The Rise of Alfonso David Hidalgo Cruz: A Modern Artisan in the World of Ceramics

Alfonso David Hidalgo Cruz, a young potter from Úbeda (Jaén), could not have imagined three years ago, when he began his journey as an entrepreneur in the ceramics sector, that his pottery would become so popular in luxury restaurants. His pieces now adorn some of the main establishments of the Chotto Matte chain, dedicated to fusion cuisine, in locations like Miami, London, or Qatar, all bearing the stamp of his company, Góngora Cerámica.

Hidalgo, a 30-year-old artisan from Úbeda, and winner of the entrepreneurship award in the latest edition of the National Handicraft Awards, is the heir to a long-standing family saga of craftsmen. He has entered the sector with a fresh approach, based on the use of contemporary techniques and the design of new lines, incorporating stoneware, porcelain, and high temperatures, specifically firing pieces at around 1,300 degrees Celsius, something unprecedented in Úbeda pottery, which is declared a Cultural Heritage Site by the Andalusian Regional Government.

“These are ceramic techniques with which I try to establish differentiation, a challenge towards innovation while not losing sight of family tradition,” says the entrepreneur, who sells almost all of his production outside of Spain. Last year, he invoiced around €200,000. “The first year I barely had any income, but now every job I do for a luxury restaurant is around €50,000,” says Hidalgo, who has also started working with Michelin-starred restaurants that demand “less quantity but more exclusivity.”

“The biggest challenges when starting a business are knowing how to position yourself in the markets and finding your potential audience,” indicates the young artisan. And how do you reach that clientele? “In my case, I dedicated myself to visiting the main sector fairs and traveling to many countries to sell my craftsmanship, which is an exclusive product aimed at an exclusive audience.”

Hidalgo made the definitive leap from utilitarian to decorative ceramics and, apart from making green pieces decorated with sgraffito and openwork, he also makes pieces in white, blue, or cuerda seca, mastering all types of traditional techniques and colors. He also makes large pieces along with his own glazes.

For him, traditional ceramics do not have to be at odds with innovation and modernity. “In my work, I seek the taste for beauty, clay, but without losing sight of the preservation of the traditional techniques that have guided pottery in Úbeda since its beginnings,” he indicates. He also makes variants of traditional ceramics, both in blue, white, and blue and white with green dots. He has a series, “Alfarería Baeza,” decorated by brush.

Alfonso Hidalgo Góngora, father of the young potter who also shares his work with him at the workshop on Valencia Street, shows pride in his son’s work. “Over 160 years of history, traditional craftsmanship has evolved alongside six generations of potters, but Alfonso, my son, is the one who has marked a turning point in the sector, with more innovation and quality in craftsmanship.”