Since 1827, every Easter Monday a mass has been celebrated in the church of Saint Michel in Luxembourg for the brotherhood of potters. At the traditional Emaischen folk market held in front of the church, potters from the village of Nospelt sell small, decorated, clay bird whistles called Péckvillchen in Luxembourgish. Blowing the whistle reproduces the cuckoo’s call, and children love to try out different melodies on it.
The Emaischen Festival takes place in Luxembourg City’s old town on the rue du Marché-aux-Poissons and in Nospelt, which was the center of Luxembourg pottery from 1458 to 1914. In Nospelt visitors can watch the potters at work or attend concerts, workshops and exhibitions.
The Nospelt Pottery Museum reveals secrets of this traditional craft and has a display of antique pottery items. The museum tour and workshop with a local potter, available year-round, offers the opportunity to roll up your sleeves and make a typical clay Péckvillchen to take home with you.
These delightful whistles are a real collector’s item; the markets attract crowds who admire the latest designs each year. It is said that the small birds used to be made of clay left over at the day’s end. Now, of course, they are made with intent, and not only out of clay.
Ancient craftsmanship meets modern design
In an inconspicuous studio on the main street of the small village of Berdorf, glassblower Pascale Seil has been making works of art and beautiful utilitarian objects made of mouth-blown glass – and the much-loved Péckvillchen – for over 20 years. First, she draws her designs on paper and then shapes her creations in a 1300°C kiln. Emerging from the kiln, the glass looks like incandescent honey. It swells, folds and twists until it takes on the shape of the Péckvillchen, a fine and elegant reinterpretation of a historical symbol of the country.
Featured in The Luxembourg Collection, Seil is the only glassblower in Luxembourg. She discovered the technique by chance during her studies at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg. Fascinated by glasswork, she wanted to perfect her skill through an apprenticeship in Italy, “the country of glassblowing par excellence”. However, her ambition was foiled as the training was reserved for men. It was finally with Scott Slagermann, an American glassblower, that she perfected her technique and earned her diploma at the Centre Européen de Recherches et de Formation aux Arts Verriers in Vannes le Châtel. Pascale Seil handles glass with dexterity and delicacy, which, once out of the kiln, can take the form of various decorative or exhibition objects, including the Péckvillercher, the artist’s favorite creation.
Groups are welcome in her light-filled studio in the heart of the Mullerthal region. Up to 20 people can enjoy an hour of demonstration and explanation and can take home a beautiful glass bird souvenir.