Just received the new-look newsletter from the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary. Their new regime after some restructuring driven by the Hungarian government seems to be up and running and survival, that was looking dicey, looks much more positive. If you spot a cheapo fare to Europe and are looking for a little ceramically oriented relaxation during your sojourn, this is a good place to head for. Located about an hour or so from Budapest out on the edge of the Puszta (the vast plain from where those Magyar horsemen would come swirling in….) Kecskemet is a small town and the Ceramics Studio sits on the edge, a few minutes walk from the centre. The studio locates in an old convent with high walls that enclose all the activity within. There are multiple kilns, single and shared studios, a large shared dining area, meeting places and firm, narrow beds in immaculate small rooms that feels like the last occupant was a nun! One of the buildings hoses their ceramics collection – every resident leaves a piece so that over the years, a wide-ranging and important collection has been built… look carefully and you’ll see Christine Thacker’s work.
So, it’s a residential workplace where many activities can take place. They regularly have invited artists in residence – most recently Clare Twomey, ephemeral clay artist based in the UK and soon to give an appearance at the Australian Ceramics Triennial in Adelaide. Visiting artists/students can tap in to the incumbent Resident for a variety of information and support. They offer residencies to individual artists on a varying basis depending upon your proposal, and also group residencies where a small or larger company of aficionados head there together to make a particular study in ceramics and ICS provides the wherewithal. Then there are the Master Classes with a variety of makers, expert in their field, guiding students through making procedures and philosophies.
This year there is…
Throwing and manipulating on the wheel and subsequent soda firing to emphasis every line and nuance in the surface – Ruthanne Tudball. A one-week course.
If you fancy the full Japanese teabowl experience there is Masakazu Kusakabe, his smokeless kiln and teaching how to make glazes particular to wood-firing….oribe, ash, shino and others of the holy grail. This one is three weeks long.
Then there is a German, Markus Bohm also tackling the wood-fire effects possible in a short-fire kiln that match those from an anagama. Just four days.
Another Japanese, Shozo Michikawa explores sculptural throwing.
Ilona Romule from Latvia (who used to send regularly to the FCCA), demonstrates the transference of factory techniques to the making of individual figurative work.
The ubiquitous Rosette Gault with her paper-clay techniques is another.
Finally Susan Nemeth teaches how to make unglazed, coloured inlay porcelain vessels fired in sand to prevent warping.
So, something for everyone …no family to go home to feed, no telephone, no lawn to mow …just total immersion for as many hours as you wish to invest for if you don’t wish to sit around the table in discussion after dinner you can head back to that studio!
If you need a break then the town is just down the road – interesting architecture with ceramic additions undreamed of here, Romanesque churches to explore – all shades of Christianity catered for, a weekly market where people from the country bring produce and crafts and you can find some fascinating antique shops – I remember Janet Mansfield buying hand-embroidered fine-cotton curtains for the French doors of her country house …. very cheaply, as the locals prefer new! Visit Budapest on the way in and out and do not miss the Applied Arts Museum. There were still some shell holes in town building walls here and there when I was there but they will be gone by now. Finally remember the Ottoman Empire stretched that far so the hammams (Turkish style saunas and massage centres) are a fabulous place to iron out those kinked shoulders after a weeks throwing and stoking!