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We had set our hearts on taking the tour of the famous Lladro Factory in Tavernes Blanques, just outside of Valencia. It is necessary to have a reservation for the tour since they limit the number of people they’ll take at one time. You can take bus #16 from the center of town, or go the direct way by taxi, like we did. He dropped us off right inside the secure gate, which was checked by a guard before he’d let us through.
Once inside the admissions building, we had to fill out a form to join the society for $50.00, or if you were already a member, you would just wait there for the tour guide.
Our guide spoke excellent English and informed us we would not be seeing the design center, because that is the top secret area of the company, where new ideas spring up and all the minute details and measurements are worked out.
But we were ushered into a large room full of a sampling of the various styles of figures made on site. We could take photos there, but once we entered the factory, we weren’t allowed to take any. We saw the molds, how the plasticine in poured into them, and what the pieces look like as they come out of the molds. Many times the fingers, heads, or delicate parts are made separately and then “glued” on, using liquid plasticine. Then the clean up takes place, where seams are sanded down and made invisible.
From there the pieces are handed to the painters, who use a transparent paint where a color is added so the painter can see where he has already applied the paint. That color burns out in the heating process, leaving the subtle colors Lladro is famous for using.
One person is responsible for painting the whole figurine before passing it on to the specialists, who add delicate touches such as the flowers, lace trim on the ballerinas, and lace mantillas used for headpieces on some of them. Flowers are made petal by petal, a delicate process, adding $$$’s to the final price. Lace is made by spraying a coat of liquid porcelain onto a piece of lace, making it feel like flexible rubber. It is then attached to the figurine with liquid plasticine before being put in the kiln, where the cloth lace is burned out, leaving only the porcelain lace. It’s beautiful!
When the piece is burned in the kiln, it shrinks by one third, and these calculations have to be made in the planning process so when done, the piece looks like they planned for it to look. For example, a hand might need to hold up a skirt when completed, or a head should be leaning on hands when done. If it shrinks too much, the hand might break off.
At the end of the tour, we were let loose in a large room of showcases, where we could take pictures or videos to our heart’s content, and we were individually given a porcelain key with the date on it for a keepsake. It was a great tour, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in these very fine figures!
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