Let us introduce you to a story of finding creativity in clay

Is it easy or difficult to be creative today, in the era of digital technology? How much do we encourage our creativity?

The good people of this region in the west of Serbia will tell you the story of Zlakusa, a place near the city of Užice with unique pottery. Earthen pots and other vessels have been handmade here for three centuries in a unique process with special materials, clay and calcite, on a manual pottery wheel and vessels fired on open fire. This skill is passed on from father to son. Today, master potters make their products as their ancestors did. An increasing number of young people in Zlakusa are opting for this trade.

Hands spinning clay into pottery, © Lazar Rančić Ceramics Studio.
Hands spinning clay into pottery, © Lazar Rančić Ceramics Studio.

People from abroad have heard about this village; every summer, an international ceramics colony is held here, with a fine combination of local traditional pottery and modern trends in artistic ceramics. UNESCO recognized the significance of the pottery trade in the village of Zlakusa and entered the Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Let’s move from the villages and hilly regions of western Serbia towards Belgrade and the studio of the artist Lazar Rančić. He was involved in ceramics before going to the Academy of Applied Arts and spontaneously starting to give ceramics classes. His spontaneous initiative has continued for 15 years, involving more than 1,000-course participants. At a time when we can barely find time for our hobbies and unrealized ideas, many people in Lazar’s studio give life to their imagination.

A rainbow of pottery glazes at the art colony in Zlakusa, © Tourism Organisation of Užice.
A rainbow of pottery glazes at the art colony in Zlakusa, © Tourism Organisation of Užice.

The starting point of the ceramics course are the emotions and passion of the participants. They do not know how to express themselves, but Lazar is there to guide them through the story of clay. In the beginning, it is just a mass; over time, it gains shape, and, in the end, it comes to life. From the basic steps of creating cups and glasses, some participants come to sculpt poetic figures of birds, and some even change their careers to become professional ceramicists.

Lazar’s students are people of various ages who come to participate in team buildings and birthday celebrations or are visiting as tourists, among other reasons. Course participants are primarily engaged in the digital affairs of the 21st century, often related to computers. Working with clay brings people back from the virtual world and serves their desire to materialize their vision in something physically tangible.

Tourists who attend Lazar’s ceramics classes receive previously prepared objects that they then paint. Sometimes these are the motifs of Belgrade, and sometimes they are universal, such as a heart, a flower, or a bird…identifiable the world over!

It could be said that in the story of clay, the only difference between the ceramics in Zlakusa and at Lazar’s is whether the wheel is turned manually or electrically. The connection with the material, the emotions, and the love that lead ceramicists are the same!

Clay coming alive with an artisan's talent © Tourism Organisation of Užice. © Tourism Organisation of Užice
Clay coming alive with an artisan’s talent © Tourism Organisation of Užice, © Tourism Organisation of Užice.

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