By David Morrill
At 75, Cuenca ceramicist Eduardo Segovia shows no sign of slowing down. On most days, in fact, you can find him hard at work in his Cuenca studio, just west of the historic district.
“I still have the enthusiasm for creation. I can’t imagine life without it,” says Segovia. “Every day, I absorb the colors, the textures, and the themes of the world around me and I am compelled to give these things shape.”
In his 60-year career, Segovia’s work has encompassed a stunning range of styles and themes, from the Incan and Aztec and other pre-Columbian cultures to African, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian, from the classical to the modern, from the whimsical to the serious.
Most of all, says Segovia, he is inspired by themes and materials close to Cuenca.
“The Chola Cuencana influence is at the center of all my work. It is a gift that was given to me by my heritage, especially by my mother,” he says. “I am also very fortunate to have some of the best raw materials in the world to work with, the wonderful clays from Cuenca.”
Segovia credits the breadth and diversity of his work to being primarily self-taught. “I have no advanced formal training. My teachers have been books and works of art I have seen in person.” He takes inspiration where he finds it, he says, much of it from Latin American artists, but also from Europeans, such as Picasso and Miro.
Dutch ceramicist Marie Verdijk, who had a joint exhibition with Segovia in 2013, calls him “truly world class.” Verdijk and her husband were house guests in Cuenca of Segovia and his wife for three months earlier this year, and the two artists shared ideas and collaborated on several pieces. “Eduardo brings the Latin spirit to his art. It’s full of fun, passion and color, which is an inspiration for me. Coming from Northern Europe, my artistic inclinations are for muted, somber colors and structure. Working with him as been a joy.”
Segovia’s artistic life began when he was in grade school when Carlos Crespi, the Italian-born Salesian monk, anthropologist, archeologist, and Cuenca headmaster, recognized the young artist’s talent and transferred him to a school specializing in the arts.
By the time he was 10, Segovia had molded thousands of clay whistles that he sold around Cuenca. Although each whistle sold for pennies, his sales volume produced enough revenue for a comfortable income, lifting his family out of poverty.
One of the highlights of Segovia’s career was working with Ecuador’s greatest artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin. He assisted the famous painter and sculptor on several projects, including large ceramic murals displayed in public spaces around Ecuador. When Guayasamin died in 1999, his family asked Segovia to complete work on two unfinished ceramic murals at Guayasamin’s Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) in Quito.
Segovia has also established a reputation in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, where he has had several exhibitions and met Verdijk. In 2009, he taught 60 graduate ceramics students in a workshop Verdijk was conducting. His work and teaching were the subjects of a Dutch television documentary, showcasing not just his artistry, but his enthusiasm and sense of humor. “It was fabulous for my students,” says Verdijk. “They are accustomed to the same subdued approaches and themes that I am and here they were exposed to this happy, energetic Ecuadorian master who told them to lighten up and have fun.”
Segovia returned to the Netherlands in the spring of 2011, where he presented another exhibition with Dutch painter and illustrator, Anna Reinders, in Tilburg.
Reflecting on his long career, Segovia notes that his life has been lived close to the earth. “I hope to continue working for many years, but I will never forget my Cuencano roots and the materials all around me. I came from mud, I work in mud, and when I die, I will return to mud.”
Eduardo Segovia’s studio and showroom are located at the artist’s home in Cuenca, on Vega Munoz 22-30 at Luis Pauta. Visits can be arranged by phone, at 282-4707.
A longer version of this article appeared in the Miami Herald and San Francisco Chronicle.