An interview with Koen Meersman
from Boquita De Cielo.
We catch up with Koen Meersman, a creative specialising in bespoke handmade sculptures and murals, in his London based ceramic art studio, Boquita De Cielo. Koen describes his creative process to ceramic practice as laborious yet fulfilling.
We were drawn to the repetitive elements within Meersman's ceramic pieces. The forms within the murals and sculptures are a reflection of the space that they find themselves. Both the practicality and artistic nature of these sculptures resonate with us.
How did the journey of Boquita De Cielo begin?
My partner and I are originally from Belgium. We moved to Spain when we were 26, living there for 13 years. We had our architecture studio in Barcelona for many years. I trained as an interior designer and my partner is an architect. Our job has always been centred around ‘creating spaces’.
Boquita De Cielo’s journey started a couple of years ago; within our own architectural practice we started developing small projects for ourselves. Together, we bought a couple of completely run down apartments and we would rebuild them. Physically we would redesign and restore these spaces. In one of these projects we found some tiles that were 150 years old and we tried to reuse them in the interior. This gave me an appreciation for old tiles, that were crafted with better clays and finished to a higher quality. I love the textures and attention to detail in them.
Boquita De Cielo developed into its current form, a ceramic art studio where I create custom murals. Everything is made by hand, bespoke and brought right back to basics. Even though my murals are two dimensional, it is still an object and I want to transform the space with it. I like the idea of having no boundaries and my practice is metaphorically and physically layered in many ways.
We’re intrigued by the name, what does Boquita De Cielo mean?
Boquita De Cielo is Spanish for ‘little bits of heaven’. We came across this name whilst watching a Mexican movie called ‘Y tu mamá también’. In the movie there is an imagined beach called Boquita De Cielo. This beach is an impossible dream that comes true, an idea that holds ephemeral qualities and informs our practice.
What do you take into consideration about the space when you are developing a custom project?
It is more difficult to create a mural for an empty white box than for an existing interior. You are then able to use certain elements, graphics, colours and textures that you can be inspired by. I try to react to what is there already. Rough lines and streets that cut through the urban fabric, for example, gives me something to hold onto during the process. These environmental elements transform the murals into something abstract, interacting with the space organically. It’s all about textures, colours and how things feel.
I also like that our pieces tempt interaction. I like it when people look at my stuff and they touch it, it’s very important.
We see a variety of patterns in your murals, how would you describe your style?
The paper sculptures that I made when I was practicing as an artist have really informed the way in which my ceramics have developed. The projects always have a care for texture, fabric and repetition.
Overall, I’d say the style is very eclectic, I like to mix different things, layer on layer. Every tile is different, they are brothers and sisters, but not identical. The act of repetition has been important in all the projects I’ve done over the years. The systematic variation of the work gives it a certain abstract feel.
Can you elaborate on the creative process?
The making of these murals is very personal to the client. When we get a project, for example, I am in an ongoing conversation with the client and the process is defined by how the client wants to change and impact their space. People call me and ask for an intervention in their space.
The process is important in what we do, every carving is made individually. It’s a very laborious process, but I like that. It can take between three to six weeks to complete a mural, depending on the atmosphere and environment. There are many elements that can go wrong, so I need to allow time for potential errors in the kiln.
I enjoy the process just as much as the final result. You can see the process in the final result; the quality and value of the pieces lie in this.
Does sleep impact this creative process in any way?
It is very important. If I haven’t slept, it doesn’t put me in the best place to make things and be productive.
Lately, since Covid-19, there is a global anxiety going on in the world which affects many people. There is a general tension and uncertainty and it affects my sleep very much. The times that we live in are so incredibly uncertain that we need to compensate by putting energy into the home and making a space that you feel comfortable in.
Many people go back to that comfort of the interior, especially now that we have to spend more time there. More effort needs to be put into your space in order for it to benefit you positively.
What do you do to wind down before bed?
I bike 45 minutes each way, to and from work. Incorporating exercise into my daily routine helps me sleep better. It also allows time to unwind and think.
Also, I always finish the day with something funny. Even if I’m watching a really scary movie, afterwards I watch something comforting like Friends (I’ve watched it so many times!). That way, when you sink into your mattress and the feathers, you are ready for sleep.
Do your surroundings impact the way you sleep?
We live in the Barbican. The Barbican buildings are concrete, with carpeted floors which absorb the sound. Everything is silent which is a huge comfort to me.
Just when we had a window earlier this year, my partner and I escaped to Venice, we were in a hotel on the beach. We had the windows open all night, but the sea was so loud, the natural sounds calmed me. It was interesting as I am so used to sleeping in silence, but the natural sound of the sea was so comforting. The waves were so brutal and stormy, it made you feel safe inside.