Anatoliy Bayda: People used to believe that a pot had a soul
Ceramist Anatoliy Bayda paints the “mamays”. Though not on the canvases, but on the walls of his own studio. He also sculptures Cossack crosses from fire clay, besides pots and lambs. He says that every Cossack-Kharakternyk in Zaporizhska Sich was a potter.
You have achieved a lot regardless of your young age (25 y.o.): you took part in numerous exhibitions, arranged your personal shows. Where do you get your energies?
Cossacks used to say that energies come from outer space. I don’t know (laughs). When I embody one of my ideas, many more will come on its place. And all of them are so big, that I get scared at first, but then… the eyes are afraid but the hands do the job.
I have read about pottery in particular… People used to believe that every Cossack-Kharakternyk was a potter. That those were magic people, they knew some special secrets and were devout. And here goes the most interesting thing: potters used to say... Well, now they say: «so many pots, so many pieces». And formerly it was said: «so many souls». For example, “30 souls of pottery” instead of “30 pieces of pottery”. People used to bury pots. For example, if earthenware was broken, the crocks were gathered and interred. There even was a special ceremony of pot's burial.
I don’t know where I get the energies… Even when I am sick, or feel some aggression or sorrow, I sit at the potter's wheel, and everything bad flies away, and I don’t feel any stress after that. Because everything in the world, absolutely everything, that goes clockwise, has its own energies.
Potter's wheel, in particular, goes counterclockwise, because you turn it with you right leg, but if you make something on it, the clay is raised clockwise, which means that a plate or a pot or whatever has its own energies. There are many legends that say that God created man from clay…
If it is not a secret, can you tell us in general the technology of making the Cossack crosses? Do you prepare yourself in some way before sculpturing them?
I certainly say the prayer before sculpturing a cross. And concerning the technology... When I was studying, one of my teachers, an architect, used to say: “by rule of thumb”. It means that you do, and when something goes the wrong way, it isn’t the way to do it. You have to make testers all the time. Now, I sculpture the forth cross almost with the closed eyes. There were several mistakes in sculpturing the first cross. Of course, I have corrected them and will not do them again.
I am grateful to Sergiy Ivanovich Spasyonov, who is a very good potter and a technologist — I often ask him for some help. He usually makes jokes on that, but he does help me a lot.
I have learnt a lot of things. For example, how to close up a crack. And many-many other secrets, but I am not going to give it to you that straight (laughs)!
I sculpture crosses from chamotte. Chamotte is a special kind of clay that contains small fractions of already burnt off clay. There are three kinds of it: small fraction, middle and large. I personally work with the small fraction, it is possible to make pottery of it. I buy it in Slovyansk, Donetsk region. That is, I order it there, and they deliver it to me.
I bake the crosses in the glazing oven of 1050 degree Celsius, because chamotte needs high temperature. I bake the crosses by pieces, because I have a small glazing oven – 70 centimeters only.
It means that a cross consists of several parts that are attached by special locks. Then it becomes an indivisible item and is glued together by special glue. Then it is overlaid with white cement, #600. I overly it with the special waterproof covering – and the cross can stay outside for at least a hundred years.
You’re perfectly right! …Nor snow. Well, of course, if there is an “assignment” to destroy… there are plenty of brainless people. But, actually, if it just stands there, and becomes overgrown with specials funguses and mosses, it will stay for a very long time.
I have always wondered, what is potter thinking about while shaping pots? Is he thinking how to complete his work as soon as possible, or how to make the best of it? Or what other thoughts can spring up?
Different thoughts come to your mind. People, potters in particular, used to be very pious. They didn’t have a right to think about something bad, so they were praying special prayers. When I make pottery, I watch closely the foot of the earthenware, the ornament, so, I think about the pot.
What is your style?
Traditional Ukrainian style. Everything starts with clay, a pot, a crock, a large pot, and only after that one can start making candlesticks etc. If you cannot make fine plastic pieces – pots, small rams, tin whistles, there is no sense to move forward.
Where do you get the ideas for the future pieces of earthenware?
The most interesting thing is that the idea appears in you mind when you are, for example, driving a car and get into the traffic jam. But at first the idea is one, and when you draw it, it becomes different, and when you sculpture it, it becomes the whole lot different.
And when do you get the feeling, that this pot or this composition is ready?
When I open the glazing oven… When the high temperature makes that sacrament with the clay in the oven… So you open it and never know what is going to come out of there… And then you are either surprised, or disappointed, or even say: wow, I didn’t expect it to be that great!
There are different kinds of ovens. There are furnaces, and black fumy pots are baked there. Those furnaces are made in the ground, and hornbeam wood is required for fire in it. There are also brick kilns, and firewood is needed for them. There are electric ovens, with an electric spiral. There are gas ovens. There are different kinds of ovens. I’ve got and electric one. But the best one is brick, because firewood is used there. The fire makes miracles to the ceramics! When those tongues of flame run through the pot, they paint unbelievable pictures on it.
You said that sometimes there are defective products… What do you do with them?
Some cracked plates are sold as decorations for the restaurants. Of course, they are much cheaper. I never sell, or barter, or present any cracked or broken items, because it is said that it is unhealthy to eat from cracked ceramics. But sometimes a restaurant designer comes and says that he needs a special ceramic item. I say that I have a plate that costs 1000 hryvnia, and it is perfect. And I have a plate that costs 200 hryvnia, but there is a crack on it. He for sure will buy the cheaper one, put it in some corner and never will anybody get to know that it is cracked. And it is advantageous for him and for me. He’s made some money on it, and I’ve got rid of a useless item.
The place was perfectly empty. Old windows, no light, wry walls, and benches were not painted. Almost everything that is here – 400 elephants, all the plates, books, light bulbs, flowers, Shponya the rabbit, the bird – came to me during the 7 years that I work here.
Tell me about the elephant collection that is nestled on the shelves?
The elephants bring happiness. These elephants are from different countries, different places and presented by different people. Here are more that 400 elephants. I stopped counting after the 400-th, because I have some more at home and in my car.
There are different periods in life. Sometimes life is bitter. And sometimes you feel that you could have fallen there, but you didn’t. You come to the studio, do your work, and then… an elephant falls down and shatters. It means that it fulfilled its mission, it brought a small piece of happiness, protected you from something bad and than… self-destructed.
Your studio consists of several rooms in the Kyiv Centre of Labour Rehabilitation of Mentally Handicapped People. You work with special kids and have to meet their special needs. It must be difficult. What do you do with them?
Usually I work with them as a psychologist, as a ceramist, and as a practical psychologist. For example, if such a child comes to the Centre and somebody has insulted him or her in the trolleybus, so the kid is under stress, I give the child a piece of clay or paper and tell him or her to make anything of it to express his or her emotions. The kid makes something really horrible! I could have not imagined that. But I take child’s hands in my and sculpture a flower, a smile… Or paint a rainbow or a sun on the piece of paper next to child’s picture. In this way I cure the stress and aggression in the subconsciousness of a child. There are many methods to do this, with the clay in particular. Yes, it is difficult. But still…
(Laughs) Almost, almost yes. It is very comfortable here, we even have shower, and that is the most important thing. Supermarket is situated below, so one can buy some food there. A lot of my friends call me and say: “Tolyan, we are coming…” And I tell them to take something with themselves. But when I feel totally bad and I know that I am going to work the whole night, I turn on music – I have different kinds of it, and I like the itinerant players on the kobza, take a pot, cut some potatoes, the leaf lard – and into oven. It is ready in a half an hour, and I work for the whole night… coffee and go…
Do you have time for some rest?
Well, as for me, to work creatively means to relax. I don’t have time just to rest. Rest is when you work. There are several hours to sleep – and that’s OK. Of course, if you are tired, you have to sleep. And I like to eat tastily, I don’t refuse that to myself. So if we have dinner it means that we have dinner.
And what about your private life? Do girls like pottering as much as you do?
Some of my friends think that an artist must be married. And I tell them that Baydas are not breeding in slavery. At least, not at this point of my life. I am young, and my whole life is before me. Besides, can you imagine that I went to some symposium, and there would be swarms of girls in there. So, I would teach a girl how to make pottery. When I do this, I touch her palm, I can set her hairdo, touch her leg and whatever — somebody could misinterpret that. But to tell the truth, it is normal, it is OK to do so. And I can go to symposium to Zaporizhya, or to Odessa, or to Chyhyryn, to Cherkasy, or abroad, for example I can go to Poland and work there. Would any girl bear that?
And did you go abroad?
There were many invitations, but I never went. I have plenty of businesses to do here, in Ukraine. I have a plan, and I want to fulfill it, and only after that I can go somewhere. You know, there is a great difference: when you go somewhere by yourself to spin yourself, and you hire an interpreter to deal with somebody; and when you are a famous artist, and you go somewhere and people hire the interpreter to communicate with you.
Kateryna Kachur visited the studio