International Art project


Russia, lake Baikal, Olkhon island, Khuzhir village

phone in Irkutsk (Russia)


June-August 2019

Let’s dot the Is straight away – what is a ceramics symposium? Well, it is a very unusual combination of words better suited to some important doctors at hospitals than to ceramic artists smeared with clay and hanging out in the nature. Over the last 20 years, the events proudly bearing the name of the “Ceramics Symposium” have being held all over the world. They all have their own specialty and certain fads. What they have in common is that they bring together artists who work with clay and who are called, in the vernacular, ceramists. Some of these artists can even paint and sing, but what they love most of all is to create things out of clay. The gutsiest ones even graduate from art colleges and hang up their diplomas at home that proudly proclaim them Ceramics Artists. Symposium participants are offered a work space, where, for a certain period of time, they create their clay masterpieces tirelessly and without pausing for sleep. Truth be told, sometimes they briefly get away from their work to drink some water and sing a few tunes. As I mentioned, some ceramists can and love to sing or drink (no matter what), and the daredevils among them sing even while working. After that, all ceramists jointly dry and fire their works. There is no ceramics without firing, and without ceramics, there is no sense in holding a ceramics symposium. Firing techniques are different – using large and small kilns, with or without glaze, using wood, gas, or electricity for firing. They produce the most unexpected results and unparalleled masterworks. Firing is an amazing act, which creates, out of just a randomly shaped and dried chunk of clay, if not a true Masterpiece, then a truly wonderful ceramic work of art. It is precisely because of that ceramics artists travel thousands of miles to come to the symposium and create their Masterworks.  

Now, a few words about Baikal-CeraMystic. What is it so special about it? Well, there are not so many symposia in the world that are held at a mobile work platform, or roughly put – just out in the field. It is great, when you have a large studio or, at the very least, a small ceramics factory. You can invite your fellow ceramists, create things, do some firing, and that is it. A symposium and the sea of Masterworks are all done and ready. And what to do if the only thing at your disposal is just the sea? In this case, you create a mobile platform. You load a big truck with tables, chairs, clay, tents, kilns, brushes, clay rolls, and wood boards with newspapers and haul it 300 kilometers away from Irkutsk. Most importantly, do not forget to take a crate full of empty glass jars – there is no way to hold the symposium without these little jars. Then you find a big electric socket – we really need electricity to light the work tents, because ceramists love to work at night, that is when they are not swimming in Baikal or singing songs by the campfire. This is it. The symposium is ready to kick off!!! We drop the anchor, then tables and chairs, put up tents, and wait for ceramists! As it turns out, there is nothing special about Baikal-CeraMystic. It is just a symposium, albeit held on the island, on the shores of sacred Lake Baikal.

Over the past few years, new symposia are born one after another in Russia. They are held in various picturesque places, with magic kilns and wonderful clays and porcelains. It is really hard, virtually impossible, to choose something in this diverse plenitude. You just physically cannot be everywhere at the very same time, no matter how hard you want it. As long as ceramic artists are willing to come to our place on the island in the middle of the sea, we will keep on hauling here tables and clay, rolls and empty jars in a big truck.

P.S. A reader uninitiated into the world of ceramics may ask – Why do they need so many empty glass jars? My answer is – I do not know, but it is very important not to forget to bring them with you... Maybe to make pickled cucumbers???


About Baikal-CeraMystica tehnical director Sergey Purtyan