Sunday 31 March 2013

How Do You Tea?

Last twenty years I have moved a lot. I have changed many, many apartments, several cities and a few countries. One thing has never changed though: enjoying a hot cup of tea. 

Those six cups are the most frequently used cups in our family. We like to drink black tea, green tea and rooibos tea. Also, I have lots of different sorts of highly aromatic herbal teas which I have either picked from my garden or from the nearest alpine grassland. I like to mix them according to my mood or when I am in need of some health benefit: mostly I don’t think much when I open the different tea canisters to pick those loose dried leaves or flowers. The funny thing is that almost every time it is exactly the herbal combination that I need. I remember that once, when I was having some quite troubled times and needed to make a very important decision, I have made myself a mixture of sage and lime blossom tea – which I couldn’t drink afterwards. Later, it came to my mind that those two plants have contrary effects to our body. So, this mixture represented exactly the state of mind I was in.

This delicate porcelain tea cup from Bavaria is one of my all time favourite and is only used on very, very special occasions.

Saturday 23 March 2013


Last week I went to Vienna to celebrate my brothers birthday. As a former resident of Vienna I looked forward coming to my old home town again. But when I stepped out of the train I found myself in a completely unknown place. During the last few years Viennese “Westbahnhof” was renovated, so I needed a few minutes to make myself familiar with the new surroundings. But one thing remained the same: It is the typical Viennese scent. 

Viennese Naschmarkt
During my stay I went to the Naschmarkt (market place) nearly every day. The Naschmarkt is probably the most vibrant and colourful place in Vienna - even in the coldest days, like those that I have chosen for my trip. 

Viennese Naschmarkt

Besides this culinary culture-part of my vacation in Vienna I visited a very interesting exhibition. It was the Max Ernst Retrospective in Albertina. So here is the painting that I could not take my eyes of: Vox Angelica

Max Ernst, Vox Angelica, 1943.
The story behind it is quite remarkable. After Max Ernst was arrested from the Nazis several times, he fled to the States with the help of Peggy Guggenheim who later became his wife and his patron of the arts. Just a few years later he fell in love with Dorothea Tanning. Because of this affaire he had lost his income and his studio which both came from his wife Peggy. Max had to start again from the scratch. Vox Angelica represents his life till 1943. It is shown in public very, very rarely, and its owner is not known to the public.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Why I Don't Fear IKEA

A few years ago an 18 year old, who had visited my studio, asked me what is the use of being a potter when nowadays you can buy very cheap tableware in every bigger supermarket, even in IKEA. He also wanted to know if it frightens me to have them as competitors. Yes it is true, one doesn’t have to go far to find cheap ceramics. And, no, I am not afraid of two-Swiss-franks-cups from IKEA. 

Bowl, wheel-thrown stoneware, 10 cm in height, 30 cm in diameter.

There is a big difference between studio ceramics (or pottery) which is created by an individual artist or craftsman and industry-made ceramics. I dare say that you cannot compare those two. If you go for the handmade pottery then you have chosen a product that is unique. There is a long way before you can eat your salad from your favourite ceramic bowl. Most studio potters don’t dig their clay from the nearest river bank, but even the industrially prepared clay has to be kneaded before the use. The future salad bowl begins as a vision or a drawing in a sketchbook. Afterwards it is either thrown on the wheel or built and decorated with one of the many other techniques. The bowl has to dry very slowly before it is fired for the first time. And finally it is glazed and fired for the second time. So before you can admire the finished product it went through the hands of the artist for many, many times. 

I am not judging this young person for questioning the sense of my potter existence. At that age one has other needs and priorities. Young people are more likely to invest their money in education, travelling or partying. Maybe they will rent their first apartment and buy their first couch and tableware in that Swedish store. Why not!

Well, the same youngsters will come to a certain age when their tastes and their preferences will change and they will start to appreciate those one of a kind salad bowls. 

Thursday 7 March 2013


Do you know the feeling when you just can’t stand a certain word? It happened to me with "balance". It seems that finding a balance is popular again. You can read about the best ways to balance your career and your free time, about balancing being a mother and a business woman and about being a great lover and a perfect housewife just to mention a few. 

When my son turned two, I realised that it was about time for me to start doing ceramics more seriously again. Yes, I am stay-at-home mom, so you may think that shouldn’t be a problem. Well I had some beginner’s difficulties. Namely, the lack of time. It's hard to find a free minute in company of a two year old. So I started going to the studio at night, when he was asleep. Soon I realised that it wasn’t enough. At the end of the day I was extremely tired and not as productive as I wished. At the same time, my mind was bursting with ideas that just demanded attention. And my sketchbook was getting full. 

I had to find... balance. Here it is, the faux-pas word. My only chance to work in my studio was to integrate my son in it. At the beginning I gave him pencils and paper so that he could draw. Soon that was not enough and he wanted to work with clay as well. No problem. I didn’t mind him getting dirty. 

The result is that I am spending much more time in my studio and I am probably supporting my son’s creativity. Well, there were some fragile porcelain pots broken as he climbed the shelves to get them and, yes, our house could use some more cleaning lately.

But who cares! It's all about finding balance.