This is a tribute to the men and women of Macetas Gonzalez.
Let me start by asking, “How many of us have worked long days?” We all have probably? Many workers face long days during seasons such as a harvest. When the crop is ripe and the conditions are correct, days don’t quit until the harvest is in. There is always a certain amount of excitement at the beginning of harvest. Days start early and work continues into the evenings. Comradery among the workers, push the work along and reward special efforts.
But when the work continues, and continues, and continues, and days turn into months without a break, that’s when character and discipline emerge. Every day a pressure cooker to meet the quotas that will fill the monthly containers. Each day a step toward success or disaster. No end.
This has been a long season for Macetas Gonzalez. Macetas Gonzalez is a family owned and operated factory that produces hand painted garden pots – some of the most beautiful in Spain. The quantity of orders has been building over the last six years at Macetas Gonzalez. This year it swamped them.
As a family owned and operated factory, the work depends upon three people principally. Rosario, Felipe and now Javier. There are many others involved, but nothing would be done unless these three are directing it and directly involved. The factory needs to proceduralize their production, but that is another story.
Their production process is the following.
- Orders are accepted
- Materia prima (terracotta pots) are ordered from local suppliers
- The pots are hand painted in any of 100+ different designs (depends on the order)
- The pots are glazed and kilned
- The pots are boxed, labeled and palleted
Simple enough, but there are some details involved. First, the painters have to be painting the correct designs on the correct size of pots. Second, there are several different surfaces that are prepared after the pots are painted. Third, there are several different glaze applications that create the final look. Fourth, many orders require specific labeling and packaging. Little things like training painters are minutia in this system, which would over-whelm most people.
Until now, this production process has been documented on the “backs of envelopes“. The factory is working towards standardizing the production, but old habits die hard, and in times of crunch, work reverts to the tried and true methods of old – pencil and paper.
This year, the orders swamped the system of pencil and paper and went a long way towards burning out the principals.
A new kiln was added last year, so this year, Felipe and Javier have been running two large kilns – each on rails. They are responsible for the operations of the factory. They move all the raw materials, prepare surfaces, glaze pots and kiln them. The are the muscle of the factory. The factory is two floors with a lift in between. Much of the pottery is painted on the first floor and kilned on the second, and then labeled and packaged again on the first floor. Over this season, they have loaded out more than fifty 40ft high cube containers. For months, their days have started at 7am or earlier sometimes and finished at 9pm. Felipe and his wife just had their first child in March, and at this point Felipe hit the wall.
Rosario is the responsible for logistics, communications and programming orders (and the painting). She and Felipe work hand in hand as brother and sister. They coordinate everything. Anything Rosario is not responsible for, Felipe handles. Anything Felipe does not handle, is taken care of by Rosario. Rosario is a bit of a “conductor of the orchestra“, coordinating the timelines between the arrival of raw materials and when the orders leave the factory. I think she hit the wall at about the end of February. She has two small daughters and she fights to spend some time with them.
What is admirable about Felipe, Rosario and Javier, and the team at Macetas Gonzalez is the drive to meet all orders accepted. Until this year, there were peaks and valleys. This year has been a steady peak, from September to June. Everyone involved realizes that something has to change before the next season kicks off.
I wanted to write this post to explain a little bit about what is involved in a Spanish factory that hand paints garden pots. I cannot hope to register everything in this short post, but I do want to communicate a respect for the workers of Macetas Gonzalez. They have determination, character and discipline. They somehow managed to cover the bases this season at a huge cost to their personal lives. There is the saying that “Whatever does not kill you,… makes you stronger”. Rosario and Felipe will be stronger as a result of this season, and no doubt changes will be made to accommodate the growing demand for their beautifully crafted, hand painted Spanish garden pots.
Here is a youtube video in Spanish made by Extenda Andaluscia, that gives a good idea of the work of the factory.
If you would like to watch how the artists paint a Spanish pot, watch Nany in the video below.
Thanks for reading. Questions and comments are always welcome. – Steve
p.s. Cactus Canyon Ceramics offers wall orzas, wall pots and NOW, new this year floor pots with saucers from Macetas Gonzalez. We will have new stock available by July 20th, 2018 that can be sent to your door. Please check us at gringocool.com or on amazon.