Gastronomy is one of the most rooted cultural pillars in the Basque Country. The know-how of the region’s chefs, which stems from continuous experimentation, has given rise to the “New Basque Cuisine” – a milestone that is not based solely on culinary creations, but also on the ceremony that surrounds sitting down for each meal. The traditions of going to the cider bars at the beginning of each year, meeting with friends at a gastronomic club, celebrating special occasions in a restaurant with a Michelin star, and going for pintxos at the different bars of the city are rites that are considered almost sacred in this region.
This devotion to food helped to give rise, in 2006, to Hartea, a company that manufactures dishes and stone centerpieces for tables by hand. The company’s creator and master craftsman is Joseba Lekuona Yaben, an artist who specializes in stonework and has been trained in ancient techniques and artistic skills as applied to stone. In his more than 20 years of experience, he has restored old fireplaces, medieval sculptures, Romanesque capitals, carvings, heraldic charges, and even baptismal fonts through traditional techniques. His work can also be seen in architecture, as he has restored historic buildings and even drawn up plans for stone constructions.
Nowadays, Joseba applies all his creativity and skill to improving the dining experience by creating unique objects that put eating on a par with art. His tableware and serving dishes are made of marble, volcanic stone, basalt, and limestone. Last year, he started to sell a tower carved from a single stone that, to the naked eye, appears to be a cylindrical sculpture; however, when used by diners, it becomes a luxurious set of dishes. This year, he has debuted a new version of that piece that shows off the outer shape of the stone, thus resulting in a more organic look: a stone that turns into tableware when the ritual of the meal begins. This piece is not only attractive to the eye, but also to the touch, as Lekuona creates rough spots and polished, smooth surfaces that appeal to diners’ sense of touch. The dishes can be cooled or heated, taking advantage of the thermal qualities of the material they are made from, to make the culinary experience something to be enjoyed by the five senses. The ergonomics of the pieces is yet another relevant aspect when defining their design: to account for the weight of the materials used, each millimeter is carved to perfectly follow the shape of one’s fingers, the palm of one’s hand, and one’s natural movements – thus making the pieces easier to handle for diners and waiters. This company’s delicate work is already present in some of the most prestigious restaurants of the Basque Country, as well as having a presence on some of the most luxurious tables around the world.
The artist’s obsession with the sculptural look of daily objects has led him, inevitably, to come up with forms that rise above mere utility, reaching the artistic realm; in fact, he has a collection of stone sculptures that were debuted at the end of last year in a solo exhibition in Pamplona. While the dates of new exhibitions continue to be confirmed, Joseba’s work can be seen at his workshop in Urnieta, where he explains in detail the techniques he uses. These pieces can also be purchased at the Mimo shop in the María Cristina Hotel of San Sebastian.
Tel.: +34 628 552 300