We couldn’t find it in Waze and we had to keep asking people in order to reach the place. Driving up a narrow path, we did not expect at all the heaven that greeted us at the end. Mia Casal’s home and pottery studio called Clay Avenue in San Narciso, Zambales overlooks a sprawling piece of land straight out of paradise. A stream curves through marshmallow soft grass perfectly composed with clumps of trees here and there and mountains beyond. If this was your backyard, you can sit the whole day soaking in the view.
A city girl most of her life, Mia moved to this middle of nowhere, pastoral wonder and for a year buried herself in her work. She emerged from her cocoon realizing she wanted to be a part of the community. Today, she gives jobs to people around preparing clay and meals for the visitors who make the pilgrimage to San Narciso. She teaches pottery to children from the mountains and lives a full life far away from the city. When she was a child, her mother took her here every summer so she has always felt a strong connection to this place.
After an introduction to shaping clay, the Chinese moms from our Hero’s Journey experience their first boodle fight in Mia’s lair. The freshness of the food combined with the rough, carefree Filipino practice that is both odd and novel for beginners who are too dainty when they scoop ulam and rice with their hands. We drank clam soup from Mia’s handmade bowls. After the meal, we sit down with Mia showing her works – both functional and purely artistic – on her laptop. We saw how nature inspires her, how much of herself she invests in her art, how art has healed the broken pieces of herself and how she shares her passion with others.
The women go back to studio while Mia and I exchange life stories discovering uncanny parallelisms and intersections. Mia joins them and after some hours, another break is taken, this time with suman which I really wanted to introduce to my Chinese friends.
There is a meditative calmness the women find working with the wheel and clay. I sat mostly staring at the view, thinking about life, how we search for things to lift our spirit, empower ourselves and each other, the power of art to change internal and external realities, what a truly blessed time this is, and what a simply great pair the boodle fight lunch makes with suman merienda.
I asked Mia where we can find her works because she had only her students’ creations in her Zambales studio. All her works are delivered to Manila or are privately commissioned. She pointed me to Aphro at Karrivin which I visited the other day and filled me with awe at the creativity of people.
Know more about Mia Casal and The Alley at Karrivin:
More pictures taken by Mia: