1935 - 2009

Porcelanas Bidasoa in Gordailua

Gordailua, the Gipuzkoa Heritage Collection Centre

An emblematic company and international benchmark due to the quality of its porcelain and innovation of its designs.

Our collection: 6748 pieces
Porcelanas Bidasoa is one of the most valuable collections of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, due to the quantity, quality and variety of the pieces that make it up and it is the result of a long process.

The first pieces were received in lieu of payment of a tax debt from the company Lusitana Española de Porcelanas in 1994. This was an important batch of artistic pieces, accompanied by an industrially produced batch, which was expanded in 1994.

In 2011, faced with the imminent demolition of the factory, we gathered together the material of interest: pieces, moulds, tools, documentation, machinery, etc. This collection was also put together with purchases and donations.

The evolution of the company marked the development of its production, which can be split into five periods. All of these had a specific logo, which, with some variables, makes their pieces unmistakable. The company was internationally recognised throughout its life, as evidenced by the number and prestige of its customers, as well as the acknowledgements and awards it received.

Porcelain for tableware or ornamental objects bears the signature of many artists who collaborated with the company.

Machinery and workshops
Some of the machinery and work tools (figures in plaster, moulds, etc.) have also been preserved. The picture shows miscellaneous machinery: workbench, plaster beater, glaze mill, kiln.

Porcelanas Bidasoa had a wide variety of machines used to perform the different operations involved in making porcelain.

The picture shows a bench with seven work stations from the moulding section of the factory. It was used for turning the moulds or pieces in plaster or clay.

The machine on the right repeated the process once the required adjustments had been set. This system was used until the development of isostatic (hydraulic) presses.

Hand-operated machine for making prototypes of new cups and sauce boats. To the right, a kiln used in the artistic section (hand-painted pieces).

The laboratory was one of the most important facilities in the porcelain-making process. Here tests were carried out on the components of the porcelain to determine strength and texture. Different blends of materials were made from the clay.

They also performed the colour tests shown here (plates of underglazed colour samples).

Tableware and ornamental pieces
From its origins,"Porcelanas Bidasoa" had two production lines: the utilitarian (tableware, which had a good outlet thanks mainly to the hotel and catering industry) and the artistic or ornamental.

During the second period at the factory (1948-1954) Porcelanas Bidasoa began to develop high-quality pieces, which took their inspiration from models designed by defunct European royal manufacturers, such as the Neapolitan Capodimonte and the Spanish firms Buen Retiro (1760-1808) and Moncloa (1817-1850).

The decoration is inglaze, with gilt 'fillet' edging separating the different sections of the pieces and bands in pink, gold (incorporating plant motifs) and purple.

One of the distinctive features of Porcelanas Bidasoa was its depiction of naval and maritime scenes. The marinas, painted in cobalt blue, date from 1953.

This vase was designed by Manuel Benedito, the factory's artistic director, and painted by hand by José Guinart.

The bocoy, inspired by traditional Chinese porcelain, were made on the same high quality production lines. The decoration, also of oriental inspiration, may be polychrome or cobalt blue.

This piece comes from the second period at the factory (1948-1954), when it began producing high-quality decorative pieces using forms and decorations taken from other eras. However, it was especially in the third phase (1954-1972) that the decorative techniques of oriental porcelain were incorporated.

The fourth period at the factory (1972-1986), was marked by innovation in the design of the pieces (e.g. Bidasoa 80) and the decorative techniques used. However, the firm did not give up its classic line, creating examples of fine technique and great beauty. One example is the recreation of the Carlos IV model.

Porcelanas Bidasoa also manufactured purely decorative items based on natural models. The artists drew their inspiration from both the animal world (as in the photo) and from trees and plants. A mould was made faithfully reproducing the form and colour of the models.

To do this, the company had a group of very fine local artists who carried out or directed the entire process: preparation of the figure, moulds, joining the different moulded pieces and hand-painting or design of the decoration. The company also worked with major international artists. Their designs were used especially for of crockery or ornamental items.

The artist Concha Laca worked at Porcelanas Bidasoa from 1952 until 1984.

As a result of her great creative flair and technical mastery, Laca was put in charge of making all kinds of decorative figures which she designed and hand-painted herself.

In addition to her usual work, from 1955 she began to create flowers of extraordinary delicacy, like those shown in the picture. With help from two operators, C. Laca was in charge of the whole process of design, manufacture and decoration of the pieces.

The series of especially delicate flowers was not sold commercially, they were given as prestigious gifts by the company. In 1995 the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa awarded her the title of Honoured Craftsperson of Gipuzkoa.

Gordailua is also home to these figures, which were the result of a laborious process that began with the preparation of the sculpture in plaster. In this case, the original sculpture from which the moulds were made was by artist C. Laca. The figures were built from plaster moulds. Each piece is made up of various parts.

Once the different parts of a figure had been made in the moulds, they are joined to create the final figure. This was then fired at 800 ºC to create a figure in bisque.

It was then hand-painted (as in this case) or decorated with decals and fired again (at 1300 ºC) to fix the colour or decoration.

The marketing of its pieces required stamps to mark them with a seal and identify them, among a number of other materials. The stamps also have a place at Gordailua.

Porcelanas Bidasoa, the last of the Basque porcelain companies in operation, a model of excellence, closed its doors and was abandoned in 2011. Not long after, the factory was demolished.

Gordailua, Centro de Colecciones Patrimoniales de Gipuzkoa
Credits: Story


Gipuzkoa Centre for Heritage Collections
Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa

Photos of the Gordailua facilities taken by Oscar Moreno

Photos of the pieces: Saioa Cano (Garoa) and Giorgio Studer (Gordailua)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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