Where Pots are Burned In

In the village Gorodnaya, which is near Stolin, there live potters who preserve the traditions of an ancient art…
The first mentioning of Gorodnaya dates back to 1448. This village once had the right to self-government (Magdeburg right) on a par with towns and cities, and its coat of arms depicts an elk with golden horns walking through a silver field. Not far from the village there is a hill — Zamchische (Castle Hill). Who knows, maybe here Davyd Gorodetsky’s castle was sometime situated. Gorodnaya is famous for its oven-bottom bread, its outskirts rich in mushrooms and berries and most of all — for its potters that keep the secrets of the ancient art and for its recently opened pottery centre.
”Do you know that there was a time when Gorodnaya crockery was sold in shops, one of which was in Warsaw and one in Krakow?” I am intrigued at once by the centre’s director Olimpiada Leonovets.

Only here, in Gorodnaya, in XIX century lived about 300 potters, and now there are only 12. And 16 children come to the centre to study pottery.
By the way, clay is procured also here, on-site. In some places it underlays 18 meters deep. When burned, Gorodnaya clay is robust and heat and freeze resistant. Some time ago it was even used to make special frost proof bricks.

The museum of the centre begins with a photo gallery. It displays portraits of the founders of the most renowned potters’ dynasty — the Mironoviches. Here one can also see the photos of Avraam Basovets who was awarded the mastery prize by Alexander Lukashenko in 2003, as well as Arseniy Shelest who was acknowledged the best potter of Belarus in 2004.

Before clay is put on the potter’s wheel, it is beaten up into a big lump. Clay is beaten up by a large wooden hammer. Then it is chipped into thin chips to get rid of stones, slivers, straw and other litter that can scorch when burned and make holes in pots. Then the clay is beaten into a lump and chipped anew. The process is repeated again and again till the clay gets plastic and soft like butter. The lump of clay is stored in a cool cellar and is regularly watered.

...While I am walking around the museum, two Shelest brothers are working in the workshop of the centre at potter’s wheels — 11-year-old Sergey and 12-year-old Ivan. Ivan, by the way, this year has been nominated to the regional prize “Discovery of the year” from Stolin district. The boys have been studying pottery for two years already devoting every spare minute to their hobby. And there is a simple explanation of their love for pottery — the boys’ grandfather was a potter, and their father is an amateur artist — he makes paintings in oils and is fond of woodcarving.

“Here, in Gorodnaya, there used to be potters in every house, and even now by their houses people have furnaces for burning clayware”, explains to me Olimpiada Leonovets. “And there is also one common furnace in the village which is used by those who have no oven of the kind at home. All the villagers prefer to cook in clayware made with their own hands. Such food has an absolutely different taste…

Tatiana Grinkevich
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