2007. January - February

Meet Janis Pujats in 30 year time

Ceramics. Pudnieku skula




Latgale, the South East region of Latvia, boosts its pottery which has been cultivated through time and still evolves, keeping its authenticity, and which is estimated for its uniqueness not only in Latvia but also in Europe.

Its origins can be found not only in very ancient ethnographical but also archeological strata.

Clay products in the region, as well throughout the republic, have been  know since 5 thousand years BC (the Lubana Plain settlements). During the 2nd thousand BC, artifacts associated with the Baltic Culture emerge.

By the ornamenting, the finish of the surface and other techniques, we can find a great diversity  of ceramic products: “comb-hollow”, “String”, “textile” patterns as well as scraped, smooth, plastered, etc.

Vessels were shaped by the hands, and mainly  by women. House ovens and heating stoves were used for baking.

Since 5th century AD also the black “sooted” ceramics has been produced. During 10th century AD, a fast-rotating  potter’s wheel become  popular as well as special kilns of high baking temperature. Pottery grew a trade to which also men turned. The technology, the shapes and ornaments of vessels were perfected. The patterns of straight or undulating lines, drawn onto a vessel while rotating  on the wheel became poplar. Glaze appeared in 15th century, and later on engobe was also used. The ratio of producing and using crockery decreased in the households of other regions along  with the development of industry. However, owing to the peculiarity of the  Latgale economical situation, home trade kept an important role much longer. The practical usage of crockery determined the high qualities, refined by the generation  of gifted potters, of various types of vessels: milk- and honey pots, oil jars, bowls, jugs, etc. Early in this century, potters also started going in for decorative ceramics, or, as they themselves said: “making the ceramics”. From plain kitchen crockery there developed  magnificent vases, wall plates, tea sets, splendid candles holders and many others things, meeting the aesthetical requirements  of the time. Attractive, colourful jugs have already been known since 17th century. Those were masterpieces decorated  with bearded faces in high-relief, with inscriptions and other plastic elements. Figurines, radiating fine, lyric humor, namely tiny horses, dogs, hunters, hares, devils, fanciful whistles and other characters, fostered over centuries by folk fantasy, they all acquired an expression of their own.

The plastic elements and decorative  motives, such as “seams”, “teeth”, “stitched belts”, “strings”, “beads”, they all became integral part of vases, candle holders and the like. Various small shaping tools were used like seals to form little suns, stars, etc. As the decorative ceramics refined, the graphic scraped ornament was also perfected.: the undulations, the herring-bone pattern and most diverse variations of astronomical or biological nature.

Up the turn of centuries translucent glaze  was commonly used. Plain colour  glazes: green yellow or brown  also found wide application, and later in the 20th century blue was added as well.

In the nineteen  20ies and 30ies, several Silajani potters began to use two colour glaze in the decorative  pottery, and in the recent years, also multicoloured glaze. Thus unusual colouring was attained.

As the artisans of the region used dry glaze, and the baking was done in open kilns, fire, smoke, steam and just a sheer chance played not a little role in attaining those unique hues.

In the 30ies, ceramists started taking part in exhibitions. Specific personalities gained acknowledgement for their expertise; it was those  people who  created and perfected style. That was  how the works by A. Paulans set the fashion in the development of the ornamentation  and form of vases and candle holders throughout the region. A. Paulans was an unimitable master of small-size ceramics: his talent turned that, which had been basically a toy, into a piece of art. P. Vilcans gave an impetus to the forming of very balanced shapes in meticulously fine scraped patterns.

In 1937, in paris World Fair, both these masters of art were awarded gold medals; the craftsmanship of A. and. P. Ruics and S. Kalve won silver.

During the 2nd half of the century, the regional pottery went through periods of flourishing and stunt; the latter being  a stranglehold of taxes on the free trade in the starting period of socialism after the WW II.

Un the 60ies, potters lived and worked in the coutryside where the original style and traditions had historically formed. Apart from  the mentioned Silajani centre, also in Pusa worked potters with their even more ancient techniques. The craftsmen of Ludza, Kraslava, Baltinava, Vilaka moulded in a peculiar rustical form.

In order to acknowledge the regional pottery and the great  skulls of the craftsmen , A. Paulans and P. Vilcans were admitted to the Artists Association of Latvia in 1957. At present, 10 Latgale ceramists are members to the Association.

Early in 60ies many of the old masters had passed away; the young had moved closer to cities. Only the most devoted ones believed in the future of the trade. Arts expert J. Pujats, cleverly  using the then legislation, did a great job to keep and promote the ancient craft. A new generation introduced themselves to Latgale Pottery. Not only inherited they the basic of the trade, but they also  mastered at Rezekne School of Applied Arts and got trained at the workshops of the old craftsmen. The authenticity of Latgale pottery was noted and highly assessed by the international arts critics at the symposium in Moscow in 1982 when more than 2000 pieces of earthenware had been brought to the exhibition by 70 Latgale authors.

In 80ies the style of the region pottery enriched. The craftsmen began studying  and using more ancient technologies, in particular the black “sootening”. Also Neolithic shapes and ornaments were down out to daylight. All this made the total  view much brighter.

The artists have been taking active part in exhibitions, the geography of which has enlarged. The traditions, fostered over centuries and creatively kept up, now embodied in artistic handiworks, are appreciated by many viewers; in Poland, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, France, and other countries.