Simply water

Next chapter from original texts written by ceramist Jiří Duchek. Pottery arises thanks to skilful hands, soil and fire and last but not least, water. Let´s have a look at a water story by master Duchek. Beautiful b/w pictures were made by Martina Šimková.




The rain’s over.
The stray cloud suddenly dropped its unbearable spleen straight into the lap of Mutějovice. It sobbed shortly, turned its back on us and ran on so that it could have a good cry somewhere farther.
The bossy summer sun, overwhelmed by the sudden outpour of emotions, didn’t even have time to step aside and it burned its way through the rain to the ground; the way everything came together so furiously that it made you dizzy.
All the light! All the sparkling!
The flood of shimmering shards and rays broken to pieces was a feast for the eyes.
The water slid down the roofs and filled the troughs in a minute.
The troughs spilled over and the water fell on a scorched, hot patio.
It drowned, and the garden with it.
All living creatures were drenched to the skin.
Behind my workshop the barrels and both the metal bathtubs that I had put there exactly for this purpose, overflew.
And then… just a few lazy plops resembling the hooves of Mrs Krupková’s horses passing around our gate. And then silence.
Whitish mist rises from the ground.
Look now! The sign of the everlasting covenant has appeared above Mutějovice.
A massive rainbow goes from the south to the north.
With one end somewhere behind the cherry orchard, striding over the church belfry and bowing to the Devil’s Stone.
It culminates straight above the town hall’s spire with the clock. Almost like a halo, I think to myself.
Probably it was necessary to put things right, on earth, as it was in heaven. Amen.

Sometimes I tilt my head back; I turn my eyes to the sky and think, like a small child: “Where do white frost and dew collect, where do raindrops, snowflakes and mists come from, where do streams stream from? Who knows? What will give me a hint?

At the beginning waters were divided from waters, clouds are watching their reflections on a water surface.
Day after day, the skies relentlessly refresh the earth with the breath of their mouth, wash it over with the tears of their eyes, the snow covers its nudity.
In the mists, as in dreams, a kiss is made of drops… trickles touch and stroke the whole world.
With tears, it feeds pools, strengthens streams. The streams surface joyfully from the depths of the earth as swift creeks, roaring, they rush from the hills to the valleys.
They stop for a moment in ponds and lakes, they take a breath and rush on to engage with rivers that spill into the seas to fertilise them.
The Spirit rises, hope lasts it is still possible to find it, the Spirit descends.

I take water from the overflowing barrel with a can and I slowly pour it over dry clay in a tun.
The clay sizzles, darkens, makes the water muddy and sinks below the surface. The surface calmly lets out bubbles. Impurities slowly surface. Roots, twigs, remains of needles and decayed leaves, beetles.
Sometimes I fish them out with my hands, with gusto, and a bit pointlessly. It reminds myself of the childhood years. I am splashing about in a muddy puddle.
One or two days before the clay dissolves completely.
Then I stir it properly and pour the thin mud through a sieve. Quite a thick sieve. I need it to be fine.
I bought this sieve in Prague, in Dlouhá Street, in Čapek’s haberdashery thirteen years ago. Seventy cents. Oldschool round flour sieve with a wooden frame.
A must-have! A beautiful item. Will come in handy. And it has.
Whatever doesn’t pass through it, I throw on the path. Pebbles, stones, coarse sand.
The mud then takes long to thicken. The water disappears slowly in the sun. It’s served its purpose and it is returning where it came from.
As long as there’s too much water in clay, it rules it. Even I cannot do much with it.
It is sticky, slimy, squelchy; it is warping and unruly.
I must let it take its time and become dense. Good things come to him who waits.
Only when my hands stop getting stuck in it is possible to knead it and mould it. Or work it with my feet, the way sauerkraut used to be stomped on in barrels.
Only now the clay is ready to be shaped.
I am not going to dismiss water from service, not yet!
I refill the water bowl and sit at my pottery wheel.
Only with the help of water can we help the clay fulfil its purpose.
Only with the help of water can we help a shapeless mound to find a noble form.
The wheel is turning, I hold the wet clay tight and I penetrate its core. I am turning the spiral of life with my fingers.
The life-giving spirit has entered and we are rising together.
This is the baptism through Water.
Water will keep at its task; it will remain a faithful servant till the very end – to be able to measure itself against fire in the kiln. To make allies before finally succumbing to the flames when the vessel is subjected to the heat of the last judgment. This is the baptism through the Spirit and Fire.
All this must happen before an earthen jar can be filled with water.


So this is my little water business.
Retaining water, keeping it for a moment in its rushing, letting it rest so that it could gather power to bless, to serve, for a hot day, against thirst.
I should give the workshop and the garden their share, freshen up my hands and wash the sweat out of my face.
Look in the mirror, even deeper below the surface, dive, purify myself.
There is nothing easier than turning a tap. Be a consumer. Water materialises from somewhere and disappears somewhere else. Doesn’t matter where. The guarantee of quality and carelessness.
Help yourself.

I still look up at the sky, I hold out my hands, barrels, tuns and tubs.
I become a water caretaker myself, a tiny water man – der Wassermann. Clayman, Fireman and Waterman.
A potter is the friend of all the elements. He is the lord and the maker.
Only a fool would like to rule the wind, the rain and the fire. To rule the Skies and the Earth. “Pride precedes fall.”
It is good to be on good terms with water. Manage it with care and justice. For we are no more than water and dust. Sixty-five percent of the weight of an adult man is water. Good, clean water is a half of a good health. “There is a healthy spirit in a healthy body.”

As kids, we used to play the searching game.
Usually we hid something in the kitchen and then let the others look for it.
We said slowly, “freezing, freezing”. When the searcher took the right direction or closed on the hide by coincidence, the dull tone was gone and the words changed into: “warmer, warmer”. The moment the thing was found we used to yell “boiling!”.
A simple game, an interesting saying.
Who and why did call the game like this?
I have never thought of that. Only today.
Human life is not only play and working as a potter is surely also “a way”, “the way of a man” – the way of searching and knowledge.
It is our rich folklore that proves this.

No one of us could do without water.
As we say, “You don’t need a storm, raindrops are good enough.”

Jiří Duchek and his ceramic stories.
He comes from former Czechoslovakia. He was born in Prague in 1970. After political liberalization in 1989 he worked as a hired jiggerman in ceramic workshops and studied ceramics at the high school for Arts and Crafts in Prague, which he did not finish.
In 1995 he set up his own ceramic workshop and till 1998 he was also teaching ceramics at the College of Education at a cloister in a municipality close to Prague (Sv.Jan pod Skalou – „Saint John under the Rock“).
In 1999 he moved with his family from the City to the countryside to a former farmhouse where he pursues making ceramics fired in kilns using wood as a fuel.

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