This is the potters’ journey to clay, since time immemorial; because this is the way potters are.

After a longer break we start with a blog series (irregular) based on texts by potter Jiří Duchek. This text was named by him as “Criss Cross” and tells poetically about potter´s wandering to find his clay… Excellent pictures were made by Martina Šimková. 


From the time without beginning it’s been travelling with the wind, it’s been carried by water, contained by valleys and resting at the lee side of mountains. It rests at the bottom of the sea, in the arms of the oceans, deep under the earth’s surface before being casted up, bared and carried away.
Water thins it, frost crushes it, wind dries it, heat fires it.
Life kneads it and time lets it mature.
You can read in it like in books, about the creation of the world, about years and days, about life and death; everything is written in it as if in pictographs on clay tablets.
It is so easy to seize. You can treat it to your liking and leave your imprint in it.
If it is prepared when you meet it, it will let you in its secrets, if you ask it, it won’t refuse you.
When you touch it, it will respond.
You will recognise your Maker in it, and finally, you will recognise yourself in it, because you are also dust.

 “You are dust and you shall return to dust”

Krizem krazem Jiri Duchek

Keramik Jiří Duchek

I love the time when the sunset is more glorious than sunrise, when the days grow shorter and the sun ripens together with fruit. When the earth sheds its skin in all its splendour and glory.
The chilly breath above the landscape smells of plums, the honey scent of overripe pears, walnut leaves and fading grass, moist soil and smoke.
I love this time, ripe with nostalgia, melancholy, saying goodbye and hope, the time of ploughed-up fields.

The time of seekers, of lone pilgrims wandering along streams and deep furrows, looking for “something”… traces, things, artefacts, relics of the past.
In our country, these phantom-like gatherers often wander through hop gardens.
Before the first snow mercifully covers all the nudity with a white shroud of an age-long rest, I also set off on a journey – like one of them, a seeker of clay treasures, a walker.

This story repeats every year.
I wander through misty mornings, bleak days, sunlit evenings, step by step, through fields, forests, meadows, Holloways; criss cross.
With a backpack, a small trowel and my pockets full of plastic bags.
As if I was going back in time at that moment.
An eager little boy stepping into a fairytale.¨
“Mountain, mountain, hear an honest potter and give him something of your wealth!”
And the earth opens its arms, saying in a kind voice: “Go and take as much as you can.” Another voice adds silently: “Take only as much as you can carry.”
This is the moment when I enter “the garden”.

Autumn landscape
woven into rows

Knit purl
Bespoke woollen jumper

In the barren landscape it is easy to spot places that stand out and that would have otherwise go unnoticed.
In the fields, on her barren belly, you can see melanges and stains resembling birthmarks.
On her bosom, her hillocks, mountains and valleys between them the wind and rain uncover weathered lava streams and ancient drifts, God’s granaries.

In the vicinity of streams and rivers, beautiful wrinkles on her face one can see sediments of the softest material from near as well as faraway places.
All these places hide soils and clays, mixes of treasures, potter’s gold – stone and glass.
Not only on her surface, but also under her lids, in the deep, in her heart.
Deep, and sometimes even deeper, are the soil riches of the Earth, the riches of the people.

Krizem krazem Jiri Duchek

Somewhere there are mementos in the throes of death sticking out of the landscape, like bodies at the pillory, bodies hit and torn by a shrapnel; halves of hills are screaming for mercy at the man, the conqueror. They cannot be overlooked at any time of the year.
There are many of them – memorials of the Great and Glorious, raging Industrial Revolution.
The more one has the more one wants. Moloch is a voracious god. There is no end to his victims.

Along quickly growing roads and tracks, cutting into her skin like bullets, are gaping banks, unhealed slashes full of living matter.
Abandoned quarries at the feet of the hills are like old severe wounds.
Seams and tunnels, maws wide open, materialise suddenly; silent screams of the forest.
Only the piles of slag give us an idea of what is left; cast-up mounds long overgrown with high-grown trees and birch groves.
The empty basins and mining pits, often full of waste, filled with water and overgrown with bushes, still offer enough precious material for us potters.
Because a potter knows that “the soil holds our feet”.
That we have the treasure – of life – in earthen vessels (the Bible). So that we are too proud and claim what is not ours easily.

Krizem krazem Jiri Duchek

… Once the whole is divided, the parts need names, says the Old Master. There are already enough names. One must know when to stop. Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 32)

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done. The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it. If you try to change it, you will ruin it. If you try to hold it, you will lose it, says Lao Tse about the “Way of Virtue” some 2500 years ago.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 29)

Earth is a patient girl, but it is still an element; she can flash her teeth, and she can bite!
Potters dying in the pits, buried alive by clay, used to be no exception.
It is thus good to know what to look for, where and when. It is also necessary to know how.
Take only as much as you can carry!
I spill weathered marl into my pocket. The last specimen today, my backpack is full.
I look around for one more while.

The landscape under Dřevíč
a patchwork landscape

The Sun is rolling towards the horizon, fleeing far away, beyond mountains, beyond valleys. A grey shadow crawls along the narrow valley, it expands, the darkness is coming soon.
At first the whole picture goes blue, and then, click, the light is out.
The starry skies sink into the valley. The houses shine, their eyes open, the fireflies make for the darkness. A landscape caught in a net.

Podlesí is dreaming
I am dreaming along

Cold, chilly wind. I slowly turn back home to Mutějovice.

Krizem krazem Jiri Duchek
At home I put the clay to mature. There’s nothing better than mature clay!
Such clay is a laugh fellow. Sometimes it grows mushrooms, flowers, even cereals. Last time they were water cigars. Sweet dreams, living memories.
As it rests, matures, decomposes, it makes content sounds.
It murmurs. I nod. We talk.
When it has rested and matured, it is a completely different material to work with. It all goes smoothly.

Clay is a lazy one
she didn’t want to be wheel-thrown
After a good talking to
she is like an angel

This is the potters’ journey to clay, since time immemorial; because this is the way potters are.

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