MAPI ORMACHEA of UMA CERAMICS
MaPi was born in La Paz, Bolivia and now lives between Miami and Bolivia. Early on, you could find her exploring anything creative that she could get her hands on. Something about having access to express herself visually in any medium gave her a sense of freedom. After politics in Bolivia made it tough for her family to stay, MaPi moved to the US settling in Miami at a young age. During this transition, MaPi experienced a creative lull. It wasn’t until High School that she began to reinvigorate her artistic inclinations.
Formal training as an Architect is evident in MaPi’s command of line and space. Having worked for Architectural firms, large and small both in SF and CDMX, she quickly realized these pursuits left something to be desired. It was during her disillusioned professional endeavors that she maintained a healthy hobby of making wheel-thrown ceramics, however, it was the longing for a return to Bolivia that uncovered an opportunity to bring design and artisanal production together in practice. UMA Ceramics was born in 2019 as a design platform that produces ethically-made small-batch vessels with artisans throughout the villages of Bolivia, honoring the age-old wheel-thrown tradition.
What we especially love about Mapi’s mission is her resolve to set a new standard for quality in Bolivian artisanal Goods. Using Objects as a vehicle to help local communities thrive. These days she can be found designing new functional pieces or building her ever-expanding network of artisans all while thinking up inventive ways of getting these goods noticed by the world. On the Horizon you can expect new collaborations and object categories sourced from the rich pool of raw iron-rich materials from the Amazon Basin within Bolivia. We’re excited to share Mapi’s object Story, for a dive into her inspirations.
I have this attachment to broken pieces. They are perfect, beautiful, and honestly hard to give up. They not only have a form that could not have ever been designed but they also tell a rich story. If you take your time to look at a break, you see everything—from the Raw elements that came together to form the object they’re derived from to the imprints of the hand that made it. It is through the breaks that we expose the real story. You see, all breaks are beautiful. I know that one day I’ll make something from all the broken pieces I’ve kept. I believe it takes the breaks to get a real sense of what it is that we create.
TRIAL x ERROR
You can parallel MaPi’s journey to entrepreneurship, as a process of beautiful breaks. Appreciation for how you get from one place to the next is not dissimilar from how the Raw elements come together in an object. Discovering the wrong way before you land on what’s right, and that process is beautiful. The breaking point of career burn-out revealed her path to balance, a way to sustain making a living, through a purpose-filled passion to be endlessly inspired.
Tell us about a time it was hard to be yourself, or when being yourself led to a breakthrough?
Entrepreneurship - Diving headfirst into it.
It has been the most profound way to both get to know & find me. Let nobody fool you, it is a journey with many bumps in the road. It requires iterative thinking - endless options - finding creative ways to solve new & unexpected challenges. I have realized it’s a living pursuit–one that makes me feel utterly ALIVE. I find real joy in this process. It feels right, and that feels like me. I can’t say it’s effortless, BUT, I can say that the effort brings me joy.
In these endeavors, I have found that there is a requirement for a level of resilience that you have to build from deep within yourself. In my case, I feel that I am placing a bet on this dying art within the resources allowed in Bolivia. Simple things in design, production, and shipping feasibility have challenged me beyond measure. Things that I took for granted in Miami, are very hard to come by at every step in the process in Bolivia. In some ways, it feels like I’m working against the grain there, as though Bolivia were a place that doesn’t recognize its own greatness. I am working against the common belief that “anything imported is better.” I want to change that script by believing the artisans in Bolivia are extremely talented and that their work is actually worthy of exporting.
It's really my constant source of inspiration. Not only do I get to enjoy the immediacy with which I can see my design vision come to life, but I also get to witness how quickly the work impacts the lives of those creating them. Within the few years, I have been working with my artisans, I have seen them re-invest in their home studios. This is the real work—impacting the network I have been building by putting myself out there and reaching the right people who resonate with this kind of commerce. Ultimately, I want to succeed for the sake of the network I have built. To put my foot forward and say that a Bolivian can and did create something beautiful for the world to see.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT MAPI, THAT YOU’D WANT EVERYONE TO HEAR?
It may sound weird, but I truly believe objects have Life. I often feel the pressure to hide this idea for the sake of commerce. It doesn’t feel like a sales story. However, It’s a through-line within my work. If you could take a moment to walk through the transformations that happen within the creation of the objects I design you could see how the object itself is the living transfer from earth to one another.
Life is placed into an object when a simple piece of the earth goes through the masterful hands of the artisan on the wheel—allowing raw elements to be given structure and form. The pieces then see an alchemical process at the stage of the kiln fire, where all sorts of miraculous unknowns allow the changes that we see from the raw elements into a kind of glass that somehow keeps its form and gives it a whole new life. Somehow I feel like this, more manual process retains the memory of the life with which it was created. And I believe that it can be felt by the end-user. In this way, manufactured items feel dead to me when compared with those that are hand-made and derived from raw earth elements. It is for this reason that I named my company UMA - the Aymara word for water. It stands as a fluid process: an energy transfer.
Designed for connection, to the earth and each other, UMA pushes the boundaries to combine innovation with tradition. With careful attention to geometry, texture and tones, UMA honors the earth’s energetic and organic qualities alike. Pieces are handcrafted by small batch production artisans throughout the villages of Bolivia. With refined skill each craftsman begins the delicate process of transforming clay from earth into object. A ritual of bringing one to life. Each piece carries unique variance and intention as it is molded through traditional wheel-thrown techniques to create a functional piece meant to last a lifetime.