july Aug. 2009

(ZHIZAL : 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.
art1 art2 art2b

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 !

©2005-2009 Design and creation : Claude Aussage