Brian: Ceramic Residency in Bechyne Czech Republic


Prague Charles Bridge

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This past summer I had an opportunity to travel and work at a residency in the Czech Republic. My chance to go came as a replacement for the artist Martin Tagseth, a potter from Lake Lenore Sk. As he needed to tend to some urgent matters at home one of which were several large holes in his studio roof thanks to a bad wind storm. I eagerly submitted my images to the administrators, and they accepted me as Martins replacement.

 

Bechyne Ceramic School

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This ceramic residency is one of the longest ongoing ceramic residencies in Europe being established fifty years earlier 1960. It occurs every two years and the ceramic artist are invited to participate. The residency took place in Bechyne a small village south of Prague. The country side was quilted with farms, forests, and numerous small villages sewn together along small narrow roads that often were lined with apple trees. The ceramic school where we worked was 125 years old and was steeped with a rich and varied history. The school itself was 4 story building, with large studios tall ceilings with great windows. It is a school for young students 14 -18 years old who come to learn the art, craft and trade of ceramics; focusing on a wide range of production methods. It has recently added modern graphic and design aspects to the program. We had the school virtually to our selves, a group of about 8, three clay artist from Czech republic, Michal Jakes, Marketa Skopkova, Petra St’astna, from USA Bob Shay and Marc Leothold, from Luxemburg Doris Becker and finally from Hungary Nusret Algan. We all had wide variety of methods of working; and we shared our insights in to clay, barbecuing and mushroom hunting. The wild mushrooms and enthusiasm amongst the people for gathering and enjoying these delicious finds was amazing. And not to be over looked the beer in Czech was of the finest quality and was quite affordable. The cost for food in the smaller communities outside Prague was about half of our prices. The unemployment was around 10% and the independent entrepreneurial spirit is slowly taking off, the shadows of the past communist regime still remain.

 

BBQ Bechyne

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The largest employer in Bechyne was Laufen a state of the art toilet and sink factory it employed 400 people and produced well over a million pieces a year. It was running three large tunnel kilns that were close to 200 feet in length and the work took 20 hours to cycle through. The factory was amazing and I enjoyed the many trips there that we took there to load our wares and sculptures on their kiln carts. The factory was very generous and supportive of this residency.

I worked on a series of bison sculptures as well was as large 7’ tall Louis Cyr playing a fiddle. This was a four week residency which equates to 14 days of working with wet clay to allow for drying and firing of the work. This meant I had to work as quickly as I could to finish what I started. This constraint was a great challenge, pushing me both mentally and physically. Some of the work went into the collection at the National Gallery and Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague as well as the International Museum of Ceramics in Bechyne.

While the work was drying we toured some of the local historical sites and many castles some of which dated to the early as 1300’s. Prague “City of Spires” was an eye opening experience with an incredible plethora of ornate and beautiful architecture that draws tourists from around theworld , I cannot recommend this place high enough.

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