Latgalian Pottery

In what is today’s territory of Latvia, traditional pottery established itself for substantial periods of time in two districts, Latgale and Kurzeme, but only in Latgale it has survived to our time representing the brightest pages of traditional culture. The stylistic range of Latgalian pottery is very broad, encompassing both the newer, baroque cartouche furnace technique (especially clay candelabra, whistles, mugs, plates), and the older style minimalism and colors (blackened ceramics), which are based on archaeological material.

Latgalian pottery is characterized by two lines of development – one practical, the other decorative; the latter is newer and has truly evolved only since 1930. Practical pottery developed in Latgale over several thousand years and is most strikingly represented by vāraunieks (pot for cooking and, more recently, storing food), milk pot (for storing milk), pārinieks (two pots fastened together, which in the past were used to carry two different dishes to workers in the field), pārosis (similar to vāraunieks, but with a clay handle over the top), medaunieks (pot for storing honey, milk products, jam), bowl, and jug (storage containers for liquids). The most outstanding examples of decorative pottery are the candelabra, svilpaunieks (clay whistle in the form of an animal or a bird, or a mythical creature); wall or table plate or dish ensemble; vazaunieks or flower pot.

The craft of pottery was passed through the generations, hence the potter clans in Ludza, Rēzekne, Krāslava, Preiļi, Daugavpils, Balvi, and the surrounding areas. The greatest prominence in the 20th century was earned by the so-called Silajāņi ceramics (families Paulāns, Ušpelis, Čerņavskis, Vilcāns, Babris, Riučis, Dubovskis, Backāns, Zagorskis, Dūbe-Dubovskis).

Latgale pottery traditions are passed from family to family as well as learned from old masters of pottery and in various specialized schools or camps. The most visible among those is the so-called “Pūdnīku skūla” (founded in 1990), based on studying and practical use of the Latgalian clay processing techniques (L. Zeiļa, A. Bernāne, L. Čible, Vasilevsky E. St. Viļums, I. Vecelis, A. Ušpelis, P. Gailums, L. and A. Pakne, A. Dātava, V. Petjko, V. Bīriņa et al.) and concentrating on the so-called black or blackened ceramics produced in the so-called pit-type kilns fired with wood and without using any industrial methods and techniques. In addition, there are a number of other associations of Latgalian potters − “Rēzeknes apriņķa pūdnīki” (est. 1989), A. Paulāns’s “Tautas lietišķās mākslas studija” (est. 1975).

Although in recent times Latgale pottery has been dominated by beauty understood as the simple and the ascetic (black, minimalist in shape and ornamentation), alongside the tradition originating in the 1930s of beauty as the prettified (the richness and diversity of glazes and ornamentation). The most outstanding samples of 20th century pottery can be found both in museums and private collections (Jānis Backāns, Antons Buivits, Donats and Antons Baugulis, Polikarps Čerņavskis, Apolinārijs Dieglis, Jānis Dūbe-Dubovskis, Jānis Kaļva, Staņislavs Kaļava-Kalvis, Ādams Kāpostiņš, Andrejs Paulāns, Meikulis Reidzāns, Anton Riučs, Antons Šmulāns, Antons Teirumnīks, Antons, Sr. and Pēteris Ušpelis, Polikarps and Staņislavs Vilcāns, Vaclavs Zagorskis et al.). Middle-aged as well as young potters continue to work in all of Latgale districts, not only continuing the old pottery traditions, shaped by centuries, but also searching for innovative designs.

Janīna Kursīte

Sorry, this entry is only available in Latvian. For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

Janīna Kursīte par Latgales podniecību Latvijas kultūras kanonā, 2008.

(Latvian) Četri stūri – Latgales amatu pamati [DVD]. (2015). Radošā komanda Solvita Brūvere, Edīte Husare, Gaida Jablovska u.c. [Latvija]: Aigars Lielbārdis. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, Fdvd/2289

Ludzas keramiķi [CD-ROM]. ([20–]). Filmēja un kopā lika Pēteris Mežulis. [Latvija]. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, Fdvd/1807