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A Rooftop Condo Filled With Succulents And Art

This pottery artist’s city condo is a wonderland of beautiful greenery, artwork, and even a studio and working kiln

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Original Article: Kathleen Valle Photography: Michael Angelo Chua Styling: Dagny Madamba assisted by Chrisia Borda

A major highway is literally a stone’s throw away from pottery artist’s Joey de Castro’s home. So much so that, he shares in jest, he would sometimes play a human traffic advisory to his friends wishing to know the traffic flow on North-bound or South-bound lanes.

“Most potters live in the provinces. Yung yapak nila nakatapak sa lupa. But if the passion is so strong, it doesn’t matter where you are,” he says. Joey may not have sprawling grounds in a bucolic setting, but he’s far from wanting in space and comfort in his corner of the “urban jungle.” In fact, he has two floors to putter around in for his craft.

Joey’s studio is on the seventh floor. The potter’s wheels are there, as well as his mesmerizing inventory of raw materials—kaolin, ball clay, terracotta, silica, titanium, to name just a few—which he uses to make clay and glaze recipes from scratch. The pottery pieces are then brought up to the ninth floor—a former laundry area where the kiln now stands. “That’s my commute—seventh, eighth, ninth floors!” he enthuses.

The eight floor houses the more private areas for him and his family. There’s a spacious rooftop garden laced with succulents, and there are also the kitchen, bedroom, and a living area that would sometimes transform into a concert stage featuring Joey’s favorite local rock artists. Aside from pottery art and gardening, he also indulges in music. 

Though Joey’s pottery studio and home are in the same building, he describes his work routine as a typical eight-hour workday. He wakes up at five in the morning and ends his work at sunset—the only thing different is that he gets to have an extra hour off for siesta after lunch. 

This artist may be holed up most days and absorbed in his own brand of science, but he keeps abreast of current events. “You can’t be isolated if you live in a cave like mine. You have to be relevant,” he retorts. 

Rooftop garden

Perched on top of a simple Monobloc table are some of Joey’s favorite things: succulents and ornamental plants, his pottery creations, and other kiln-fired creatures—some of which are from his artist friends or students. 

Even if Joey’s condo is right smack in the middle of a highly urbanized city, the fresh greenery and wide, open rooftop space shields his home from the noise down below. 

The De Castros’ rooftop garden is brimming with life. The strange and the beautiful coexist and overlap: succulents, a discarded toilet bowl, an errant pet turtle, and sculptural putik by the Bacolod-based terracotta artist Joe Geraldo. 

Joey points to a particular vertical sculptural work on the rooftop, describing it as: “That’s my environment. That reflects the house I live in.” You can find Joey’s works at galleries like Avellana Art Gallery, Ayala Museum, Pinto Art Museum, and Aphro Living. 

Way before succulents became trendy, Joey was already hooked on them, and this led him to pottery. He started out making small pots for his cacti in early 2000s. For about three years, he became a serious student, attending classes once a week and traveling around the country to meet potters and soak up the clay culture. This hobby turned into passion—and eventually profession—when he had the chance to have his own kiln. 

Living area

The decorative fabric hanging from the ceiling was painted by Mark Valenzuela, one of the CCP’s Thirteen Artists for 2015. It sets the stage of the intimate living room that opens up to the garden. 

The living and dining areas open directly to the rooftop garden. The tribal fabric and pillows on the sofa are from Balay ni Atong. 

Dining area

The lighting by the dining area, Joey says, is actually designed for mini-concerts—he moves the dining set aside to make space for the band. Artwork by J. Alcantara—a bas relief of faces—adorns the wall. 

Kitchen

The simple kitchen, of course, is well stocked with Joey’s own hand-thrown earthenware. Noticeable are the ceramic tumblers that are not typically seen in shops. “I like it for drinking water kasi that’s why I made big ones like that,” says Joey. 

Pottery studio

The studio, with its multiple potter’s wheels, is where Joey holds his classes. “When they [his students] come here, they just focus on the forming process. That’s the enjoyable part. The studio is clean and they can just enjoy three hours of forming,” he shares. In this area, the furnishings have to be unvarnished hardwood, as clay tends to cling to varnish. 

Kiln

The workshop on the ninth floor was the erstwhile laundry area. “Sabi ko, bawal na maglaba dito. Doon na kayo sa baba,” Joey relates with a laugh.  Now, the area is home to the precious firing kiln and a chockfull of recipes and potteries. 

Read the original article ("A View To A Kiln") in the February 2017 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details. 

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