Slovakia, although being a small country, is extraordinarily rich in folk handicrafts. As a result of disinterest from the young generation and lack of the state support are many of them decaying and only a few artists keep the tradition still alive.
One of them is Renáta Hermysová, who aims to preserve the tradition of Slovak folk Majolica for future generation and so contribute towards country’s cultural heritage. I visited her atelier in Pezinok (Western Slovakia) to see the production process and explore the possibility of using hand painted tiles for my project.
I greatly enjoyed the friendly and welcoming atmosphere and was highly impressed by both the production process and the story of the atelier. Mrs. Hermysová founded the atelier Majolika-R in 1990 and currently employs 12 artists from the region. Majolika-R is the only remaining atelier producing traditional ceramic products. The tradition of Slovak folk Majolica dates back to the 16th century and the nearby town of Modra became the headquater of its production. The original factory, which employed 300 artists, was closed at the beginning of 2016 and the only art school where the ceramists were educated was closed 7 years ago. Mrs. Hermysová is considering an option of dual education, when students would study at the secondary school and combine their studies with the practice in her atelier. She remains optimistic and claims:
When a man is motivated and has a clear vision, which he combines with hard work, he will achieve his aims. There is nothing like: This is not possible.
At the age of 21, Mrs. Hermysová bought the house with the size of 55m2 and started building her vision. Nowadays, the building area is 350 m2 and includes workshop, shop, warehouse, office and living space.
How does the whole process of Majolica production look like?
The artists quarry the clay themselves in a nearby deposit. The clay is consequently mixed with water in a special room to become suitable for artistic production.
Most of the products are made by using the pottery wheel.
Special wheel is used for the plate production.
Some products are poured into a formwork.
Raw clay products must wait for a few days do dry. They decrease its volume by 10%.
The products are burnt the whole night in an oven under the temperature of roughly 1000 Degrees.
After being burned, the base paint is applied.
Once the base paint is dried, the products are decorated.
After the painting have been applied, the products are being burned again under the temperature of 980 Degrees. The products change their appearance from matt to glossy.
And finally, the products are ready to be sold and used.
Traditional motives are popular mainly amongst the foreigners, while Slovakians prefer rather more contemporary patterns.
Mrs. Hermysová provides equal conditions for everybody and employs 5 people with disabilities. She believes everyone deserves the chance and she sees the progress which the disabled people are making in her atelier, both as employees, as well as human beings. They take responsibility mainly for smaller objects such as earrings, magnets and souvenirs.
I was especially interested in tile production, as the tiles are an important building material in the spa design. There are two ways of how the tiles could be made.
First, the tiles are completely produced in the atelier, what includes the use of special porcelain-clay kaolin. Kaolin is quarried for example in Germany, Czech Republic and deposits are also found in Middle Slovakia. Kaolin is poured into a formwork and painted after being burned. This technique is very time consuming and extremely expensive.
The second option is, that the rough tiles are manufactured in the factory and only paintings and second burning are made in the atelier.The tiles below were custom-made for an architects to be put in his new kitchen.
After I returned home, I had a closer look at the ceramics we have in our kitchen and are about 50 years old. They look almost identical, don’t they?
And afterwards I enjoyed my tea from a new set...
You can support Majolika-R here: