ALEJANDRA ROJAS, Architectural Designer

Shot by Benjamin Lucas Decker

Our Rockella Space Member Feature for November is Alejandra Rojas. Alejandra has been a Rockella Space Member since 2020 and has a studio at One Eyed Studios.


Photo Benjamin Lucas Decker
Photo: Benjamin Lucas Decker

Alejandra Rojas is an Architectural Designer who creates sculptural design objects. Her design process begins by taking inspiration from stories, nature, and patterns. These are interpreted into forms that are digitally conceptualized with mathematical algorithms and become tangible through 3D printing. The final pieces are made in clay using traditional slip-casting techniques and fired in a kiln. Each piece is then hand-glazed to create varying effects that emphasize the patterns creating beautiful geometric textures.

We interviewed Alejandra to get a better insight into her world of ceramics, design, and architecture. To learn more about the creatives who call Rockella Space home, head over to the People page for a full list of in-depth interviews.


Photo Benjamin Lucas Decker

Who are you and what do you do?


I was born and raised in Peru, constantly surrounded by art and artisanal work that inspired my design approach. My background is in architecture and that has always influenced my work and focus. I love the process of design and prototyping to create beautiful objects. Thanks to my architectural studies, I found new technologies that allowed me to bring intricate geometrics to life. My research explores the design possibilities where craftsmanship meets high-tech.

How long have you been at Rockella Space and what is your favorite thing about having a studio with us?


My studio space is really great and I’m going on to my third year. It allows me to set everything up the way I need to. The people maintaining the space are very nice and have done a great job cultivating a place where I can experiment and achieve my artistic vision.


Photo Rocio Segura

When/how did you start your ceramic journey?


I had a lot of digital designs that I wanted to work with as prototypes, products, etc and I didn’t like the idea of having the material be plastic. I was taking sculpture classes at the time that I was doing these explorations. Upon some research, my husband found slip-casting as a technique and the rest was history.

What is it about ceramics that you love?


Clay is a very interesting material that has to undergo many different stages. The material’s properties in these stages are quite fascinating. There’s a lot of chemistry that goes into understanding the different processes, especially how the glazes work.


Photo Rocio Segura

You use modern technologies with an ancient art form. Can you describe how 3D printing is incorporated into your practice?


For my practice, 3D printing plays multiple roles depending on the design I am creating or the workflow I am pursuing. In terms of aiding the design process, 3D printing is a way for me to prototype and see how the designs feel to the touch. I use it to evaluate if the scale and the proportions are right.


When it comes to making my pieces I either hand build, slipcast, or 3D print directly in clay. So for each of these practices, 3D printing plays a different role. When I am hand-building, sometimes I design a tool that I need or support that can help me make the piece. When I am slip casting 3D printing is part of my workflow to create the plaster molds. Lastly, I have a 3D printer for clay that allows me to generate the piece directly from it.


Photo Mai Comeros

How have your studies in Architecture influenced what you make in ceramics?


When I was an Architecture Student, I was asked to iterate through my ideas using cardboard models. My program wasn’t big on teaching CAD so I had to make a lot of models every week to illustrate my designs. It wasn’t until I studied Computational Design during my Master’s program that I became aware of the digital tools that allowed me to conceptualize more complex geometries.

After graduation, I found that working with clay relates more to why I fell in love with architecture in school. Constantly prototyping ideas and working with my hands to turn them into reality allows me to express myself. I find that with all the distractions of the modern world, it’s very peaceful to focus on something you are holding and just work on it. Now, when people see my work and I tell them I am an Architect, they immediately say, “Ah! That makes sense” and that makes me happy.    

Where do you find inspiration for your work?


I tend to get inspiration from things I see on a daily basis, from repeating patterns in nature and or things. I think inspiration works in a funny way. One of my most recent collections is actually inspired by a plastic beer pack container that I kept seeing in the streets. Once I see an image that sparks my curiosity my brain starts thinking of it.


Photo Rocio Segura

You have a specific color palette. Can you describe where this influence is from?


When I started doing ceramics, I also started taking courses in clay and glazes to understand the chemistry and how to work with it. The current color palette that I have is a series of explorations. I love patterns from nature so my color approach is based on trying to replicate those patterns with testing and experimentation. Since the patterns have such a direct influence on the glaze it’s a two-step process to ensure that I both like the color and the way it interacts with the pattern to form texture.

Tell us about your process. Do you start with a drawing or a small model in another medium?


Sometimes it’s a sketch, sometimes it’s a small model in paper or in clay. I don’t have a workflow that works for every project. Depending on the design, scale, and fabrication my workflow can change drastically.


Photo Mai Comeros

Tell us about the mold-making process. What is the process, how long does a mold take to make and how many times can you slip cast one mold?


It depends on the design. The same strategy to make a mold for one design is not the same as for another one. Normally, figuring out how to make the mold is one of the most challenging parts for me because my designs are not always symmetrical. When they have textures or patterns with a rotation to it they can require more parts.

I would say that how many times I can slip depends on a few things, including the temperature of the room and how often I slip-cast.

Slip casting is a big part of your practice. Do you ever hand-build?


Yes, I do handbuild. I took a couple of sculpture classes and then I started going to a ceramic studio. Back then I didn’t know about slip casting so I was mostly handbuilding. For me, it depends on the design whether a project is handbuilt, slip cast, or 3D printed. One of my favorite things to handbuild are textures and patterns.


Photo Benjamin Lucas Decker

Is there anything special about the glazes you use?


In the beginning, my pieces were not always turning out the same way and I became frustrated with the lack of consistency in branded glazes. Something wasn’t right so I decided to take some online courses and educate myself on the science of glazing. There is a super exciting and interesting world behind the chemistry of glazes!

In that journey, I found a very supportive and helpful community at the Ceramic Material Workshop run by the amazing Matt Katz, and I’ve learned so much about the process. So in that regard, the only special thing about my glazes is that I am trying to make sure they have the right chemical composition so that I can achieve the colors, textures, and durability that I want.

High gloss or matte? Which is your favorite finish and why? If it is determined by shape, what shapes determine what finish?


Both! Some of my pieces look best as glossy and some of them look best as matte. I’ve also found that I have a preference more for color and finish rather than the type of piece. For example, I have a great dark cobalt blue that I absolutely love in a matte finish and I have a different shade of blue that I love as glossy! For me, it’s really about testing out different colors and finishes on the pieces and then just deciding which one I like the best.


Photo Rocio Segura

Which artists/architects, past or present, do you find inspiring?


There are so many and my list is constantly growing, but a few of the top of my head would be:

Jade Rivera

Noe Kuremoto

Zaha Hadid


Photo Benjamin Lucas Decker

What are your favorite things to make in ceramics and why?


I like to make non-functional objects in ceramics. Since I have an architectural background I see my pieces primarily as sculptural decorative objects. I love textures so I like to make things that have texture or patterns to them. Because of this, I find that I don’t often make functional things like mugs or bowls. Instead, I end up with more decorative objects that bring natural effects into your home and break up all the strong right angles that dominate our inside spaces.

In terms of setting up a ceramic studio, what advice would you give to artists looking to set one up? Specifically, what do you look for, and what particular needs should be considered?


That’s hard to say, as many ceramicists I know use primarily the wheel or handbuild and I don’t. The way I set up my space was with flexibility in mind because I wanted to do many different tests and explorations that didn’t necessarily involve clay. For example one day I might want to do glaze tests and the next day I might want to do slip casting.


To achieve that goal I maximized the wall space for storage and I purchased two main workstations with wheels so I could change the layout of my space depending on what I wanted to work on. Because of my architectural background, I drafted different space configurations. The studio is very versatile and can be transformed. My suggestion for anyone setting up their own studio would be to understand what are the different uses the space needs to accommodate and what equipment is needed to support that.


Photo Mai Comeros

What plans do you have in the future for your work? Are there specific things you would like to try and make?


My current plans revolve around trying to scale up and make bigger pieces. Since I have an architectural background I imagine my pieces being more life-size and on a bigger scale. Larger pieces are much more challenging so it’s been a journey attempting to scale up! My first iterations nearly collapsed in the kiln but since then I’ve learned a lot and I’m constantly improving my approach to larger pieces. My most recent successful piece is about the size of an end table and I’m very excited that it turned out. I hope that after I get that size down I can start to increase beyond that scale into even larger works.


Photo Benjamin Lucas Decker

Where can people learn more about your work?


You can learn more about my work on my website or by following me on Instagram.