Cristina Mato, Oviedo, Spain

Ceramics Monthly: How do you come up with the forms and line quality that are prevalent in your work?

Cristina Mato: I like to think of what I do as sewing with clay. The thin slabs of clay are the fabric, which I cut into threads to build structures full of seams, very much like a seamstress working at her mannequin.

Everything starts with a balloon. I have them in different sizes and shapes that I combine to create the form on which I will sew my piece. With thin strips of clay, I create a mesh that resembles a three-dimensional wireframe. I use paper clay, which is perfect for my work due to its flexibility and strength in the unfired state. Geometry and architecture are my sources of inspiration, and although the final result may not look like it, my pieces are very straight and symmetrical before they go into the kiln. The firing does its magic to give them movement as well as meaning. I always find that my pieces tell a story that is created by the way they stand, their color, the shadows they project, or their relationship to each other in a group. Light plays an important role and ties each piece to the space where it is displayed, printing on the wall a net of shadows that changes gradually. 

1 Defeat, 12¾ in. (30 cm) in height, stoneware paper clay, pigments, fired to 2192°F (1200°C), 2020.

CM: What is the most challenging aspect of working with clay?

CM: In the process of building my pieces, there are many steps when everything can go wrong. As I want to create a volume with as little clay as possible, the laws of physics always have the upper hand and decide at what point I have gone too far with my designs. The thickness and softness of the clay, the height of the structure, my impatience and concentration must find the right balance, otherwise the piece will collapse.

Working with thin strips of clay definitely keeps me on my toes, since I never know how the pieces will withstand the firing. Sometimes the pieces will stand straight and other times they will bend gracefully, or maybe not, depending on the kiln’s whim. If this is the case, I must try again and again. In a way, the kiln is my creative partner and will always have a say in the final design. Each piece is a victory or a successful understanding between partners.

2 Curiosity, 14½ in. (37 cm) in height, stoneware paper clay, pigments, fired to 2192°F (1200°C), 2021.

Learn more at