Zdeněk Manina, ceramist and sculptor since 1980. Czech Republic

Ceramics belongs among the oldest crafts. In fact, any shape made of clay, going through the heat of the furnace, may be considered a work of ceramics.

I have been teaching continuously since 1989. Nowadays I am running individual courses in my studio and I am also teaching fine arts at grammar school in Kladno.

Imagine we don’t know anything about it… can you describe your profession?

I am a ceramist. Ceramics belongs among the oldest crafts. In fact, any shape made of clay, going through the heat of the furnace, may be considered a work of ceramics.Technically speaking, the ceramic stuff must undergo the process of getting exposed to the heat of fire to become solid, hard and more resistable to absorbing water. The ways of doing so are various. We can make ceramics straight from our hands or we can use moulds. As for moulds, ceramics might be either poured or pressed into them. Both techniques may be combined in a variety of options.

What materials do you use?

In my creative work I use clay with the highest resistance to soaking water, as I presume my works will be displayed outside. I make figurative sculptures so that I need to use clay with some kind of crisp additives to increase the steadiness of the work during the process of drying and firing.

Who is you ideal client’s profile?

My ideal customer or client is of higher education, belonging to either middle or even higher class (in terms of social status). They know why they want to own my work, as they often discuss my creative and working standards before the purchase itself. That’s why they know exactly what their image of a perfect sculpture looks like.

You chose to be a craftsman. How did this decision appear to be an evidence to you? How would you describe your work and your passion? What is the best moment you had in your job? Tell us your story in this profession.

At the age of 13 I saw a documentary on TV about the works of well-known Czech ceramists. I may call that moment epiphany, I guess. Give material a shape, glaze it and then get a real gem out of the furnace – that’s miraculous.

Yes, my work is my obsession. Anytime I get to work I do forget about time, I find myself cruising in a different dimension, where different laws are being followed. There’s nothing better than making up an assignment or topic and then consider the most effective way of fulfilling the task. Finally there’s the moment you take your work out of the furnace. From the very beginning to the very end of the creative process you only depend on your skills and will.

What roles do “talent”, “know-how” and “creativity” play in your profession?

Talent is essential in my profession. Nevertheless, creativity is even more important and, above all, perseverence and determination are strongly required.

And what about innovation, what are the changes since you started? New materials, tools, processes, marketing, … How could your profession be more innovative?

The process of production hasn‘t changed much in ceramics over the thousands of years. In time of my own career, the most significant innovation was the high-pressure casting and high-pressure moulding, which in fact belong rather to the field of mass industrial production. As for an artist in his studio, I would call the silicon mould, which makes it possible to work with various materials, such as fiberglass or concrete, with outstanding precission, a big step forward.

Where and how long did you train before you were ready for creating your business? Imagine that you want to invite young generations to choose your profession, what would be your message to them? 

In 1980 I started my studies at the Faculty of Decorative Arts in Prague in the department of ceramics and porcelain. After six years and my graduation I began to work as a designer in ceramic-producing business, where I got in charge of solving the problems in production as well as making portfolio of goods for the manufacture. Seven years later I became a freelance craftsman/artist and then I started teaching at the Faculty of Art and Design in Ústí nad Labem and at the Faculty of Decorative Arts in Prague. As for the young generation, I would like to pass on them that there‘s a great future in the field of ceramics; there‘s a lot of mystery in it and if they wish to experience the freedom of creative act in touch with clay, which is a natural phenomenon as it can literally stop time flowing, it is the right choice of their future occupation.

In conclusion, write a quote, a meaningful experience or a personal reflection that you would like to share with us and explain why.

First time I started working with clay systematically at university. I felt great respect for clay. One by one, I managed to learn all the techniques used in ceramics. I got fully devoted to this kind of artwork. It is the firing which shows the level of your readiness. It can destroy your work. It can increase its beauty. In the beginning I tested various options to reach the conclusion that I like the most when I find myself balancing on the edge of what is possible, leaving the usually used procedures far behind. I started forming sculptures in ceramics. Firstly abstract ones, later figurative.I shaped individual pre-prepared sheets, which makes you shape the inside part and the surface of the sculpture. Later I moved to sculpturer-like modelling process and I press the final shape of sculptures into the mould made of gypsum. This procedure enables me to slow down and pay closer attention to detal and finding the optimal final shape. I use different materials. My sculptures are just signs, not detailed portraits, although I do try to stick to real anatomic proportions. They are characters placed into various relations and interactions, often those of terminal spirit, opening various angles and points of view.

My grandpa, who was a joiner, (after finding out I was planning to study ceramics) told me: “It is a true craft.“ 

 

To know more about this craftsman, see his profile

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