Monday, September 20, 2010

Ollerías--Basque Pottery Museum

 Two pottery exhibits over, and more to come, triggered another treasured memory from our visit to Basque Country.
As Alberto, our host , was planning the last outing, he asked if there was anything special we wanted to see. Mike asked about Basque pottery. Our tour guide did some research and found an amazing jewel of a place:
Museo de Alfarería Vasca 
Through Blanka Gómez de Segura's vision and energy, the old pottery factory built in 1711 was restored and reopened in 1993 as a museum to preserve the centuries-old craft for which the locale is named. Ollerías means 'places of pots and pans' or where pots come from/are made.

José Ortiz de Zárate, her master teacher, was born into a family of potters and took up his father's trade. Blanka told us that when, as a young mother, she came to him to learn the art, it was not considered woman's work. He did not think she was strong enough. She proved him wrong and for years they labored together.


The website (Museo de Alfarería Vasca ) has very interesting information and photos of the exhibits and historic artifacts. I found it worth extensive perusal. There are three videos in the Photo Galleries, even if you do not understand Spanish, they are visually fascinating, especially if you have read the other pages of the site.

--Un video de 1993, a travel-show feature the year the museum was inaugurated.
--Visita a Ollerias, wordless video, beautiful area scenery worth seeing and pretty music, however lyrics and text all in Euskera.
--El vídeo de Ollerias Maratoia 2010 Zegama, documents a most unusual event: a pot-throwing marathon--16 potters came together and worked ten hours non-stop to make as many small bowls (a basic piece in every culture) as possible, in a town in Guipúzcoa where 100 years ago four families maintained the traditional art. Each participant had 100 kilos of clay to work with and at the end of the day, they counted 1406 katilu! Fascinating, even though the narration is in the Basque language.

The paragraph about the history of pottery in the Basque culture dates its beginnings 4000 years before Christ! The museum exhibits 380 historic pieces that belong to the government. The majority were functional and necessary for daily living. Some were for cooking over the fire, others for carrying or storing water, for preserving fresh meat, or eggs, and of course, many for table wear. Fewer were the more ornate destined for religious or decorative purposes.



Did you know that there used to be pot-stitchers or menders that would make house calls to repair damaged pots? Two holes and a staple or clamp would do it.


Blanka pointed to a sample with many such stitchings.


This is also a live museum where you can watch potters in action. Though the enormous ancient kiln is no longer in use Blanka and her helpers turn out numerous pieces that are sold in the store.


Mike quickly discovered some hidden treasures--amazing and 'impossible' art inside some huge pots.


Blanka was impressed with Mike's insights regarding the difficulty of such an achievement. She was not hesitant to share her secrets. In fact, "If anyone can do this, I want them to come and work with me!" she said.

My photos don't do justice to the amazing experience. But, if you want to see more click on Ollerias.

1 comment:

SmallTownRunner said...

I'm glad you posted photos of the art inside the pots. You had talked about it, and I'm pleased to finally see it.