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.







Thursday, 19 June 2014

Swirls Of Life


What would I do in life if money wasn’t an issue? I'm glad you asked! I would probably choose to be a ceramicist, a painter, a sculptor, a furniture designer, a goldsmith, a glass blower, a restorer, a writer... the list is probably endless. In this case, the question should be: "what would I do if money and time weren’t an issue". 

Working with clay has always been my biggest passion, but every now and then I have to do something else. Last time I took a break from pottery was a few years ago when I started my college studies of German Literature and Language and the History of Arts. Even though I enjoyed studying again immensely, I often wondered if I should be more focused on doing one thing – ceramics. Since I have so many different interests, I am also curious if I can say that ceramics is truly my calling.

Just because a person is talented in doing ceramics it doesn’t mean that ceramics is their calling. What if one has a calling for something that one doesn’t have talent for (which makes the whole thing even more difficult of course)? It is not my intention to start an existential discussion about the meaning of life. However, there are some questions that are bothering me a lot lately. How do you know that you are doing the right thing, have the right job or the right partner? Is this life giving us a chance to do something we are good at? Are we actually using our innate potential to do so? 

I think the answer is quite simple. We owe ourselves to be happy. We owe ourselves to grow. We owe ourselves to do what we love. So I have decided that, as long as I have a chance to be creative and to work with my hands, I can call myself a lucky and a happy person. I don’t know if ceramics is my calling but creativity certainly is.