Ralph Saltzman Prize 2024 Winner

Q&A with Attua Aparicio

This Q&A introduces Attua Aparicio, the winner of this year's Ralph Saltzman Prize. The annual prize was created by Lisa Saltzman on behalf of the Saltzman Family Foundation, to celebrate emerging talent in the design sector.

Attua is a London-based multidisciplinary artist working at the intersection of design, craft and art. She is interested in sustainability, material hybridization, and tactility. A free display of her work is open to the public until 15 April 2024.

Photography by Andy Stagg for the Design Museum

Q: Congratulations! How does it feel to have won the Ralph Saltzman Prize?

Thanks! It feels really nice to be recognised by a design institution like the Design Museum. It makes me feel appreciated and welcomed in the wide and varied design community.

Q: How would you describe your work in three words?

Experimental, material driven and playful.

Stoneware and glass biscuit. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Q: Can you remember what the first thing you ever made was?

I remember making a figure out of bread dough during a summer camp, I kneaded it so much that it almost didn’t rise. I think I was 6.

Q: How does sustainability inform your work? What drew you to using waste materials?

While working with polystyrene in Silo Studio’s NSEPS project, I never felt totally comfortable. For quite a while, I was looking for more natural materials to work with, and after doing some work with marble and glass I learned that borosilicate glass does not get recycled. I wanted to work with this waste stream and I combined it with ceramics because both need heat to transform.

Q: Much of your work uses experimental techniques – how do you push yourself to find new ways of making? Is there a material that you have never used which appeals to you?

At the moment I am still very focused on ways of combining ceramics and glass. But I also feel strongly connected to textiles – I would like to do something soft. I also would like to explore solid wood.

Q: Do you think that experimentation is undervalued in the design industry?

There is a lot of experimentation with ideas and colours, but direct material experimentation based on trial and error takes time, space and is therefore expensive. I think experimentation is often not understood – if you know what is going to happen, it's not really experimentation.

Wedgewood plate and waste borosilicate glass. Photo Sylvain Deleu

Q: Some of your designs are playful in colour and form – how important is this in your work?

For me, playfulness is also part of the experimentation process. I almost always try to test at least two things in one piece. This might be a glaze, or the form, or the making technique.

Q: Two pieces in the display are made in collaboration with others - Solaris de Esgueva with your sister (artist Saelia Aparaicio), and A♡J neon lights with your partner (glass maker Jochen Holz). What are the advantages and the challenges of collaboration as a designer?

I find collaboration very fulfilling. To talk about ideas with people that you love and admire is one of my favourite things to do – and to actually go and make something together is amazing.

My deepest collaboration so far is the one with Oscar Lesing from Silo Studio. In our work together, I find it really interesting when I look at the final pieces and can see parts that come from Oscar, parts that come from me – and then a ‘grey’ area that is unidentifiable and the essence of the collaboration. To get to this level, time and trust is needed. The collaboration with Saelia and Jochen are more layered, where you can see more clearly what comes from me and what comes from them.

Solaris de Esgueva. Collaboration with Saelia Aparacio. Courtesy of Gallery Fumi

Q: Who is one designer that inspires you and why?

I am inspired and encouraged by the community of designers in London, which is so vibrant and friendly. But my main sources of inspiration are materials, processes and spaces.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to people considering a career in design?

That's a difficult question as there is no one size fits all response. But I'd say: don’t compare yourself to others, don’t look too much online, do work, try to find your strengths and make them stronger before you fight them. For me, it works to find the right level of comfort versus challenge.

Find out more

The Ralph Saltzman Prize 2024

The third year of our annual prize in partnership with the Saltzman Family Foundation celebrating emerging product designers in recognition of Ralph Saltzman’s design legacy.

In Conversation: The Ralph Saltzman Prize Winner 2024

Join us for a special evening to hear 2024 Ralph Saltzman Prize winner, designer Attua Aparicio, in conversation with the Conran Foundation Chief Curator at the Design Museum Johanna Agerman Ross.

Background image: Expressive proverbs. Found plates discarded from industry and waste borosilicate glass, 2019.