: Belarussian God of Fire)
3 weeks in Belarussia, in the middle of woods
4 hours drive from Minsk, near the river Berezina (well-known for
french people due to a Napoleonic war near-desaster for french army),
with 25 artists from the ex-USSR countries, 2 kilns built on site
and wood firings everyday...
While the local accomodations were not exactly
we usually expect in western countries, the warm welcome and beautiful
landscape of the fishers 'resort' where the event took place was
enough to forgive any inconvenience. The so kind and devoted organizer,
Valeri Koltighin, deserves all merits as we left knowing we had
participated to a very special experience.
Speaking about ceramics, I learned there
some firing techniques and post-firing processes I had never seen
elsewhere, quite far from our usage or traditions. I met there however
some aspects of the ceramic culture I have seen already in Russia.
The striking features are high technical level, a culture of design,
and works which are very elaborated and conceptual or full of cultural
references... A complete change from the oriental influence I mostly
have in my own environment.
It was definitely a good experience to enlarge
horizons, to open my mind to other forms of ceramics and not to
follow the confort of sterile conformism... if I had this temptation
in mind !
Aside ceramics... There is also life ! The
beautifull lake, the once-a-week Bania (russian bath, sort of sauna),
mushroom 'hunting' to add some variety to the local cooking (Belarus
isn't a so rich country you know ?), russian language music and
vodka were largely responsible to break the barriers...
I was, this year, among the first three west
europeans to go at "Plein Air" Art-Zhizal since this event
exist. It was a big première and it helped to have some local
press and TV coverage, and a little more local authorities recognition...
We were happy to be able, modestly, to give support to this event.
Soon, a photo gallery...
Firing 980°C in the Raku type 'underground' kiln...
Work with'Abvara' post-firing treatment. Abavara is traditional
sort of 'glazing' from Baltic countries to Ukraine. This tradition
was revived here : After being cooled at about 600°C, works
are quickly dipped in a sort of fermented organic 'soup' and then
completely cooled in water... Astonishing results while sometimes
risky process !
A kiln, some fire... I am not far !