Juan de Dios Sánchez Arce is a Mexican ceramicist who is known for pushing the boundaries of scale. He specializes in slip casting and Raku.

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Juan’s work, created at his ceramic studio in Cuernavaca, Mexico, has found a global audience from Nebraska to the Netherlands.

Four members of Juan’s team work in unison to remove the piece from 1200°C heat. The kiln, pulley system and reduction chamber were all designed and custom-made by Juan specifically to create ceramics of this large size.

In 2020, Juan reached out to the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium (CoVIC) based at La Jolla Institute for Immunology expressing his intent to donate a sculpture he had made.

Sharon Schendel, Ph.D., Senior Project Manager of the Saphire Lab, gives Juan and his son Yanko a tour of the Institute during his visit in April 2021.

For 17 years, Juan worked as an anesthesiologist. "A lot of people they have been asking me why I made the change to ceramics from medicine," says the artist.

"I have a scientific background and ceramics are the same, it involves physics, mathematics, chemistry and art."

It took many months for Juan to create the sculpture as he envisioned it. “What we are doing no one has done it, you can not look up references on the internet or in books,” he says.

It takes nearly half of a day for the kiln to reach the required temperature of 1200°C.

As the reduction chamber closes down on the sculpture, the paper that lines the chamber ignites from the kinetic energy of the heated sphere only seconds after being removed from the blazing kiln.

This method, known as Raku, captures the smoke in the cracks of the sculpture as it cools.

The petals of each rosette have been handcrafted individually to give each one their own character.

Three members of the LJI facilities team carefully guide the delicate sphere onto its stand.

Chelsea Luedeke, a member of the Advancement team at LJI, installs the rosettes onto the sphere. The delicate nature of the sculpture required that it be shipped in pieces and assembled at its final destination.

The faces nestled inside each rosette are a tribute to the tireless work of scientists striving to bring an end to the pandemic.

"There's no choice but to find a way forward. When that one thing does work whether it's that one experiment, that one solution you find or whether it's that one beautiful piece of art that comes out of Juan's kiln, that's the lasting effect. That the thing you do create that is a permanent improvement in the human condition,” Erica Ollmann Saphire, president and CEO of La Jolla Institute.

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