The beautiful tiled sign outside the workshop of Antonio Campos
In a storeroom at Ceramica Santa Ana in Triana, these scales were once used to weigh and cut tiles.
This early 19th-century carved Spanish table is weighed down with stacks of old azulejos in a back storeroom at Ceramica Santa Ana.
For Sunday Scribblings, a tale of an unexpected meeting with Seville´s most lauded tilemaker:
On Friday I read two separate pieces about the famous master tilemaker Antonio Campos - one in a book, the other in a Madrid-based magazine. On Saturday morning, I was walking around Triana, the area across the Guadalquiver River renowned for its azulejos (tiles) and retablos. I walked in and out of several places, asking if they had any antique tiles for sale.
I wandered down a side street, away from the shops and noticed the beautiful sign (pictured above), on the side of a building. A door was open, so I walked into a dimly-lit workroom. Behind a large table a bearded man with curly hair was standing, naked from the waist up, his hands and arms immersed in clay.
"Senor Campos?" I asked. "Si," he nodded. For a moment I was struck dumb. Here was the man I´d been reading about the night before, standing before me, literally, in the flesh! "Me llamo Tara. Soy periodista de Francia," I stammered. (My name is Tara. I am a journalist, from France). He nodded and looked at me expectantly. As my Spanish was limited, I motioned that I wanted to look around his workshop and he nodded and continued working - no doubt thinking, ´who is this mad woman and why is she bothering me?´
While looking around his dusty and crowded workshop - which seemed to be a converted garage, filled with hundreds of moulds and stacks of tiles - I was trying to remember the Spanish words to ask where his azulejos or tiles were sold. But all I could think of was "se vende?" He rattled off a series of sentences, ending with the word ´mercado,´ which I recognized as "store." Then he looked at me expectantly, waiting to see if I would go away. At that moment, a man walked in, obviously an employee. So I mumbled, "gracias," and hurriedly left.
I felt embarrassed and a little stung by his behaviour, which seemed rude. Then again, if a stranger walked into my ´office,´ interrupting my work, I might be annoyed too. So I walked back to the largest and most elaborate mercado. As luck would have it, Ceramica Santa Ana, was Sr. Campos´s store! In continuous operation since 1870, it is revered throughout Spain for its exquisite replicas of 16th-century tiles.
When I asked the friendly manager if he had any antique tiles, he said no, but I could look in a back storeroom at stacks of "old ones." Thankfully I was wearing jeans, as I got to climb around the very dusty showroom (where I surreptitiously took some photos) and blow dust and straw off some beautiful old tiles.
As I was waiting to pay for my purchases, a local woman asked me for help in identifying the origin of a particular tile. "No lo se," (I don´t know) I said, but she kept talking to me in Spanish! I just smiled and nodded - the universal response when you have no idea what someone is saying.
I was just happy that after my chance encounter with the master, I took home some of his work!