International Art project


Russia, lake Baikal, Olkhon island, Khuzhir village

phone in Irkutsk (Russia)


June-August 2019


(the conversation between the art critic Tatiana Zinenko and the organizer of symposiums of art ceramics “Baikal-CeraMystica”, an artist Tatiana Eroshenko).


In 2014 the third symposium of artistic ceramics is planned to be organized on the biggest island and the deepest lake in the world – Lake Baikal. The symposium is planned to be called one of the most unusual and amazing names – “Baikal-CeraMystica”.

The fast development of interest in ancient artistic ceramics in this region, which stands far from “traditional ceramics”, is conditioned by a series of reasons, the main of which is that there are enthusiastic people who are enamored of clay, its history, its secrets, and the people who create new reality of clay. It was the very group of the partial ones that threw sacred light of ceramics on the severe Siberian nature, inspired the artistic world with the desire to try themselves and their mastery in a new way, in the conditions of piercing winds, the mystic island and the boundless stately sea.

In two years of its existence the symposium has grown from regional into national and there’s hope that the third year will bring it the international status. The use of the word “symposium” in this particular context is very precise, because within the framework of the project the exchange of experience, the testing of new equipment, the application of new burning techniques and innovative means of ceramics decoration, (and as a result – the creation of highly artistic works) takes place. In 2013 twenty-three artists from different cities of Russia participated in the symposium. Very efficiently and on a highly artistic level they published the catalogue of the symposium. The catalogue included the photos of the artistic works, which look exclusively monumental in the background of the Baikal vast territories, and the impressions of the artists as well. Special warmth and historicity are achieved though the reflection of scenes of the symposium, i. e. photos of the working process, rest and everyday life which cannot be retrieved again. The catalogue also includes the articles of the leading Russian art critics, whose professional evaluation make the publication even more structured and interesting.

Olkhon, Khunzhir ... It turned out that these geographical names, formerly familiar to geographers, travelers and the local residents only, for a few years already have been native and close to artists and ceramists all over the world, to those, who felt or want to feel the spirit of the Baikal mysticism. On the basis of this undiminishing interest, on the eve of the beginning of the new “Baikal CeraMystica” we decided to ask the inspirer and the organizer of the symposiums Tatiana Yeroshenko a few questions.


– Tatiana, for artistic ceramists, summer is the season which is filled with trips, new acquaintances and creative pursuits. In the last few years the symposiums in the sphere of artistic ceramics have activated as well as the participation of Russian artists in foreign symposiums. Tell us how the idea of the symposium “Baikal CeraMystica” appeared and who the author of its name is.

– We wanted a certain incentive for creative growth, a certain inner development and some movement within the town Irkutsk. Everything began this way: my husband (Sergei Purtian) and I opened the workshop of ceramics called “The terra-cotta elephant” for adults and kids. It was the place for the realization of creative attempts. As a workshop we started to undertake trips to the Baikal in summer, to participate in various festivals, to give master classes. Once I had an experience to go to “Yurta nomads”. It’s an amazing site as well as many other sites on the Baikal.

Empty shores, cliffs, rocky ground with scanty vegetation, fantastic heady smells of local herbs, powerful energy of soils, wild restive wind ... And I thought to myself, “It would be lovely to organize the workshop on the Baikal and to invite our relatives and colleagues here to work together”. That’s how the idea of the symposium came into being.

The name of the project “Baikal CeraMystica” was coined by my husband, Sergei Purtian, whose name I’m going to repeat several times in our interview because there would be no “CeraMystica” without him.


– What does the difficulty of the organization of the symposium on the Baikal consist in? Who helps you with it?

– The difficulty is that we don’t have permanent or stationary foundation for the creation of the working site yet.

Now we consider it as a positive factor, as a certain “zest”: we come to the empty side as a camp, work, leave, and then after we leave the site, it is empty again. In the beginning of the organization of the symposium we had to solve a very crucial question, that is where to burn all works. As the foundation is mobile, hence the kilns should be transportable as well. We should be ready for experiments, technical and creative attempts. Sergei Purtian began to search for mobile kiln constructions. At present this program is solved: we have mobile kilns, both gas and electric. Every year we look for a new site for work, because everywhere on the Baikal we have electric voltage problems, which is essential in kilns. The cost of living on the Baikal is quite high.

We want to solve the question of high prices of comfortable apartments. Olkhon is an island, but it’s forbidden to use the Baikal water. Water is delivered here. The same thing stands with the drainage system: everything is taken to the mainland. That is why they charge extra sums of money for the use of shower, which is a normal situation for the Baikal. All the tourists, arriving in here, take it calmly and treat the situation as it is.

Another difficulty is the transportation of the necessary equipment, consumables, tents (which all in all weighs three tons) from Irkutsk to the Baikal, in our case to island Olkhon. First and foremost, it’s all about distance, weight and expenses. We also had to solve the problem with clay. It’s very important at the symposium to work with nice materials: our local clays aren’t very plastic, they have a tendency to crack, that is why we buy ready clay for the symposium. All in all, as you had mentioned, in our region, which “stands far from traditional ceramics”, ceramists are put in difficult conditions.

A few words about assistants. As I had mentioned before, there would be no symposium at all without my husband and my adherent, Sergei Purtian. He is the manufacturing and engineering manager of the project as well as an experimenter. He also makes kilns. Besides Sergei, our assistants are Lidia Los’, who is the coordinator of the project, and Pavel Yermakov – the technical engineering assistant. They don’t look for personal interest, nor do they have any hidden motivations. Just like we do, they truly enjoy the symposium and work at their professional growth during the symposium.

I’m very grateful to the universe for such humane and indispensable people. A big role in the popularization of the symposium plays the publishing house “Time for traveling” and its manager Yeroshenko Liudmila.


– Tatiana, what does the participation in symposiums mean for the artist? Does the artist have enough systematic information about the events in the sphere of ceramics in the country and in the world?

– For an artist the participation in symposiums is very important. Firstly, it’s the communication with the kindred souls, which is so important for all of us. A gulp of creative positive spirit which helps to remain an artist, to avoid melancholy and everyday difficulties. This feeling of creativity freedom which you obtain during this process and at the moment when you see the results of your work. By the way, it doesn’t really matter whether these are the results of your work or of your colleagues, anyway it’s a pleasure.

At the symposium you begin to understand that there’s always someone who needs your works and your skills, that you live and work not in vain, that there is some hope that ceramics will be in great demand in the future and that love and creativity will save the world. To say nothing about the exchange of experience. A good artist always has something to learn from the experienced and young colleagues.

Only a bad and a weak artist is convinced that he knows everything and he can make anything. At different symposiums they offer different working conditions, different burning techniques; there is always something to draw from a symposium and to use in the organization of your working space.

Even if you don’t use it, anyway it’s interesting to try yourself at some new techniques. Symposiums also help to be on the same wave with the rest of the ceramic world. Not everyone can keep developing without communication and dialogue. Personally I haven’t come across a systematic block of information on ceramics about the current events in the country or abroad. I learn information from Facebook mostly. But it’s not always convenient. You’ve got some news now and later it may be unbelievable. It would be lovely to create a separate information site for ceramists about different symposiums in the country and abroad. I don’t know whether it’s possible or not.


– You participate in your project both as an organizer and as an artist. Tell us, as the person who is aware of the situation from inside, what main obstacles the artist willing to participate in the symposiums on the Baikal faces.

– We’re planning to organize one more project additional to this one, called “Baikal CeraMystica. University” as there are lots of volunteers to come here but not everyone agrees to the participation conditions. This project is meant for students, young artists, professional artists, who because of some daily problems, cannot be artistically active, which means they cannot win the contest to participate in the symposium for even nonprofessional artists who want to develop professionally. Thus it will be financially difficult for them to cover all expenses by themselves.

The main obstacle for the artist, I emphasize an obstacle not a problem, is to adjust to the possibilities of our working site. Firstly, there is very little personal space for work, – the fact which discourages everyone – but afterwards everybody gradually gets used to each other and works side-by-side.

Not everyone can work in the collective atmosphere, lots of artists are used working alone. Here we don’t have space for exclusively individual creativity: you can create the moments of loneliness for yourself by wandering somewhere to the shore or along the sandy spaces of Olkhom Island.

The second obstacle is the burning process. We offer raku burning and reduction at the symposiums. As there are not many people who use these techniques constantly, nor even those who have ever used them at all, thus it’s difficult to understand the possibilities of these techniques at once, their advantages and disadvantages. One should be able to readjust and be ready to take a look at his or her creativity from a new angle, to view it from another perspective.

It’s difficult for the monumentalists to adapt their creative work to small kilns, it’s difficult to create anything of 20 kg of clay. But as the experience shows, everybody copes with the task, makes multicomponental works. Besides that, clay as a rule, turns out to be sufficient to let the pieces dry out and get burnt in two weeks’ time. All in all, everything comes out right; all you need is to take things calmly.


– And how is it going with the creation of the museum of modern ceramics? What’s the destiny of the pieces made at the symposium?

– So far the opportunity to create the permanent Museum of ceramics hasn’t turned up. But we’re constantly working in this direction.

This year we are planning to buy transportable platforms to be able to exhibit the works in the halls where there are no platforms or showcases at all, like, for instance, in the library named after Molchanov-Sibirsky in Irkutsk. So far, we’re simply the itinerant artists.

In 2013, after the symposium, the exhibition was completed with works left after the first project, which remained on display until the end of the summer in the hall of Irkutsk regional local lore Museum, and later – at the Museum of Watch in Angarsk. About 2,5 thousand people visited the exhibition during that period. Some participants of the symposium left more than one piece for us. Having obtained that consent, some of works, that haven’t been selected for the museum, funds might be chosen for the charity auction of the fund named after Yuri Ten. The money from the auction will be given to the sick children.


– Your work in the direction of the symposium organization on the Baikal has created a big impression in terms of your courage to implement the idea in life as well as your approach to its realization. In what way did your life change after the symposiums?

– In what way, you ask? The symposium gave an opportunity to get acquainted with lots of good people, excellent artists – the fact which cannot but inspire and make me feel happy. Besides that I got the feeling of responsibility for the symposium and the pieces produced during the symposium and their further life. I also got rid of the fear to attempt something new and courageous. The organization of the symposium taught me to be tougher, less naive and credulous and to stand my ground.


– Could you share some of the brightest, in your opinion, moments from the previous symposium?

– There are lots of them. Let me think. The brightest ones ... All right. These are the joyful and open faces of the participants whom we met at the train station and at the airport, our new white tents which could be seen from afar. The tents were lit like lightning bugs at night and the working process in them was in full swing. Another moment that comes to my mind is the funny concert, where people played different musical instruments called “kazu”. Yelena Vagina from Nizhni Novgorod, taught everyone how to make the instruments. And all the master classes where all the participants without exception “relentlessly” shared all their secrets; our raku burnings when the weather was windy and the wind was fanning the fire through the cracks in the barrels with sawdust and clay works, and we couldn’t put the fire out. This incident makes us think about the lids for raku barrels. What else?

Regular morning exercises, conducted by Yelena Krasnova from Krasnoyarsk, the spontaneous exhibition in the open air in Khunzhir when it started to drizzle. It looked like Olkhon didn’t want to let us go. In general, the whole process of creativity during the period of two weeks’ time was a bright and unusual moment. One more thing: the closing exhibition in Irkutsk and its opening under the accompaniment of Leonid Budayev’s deep-throat singing. In general after the symposium there’s a nice stable “aftertaste”.


– Is there anything new waiting for the participants of the project in 2014? Are you planning to implement any radical changes in the organization of the symposium as opposed to the previous year?

– To tell you the truth, we aren’t planning anything radically new. As before were going to work at the temporary site, in tents, to use the same kilns for burning clay pieces, to apply the same techniques. The quantity of people, clay and kilns remains the same. The only thing we’re planning to change is the status of the symposium, that is to change it for “international”. That is why we want to invite foreign art critics as well. We hope to learn some new findings in the direction of techniques. And as I have mentioned before, we’re going to organize one more “Baikal CeraMystica”, but for students.


– How can one become a participant of “Baikal CeraMystica 2014”? Where can one find more detailed information about the conditions of participation in the symposium?

– To become the participants of the symposium you need to be selected from among all the candidates. Professional artists working in the direction “artistic ceramics” are admitted.

There’s a group on Facebook: “Baikal-CeraMystica/Ceramic symposium on Baikal”. The same information is given on site


– In what way would you characterize the first results of the previous symposiums of artistic ceramics on the Baikal? How perspective are they in your opinion?

– The first symposium proved to be a bit crumpled, of course; and I see no reason to be insincere about it. We tried to figure out how much was needed, how many people might participate as well as the necessary quantity of materials. We needed to figure out if we would be able to provide the ceramists in a technical way throughout the whole process of production of ceramic pieces.

And, of course, we are very grateful to all the participants of the first symposium for being responsive, for coming here at their grown expenses, for working in difficult conditions. They showed us that the symposium is in great demand, that it’s very timely and necessary. The second symposium turned, in my opinion, to be on a very high, professional, and artistic level. This is directly connected with the support of the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of culture and the archives of Irkutsk region. Due to these factors highly professional artists from different cities of Russia, art critics from Moscow and Krasnoyarsk were able to come.

It’s also connected with the responsibility of the participants themselves: all of them were very diligent, conscientious, did their best and that’s why we got excellent results which amazed everyone – both the museum stuff and the representatives of our artistic intelligentsia, as well as the Ministry of culture of Irkutsk region and the visitors of the exhibition. Besides that, we took into consideration our previous mistakes. As organizers we derive knowledge during the symposium. Frankly speaking, I don’t see yet what prospects will open up before us. At the beginning of the symposium I couldn’t even suspect that things would turn out this way. That is why it’s difficult to stay what will happen next.

At present we pursue the same objectives, that is, to arrange a transportable working site for ceramists as well as to provide the participants with qualitative materials and qualitative burning equipment.

All in all, we want to assure the symposium with professional critical support, to say nothing of the desire to create a nice stationary museum of modern ceramics, as well as a big artistic residence, which will help us to expand our ideas, i.e. to build, for instance, a huge kiln for wooden burning, to invite more artists in here, to be able to hold such symposiums more often. I try not to be obsessed with the prospects as they will reveal and become apparent automatically in a natural way, inspired by the will of this mystical site. Here in this particular place you learn the skills of how to take life calmly, as the Baikal is so changeable.


– What are the main things in the life of the artist who devoted himself to ceramics? What helps to live and to win?

– I’d say it’s faith in everything you do. You should be stubborn enough to move further. And sometimes it happens that you get lost, but you should keep moving no matter what. And eventually you’ll find your own path. Besides that you should learn to enjoy life, try to derive pleasure from everything you do. If, by any chance, you happen not to be savoring your life, then it means you’ve taken the wrong path, the wrong direction. In this case you should try yourself at something different. It concerns not only ceramics. As for ceramics, it’s the occupation for those who enjoy the process itself very much, as it’s an incredibly difficult occupation. I wish everyone inner equilibrium and creative search.