Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Forest Thought Me



We have a rainy and cold summer here, and honestly I don’t mind. It seems that the era when I would run around half naked from June till September is behind me. Nowadays I mostly wear oversized hats and light and long-sleeve shirts to protect me from the strong summer sun. So if you ask me, I am ready for the autumn.

A few days ago I had some precious time alone so I went on a hike in the mountains, even though the weather forecast was not that optimistic.

I ended up alone in a pine forest surrounded by the fog and silence. The fog cut me away from reality, both visually and acoustically, so I felt as if I were on some other planet. Yet, I was not feeling lost or dreamy. On the contrary, I was very aware of the moment.

My skin absorbed the moist air gratefully. My ears were thankful for the peace. My eyes were fascinated by the magical scenery that changed every second as fog floated between the pine trees and blueberry bushes. And my nose was overwhelmed with the scent of wet soil.

Maybe I should say that I felt very much alive.

That magical moment in the forest made me realize that I was missing a feeling of being awake and grounded. Not being able to do ceramics for the last few months is probably the main reason for my current state.

There is nothing earthier than working with clay and that is what I missed the most. Yes, I was able to work in my garden and yes, my hands got dirty occasionally. However, only the creative and productive process of pottery making can connect me with myself.

That is what the misty forest whispered to me that day.







Sunday, 20 July 2014

The First Mug


When I started to learn how to throw on the wheel, I was very anxious about destroying the small something I just made. Every single creation was so precious to me that at one point I had to stop throwing. I was afraid that if the wheel turned just one more time, and if I tried to pull the cup a little bit higher, I would destroy it. The idea of my first works ruined horrified me. I loved all my pots! I wanted to keep them all.

The result of this fear was that my beginner’s pots were mostly very heavy. The walls were thick and the bottom of the pots seemed to be filled with lead. But I loved them and I kept them all.

When I started to improve in throwing, I became very critical about my work. I remember that at one point I said to myself: ”Hey, you have enough clay to pull this vase higher!” The fear of destroying the pots was replaced with the obsession for thin and light pots.

Most of my beginner’s work is now in Croatia at my parents’ place. My mother wanted them all and she still proudly shows them to everyone who visits. (Note: Your mother will always love everything you make.) At first I was so ashamed seeing that entire typical beginner’s work every time I visit. Nowadays I like to observe the progress of my throwing skills.

This mug is the very first piece I made when I moved to Vienna. I attended a course for beginners and wanted to skip the usual program and start throwing on the wheel. The course instructor insisted that I form something with my hands first. So this is my very first clumsy, oddly shaped mug. It is too heavy, with a handle that is too small.

I am not using this mug because it is so impractical – but I like it anyway. Also, I love the dotty glaze effect I got by mixing two ready-made glazes that were offered at the course. Finally, I love this mug because it is a remnant of my overly enthusiastic beginnings and of all the love and passion I have for clay.





Monday, 7 July 2014

Simplicity




A genius Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector wrote: "I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort." These words I read a few days earlier made me think about my own struggle with simplicity - both in my work and life.

I mentioned already in an earlier post that functionality is very important for my work. However, simplicity is one of the "designer virtues" that is all about the essence of the work – or at least I like to see it that way.

I want my articles on this blog to be simple and interesting. Everything should be said without too much explaining and without unnecessary metaphors. I strive to write economically. What I want to say should be evident and at the same time, there should be little space left for the interpretation.

The best example of simple communication is a recent discussion with my three and a half year old son. When I asked him why he is not eating his fish, he answered: "Because I am not a fish!"

Of course, it is as simple as that. Either he learned somewhere that big fish eat the small ones and, since he is obviously not a fish, he cannot eat it; or it was just a quick excuse of a three year old who didn’t like his meal. I loved his laconic answer and he didn’t have to eat his fish.

I also want my ceramics to be simple, aesthetically pleasing and functional. If I hear people talk about my ceramics as beautiful and simple, I know I am on the right path. I don’t know if one can be born with a simplicity gene or if simplicity is a matter of a hard work. In my case, there is nothing simple about simplicity. On many occasions I ask myself if it is really necessary to work that much just to keep my work simple. Isn’t it a big contradiction to put so much energy, time and passion into the creation just to reach simplicity?

To design a new bowl or a plate, I am usually making many sketches before starting to work. Sometimes my hands are not doing what my creative mind wants them to do. Sometimes it is the smallest deviation in a shape of a bowl that makes my eyes hurt and I have to start from the beginning. Luckily, talking to other artists with the same problem keeps me grounded and makes me feel less alone in my urge for simplicity.

In the darkest moments of my complicated madness for simplicity, I like to think of Meg Ryan and her famous just-got-out-of-bed-and-stretched-my-curls-with-my-fingers haircut. I was so surprised when I read in a gossip magazine (yes I did) that her former husband or lover said that in order to look so girlish-feminine, natural and casual, Meg spends many hours in hands of a professional stylist. There is nothing simple and natural about her curly head.

So, I am OK. My struggle to make simple pots is OK. Also, it is OK to sit in front of the wheel and throw yet another bowl, hour after hour. Can you imagine if I were Meg and I had to sit in front of the mirror for hours?








Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Holidays


Here are some impressions from our visit to Croatia a few weeks ago. If you come to think that Croatia is a deserted spot on Earth, you are very wrong. It is just that I strived to visit out-of-the-way places as much as possible.

The Island of Losinj.

Lubenice, the Island of Cres, the view.

Lubenice, the Island of Cres.

Lubenice, the Island of Cres.

Moscenicka Draga

Plitvice Lakes, National Park.

Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Wood Work



This is a story about a fig tree. Many moons ago, there was a young fig tree growing between huge stones at a crossing of four properties. This fig tree grew in my parent’s garden in Croatia. Every year in August, we would enjoy its ripe and juicy blue fruits. We would make fig marmalade and dry the fruits for the winter. For the last twenty years of my living abroad, I would mostly plan my summer holidays according to the ripeness of these figs. 

Unfortunately, this tree became a problem for my parents’ neighbours. I don’t know the real reason, but one day my parents carefully informed me that the tree is gone. Since it grew at the border point of four properties, it belonged to everybody and nobody. 

I just came back from a visit to Croatia (I will share some impressions in my next post). During our two weeks there, when we were not hiking through the national parks and bathing in the see, I would sneak in my father’s wood atelier

I wanted to make a butter knife and a cheese board for my boy. When my father showed me the wood from my beloved fig tree, I was both enthusiastic and sad. It was clear for me that creating something from its wood was the best way to honour my fig tree. 

So here is my humble attempt as a wood carver. The small board looks a bit like a car, which was not my original intention. I was just trying to chip off as little wood as possible.