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,
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
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
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