Potters from Doupě

On the last October weekend, extended by the public holiday, we had a chance to visit our friends in Doupe. Mirka Randová and Petr Novák have their pottery studio and original home there. Thus we could watch them working (they do not stop on weekends), have tea with them, choose some pieces for our e-shop and ask inquisitive questions.
Mirka first:
We: Mirka, when and how did you start with pottery?
Mirka: During my first trip to the USA in 1999. Originally, I went to work as an au-pair and to study photography. I had this idea to transfer photographs on something different than paper. Finally, I chose ceramic plates. Well, working with clay fascinated me so much that I stuck with it. At the College of Lake County, I learned the basics of wheel throwing, glazing and already there I got acquainted with glaze making technology.
During my second trip to the USA in 2001, I found the Terra Incognito pottery studio. Terra meant a lot for me and I think that owing to the chance that I could work there as a monitor (a monitor is a “dogsbody” of sorts – cleaning, recycling clay, loading the kiln, helping the teachers, organizing, etc.) – after my return, I was ready for everything which the process of pottery production entails. In Terra Incognito, I also fell in love with wood-firing.
We: Mirka, and what is the difference between firing pottery in a wood kiln as compared to a gas kiln? We feel that at least here in the Czech lands there is this notion that wood-firing is somewhat superior to other technologies.
Mirka: There is no superiority among studio pottery technologies! Knowledge of a technology is only a means for ceramists to find their way to make their vision real. The firing technology is only a part of the creative process which influences the result. However, the ceramist makes many such decisions during the process of searching for their own means of expression. From the selection of the material and applied technology to the selection of glaze. Just as interesting pieces can be created with the use of various technologies (modelling, on the potter’s wheel, mould casting), unique artisan pottery can originate in any type of kiln.
Now Petr:
We: Petr, when and how did you start with pottery?
Petr: Sometime in 1996-97, since 1998 I have been a full-time ceramist.
We: And how did you get to wood-firing?
Petr: In the period when my healthy-food business crashed and I was already beginning with pottery, the Employment Office offered to help me start a trade if I can come up with a viable project. I came up with a project to build a small wood-firing kiln and I received some money from the Office. I had to work hard to meet my obligations. I stuck with wood kilns and I am glad about it.
We: And how did you come to the idea to use your own hand-mixed glazes?
Petr: First I found out that it was possible. I read various books, at that time only available in English, and I started my beginner’s experiments. Sometimes it went wrong. Actually, it is like a cookbook. There are some well-established recipes and procedures, so you try them out and gradually you start innovating them with your own and local materials. Well, and Mirka knew how to do it as she learned that in the USA, so after we started working together, it progressed quickly.
We: When did you and Mirka meet?
Petr: In 2005 on a ceramic art symposium, on May 1 . But at that time we did not know we would be together.
We: Do you have any established procedures for glazes or are you still making experiments?
Petr: We have some procedures established, but still, with each charge into the kiln, there is usually some new clay or glaze. As we, for example, discover some fine clay for glazes or we experiment with various ashes. Each time we test new things. Sometimes we would dig up our own clay. With some experience, you know what to look for and where. I discovered one clay at a punk concert …
We: Do you favour some types of glazes?
Petr: I like combining them, also to be able to offer customers with a wider range. But personally I favour the “Korean Buncheong” style – simple feldspar glazes over white engoba. I also like the method when pottery is not glazed, but at the temperature curve peak, charcoal is loaded into the kiln. Various temperature levels, reduction by charcoal and the use of various clays create a variety of fine effects.
We: Thank you, Mirka and Petr.

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