Let’s see where it will take us, but one thing for sure, it still has a lot of surprises in store for us.