The map below has the route I would walk on day two in Kunda. Leaving the cottage I stayed in by Hiiemägi, walking south to the Lammasmägi site for the installation, and walking back North to Kunda to catch the bus to Rakvere and then the train home.
This map shows the total route walked over the two days and the destinations in circles.
The evening spent in the cottage was peaceful. My legs were a little wobbly when I first got there, but after some rice and beans, some 80s hits played on the old cd player and a sleep I was ready.
A short way from the cottage there was a bridge crossing the Kunda river. After crossing I noticed some structure built into the side of the river that was catching clay, so headed down a short track. At the bottom there was an old mill, with the water trap to divert the river under the mill building. There were also several other buildings around this one, and a smaller bridge made over the river.
On the stone above it can be seen where the turquoise of the clay has stained them.
This above is the beginning of the channel that diverts the Kunda River water. If looked at closely, at the edge where the channel meets the river there is a pile of Kunda clay. It must be building up in this catch as it is carried in the water and pushed up from the banks.
This clearly happens a lot and a farmer has moved a massive pile of the clay out of this trap.
A deer footprint had been left in the clay.
The pile of clay was amazing. Gathered by the river and the ruins of its industry. It’s colour is something else.
This place has been created to work with the river and harness it’s energy. It is made clear the scale that can be produced by the resource of the power within the movement of water. I had felt the need to find a place along the river to film it on my trip. Walking in the landscape of Kunda the river is always winding through. The river and its water has a presence. And so I took some still takes of the moving water here.
Exploring the mill buildings I could see the old mill stones still there, and the shoots, and the worn away steps on the stairs from many feet up and down.
The structure here of the shed on top of the storage silos is one that is repeated on the giant Kunda cement factory. I photographed the concrete one when on top of Hiiemägi. It was interesting to see this structure repeated in two different places, from two ages, when things were moving from way of industry to another, in the same place, next to the same waterway.
After this mill there were so many big old derelict manor houses. This area of the mill must have had a sophisticated population, and a whole community. Now with only a few residents, with guard dogs. The big heavy garden walls leaning to one side, bulging, as if weighed down. There were walled gardens here at one time. It is common to see massive grand buildings derelict in Estonia, and much of the countryside houses have been left to be empty, however definitely not all.
The Kunda Cement factory was powered by hydro-electricity since it’s opening in the 1870s. The force of the river has been used for electricity since the beginning of industry in Kunda. The mining took place using steam engine powered machines. The hydro-electric plant in Kunda was the first of it’s kind in the whole of Estonia.
The national flower of Estonia, which is this blue purple one, that opens up into a star, slightly like a blue bell when closed, was out everywhere.
Continuing out of this forested nook of the river I came out onto the flatlands. The hot sun was blazing, but the cold wind was still whipping across. There are areas of woods, but for most of my day I was out and exposed on these roads, hoping for the small mound of Lammasmägi in the distance. The site is not on google maps but I managed to ask a local, and they told me to keep walking for 2km. The roads are so open, only seeing a few people, one keeping to his bees, it felt so good to be in the sunshine.
By early afternoon I had made it. I think I have developed a relationship to these places in Kunda in my mind, I felt an attachment to them, I was so happy to have found this small sloping hill that I have been studying and thinking and imagining so much about. It was not an obvious or easy trip, I didn’t know that I was definitely going to be able to find these places and successfully get there and film and find my way back.
So to see its raised form just peaking up from the fields was lovely.
I enjoyed how articulate this sign was.
From the top of the hill I could see the Kunda cement factory in the distance. The silver birches next to the island were shining in the sun. And this small shed was quintessentially Estonian. Sitting on top of Lammasmägi I could even more so than on Hiiemägi feel the presence of the water. The flat fields still made it very easy to imagine this place as an island. There was evidence of a campfire on the hill and I was thinking about the stories they could tell, and how the kids’ imaginations could run wild, being on a piece of land with a form like this, and real stories, real carved bone pieces found. It must be the best place for storytelling.
On Lammasmägi, in the cleared area, there was a single tall Scots Pine tree. It must have been deliberately planted in the clearing, maybe 20 years ago. I began to look around the place to see where I should leave my sculpture. I walked down the slopes to the flat fields, walked around the old island on the flat fields, I didn’t feel scared at all at that place. I was alone, somewhere I didn’t know, but I felt so comfortable. On Hiiemägi the wilderness of the moorland, and the sounds of the scraping twigs on the trees spooked me slightly every now and then, and the thought of how many deer or other animals must come up there in evening. But at Lammasmägi I was ready and calm. I enjoyed even walking down the slopes of the hill, being able to feel the gradient through my bodies reaction to it, how steep or shallow it was. I have rarely felt such a fascination and curiosity for a specific hill.
There are beautifully rounded hills in Galloway, where I am from. I have not seen hills that roll like that anywhere else. You can’t even paint them, I tried and it doesn’t do them justice. There was one hill by my primary school, that we would roll eggs down at easter, and climb up sometimes. It felt so big then, to stand on the top of it when you’re small. There is a place above Otley in Yorkshire called surprise view. This is on the moor that looks over Otley at its edge. My family are from Yorkshire, and many live there. My grandma’s ashes were left by a small silver birch tree on surprise view. The tree’s still growing. These two hills or slopes I feel the same kind of feeling for, I suppose I have a relationship to them. You would think that a hill was permanent, something you could always rely on to stay and hold memories. In most cases this is probably true, but it is too that hills can be removed from the face of the earth by mining. Swiped away and distributed into everything else.
I concluded that by the scots pine would be the only correct place to leave the sculpture. There was a freshly dug mole hill right by it’s base, so I would dig this up, as it is already disturbed earth, and leave the piece there.
After installing I walked away. It felt nice to have left the box of Kunda clay with its small island lump inside in the earth of Lammasmägi. I thought about the empty space that the lidded box held within it, that was now existing under and within the earth of the old island, for however long before it dissolves and collapses in on itself. On the way back to Kunda town I crossed the old rail tracks that led out of the cement factory, as I neared closer I began to see the debris of the factory, and also a lot of empty vodka bottles tossed out of cars. There were some allotments right under a big windmill, with green houses and another a self-constructed bee-hive from corrugated tin. I could feel that my feet definitely had a few blisters, and I felt that Kunda was even more to me than what it was before. This time I really understood it. I caught the bus, the bus driver seemed very happy to see me, which is very unusual, maybe they had heard about the wondering person with the tripod, or maybe I just looked like I’d been on quite the journey. The skies were sterling blue all of this second day. I realised when exposed in the open that if there had been any rain it would have been hellish. I got off of the bus at Rakvere and tried to walk around town a bit before the train but it became quite apparent that my feet and legs were not too happy about that.
I caught the train, there were quite a few fast asleep army troops, the train comes from Narva and passes through Tapa which has a large army base, so this wasn’t surprising. Back in Tallinn I felt that I could see where I was clearer. The countryside is what Estonia is, the people are known for being close to nature, and of the forest. It was clear to me then that the people come to work in the city but their heart is always in the countryside.
A small and delicate pointed pot, made of unfired Suurlaid Island clay carried to Hiiemägi in Kunda. To be left on a mound on the sacred burial hill of prehistoric communities.
The Pot installed on top of the mound. Where it will be left to disintegrate.
The pot inside the protective saggar before it is installed.
The small pot survived the journey. It’s leather-hard saggar protected it very well. The saggar came back with me to Tallinn. I left the pot nestled in one of the grooves of the moss between the rocks. The mound does not look like a pile of rounded stones because it is so overgrown but they are loose and circular.
The mound revealed how the wind sweeps around it. The grasses have been pressed in a circular winding around the base. I could see how the wind moves around the mound, just as water moves around a stone in a river, or how flames pass over a pot in a wood-kiln. Around the mound in this sweeped shape there were also buttercup like yellow flowers. These were not anywhere else on the heath but just around the mounds.
The sun went dark after I walked away from the pot. Casting a shadow on the mound. This was completely unplanned.
It feels that sloping forms and wrapping currents are running through my sculpture practice and actions.
I have been reading Tim Ingold’s ‘Correspondences’. It feels so appropriate.
On day one I would travel to Rakvere by train, and then catch a bus from Rakvere to Kunda. Then walk from the town down and round the back of the factory and up to Hiiemägi. After this I would walk along the whole length of Hiiemägi ridge to get to the place I had booked to stay for the night. Lammasmägi would be day two.
In the image below there are three black circles. From top to bottom – the site of the installation on Hiiemägi, the place I would sleep, and day two’s installation site Lammasmägi.
Below is a closer aerial view. To the right of the town is the large river. Bulging at the point where it meets the bridge, which can be seen by the crossing road, this is because there is a hydro electric damn there. On the other side of the river the ridge of Hiiemägi is visible, as well as it’s mined edge and drop into the flatlands of fields. Above the Hiiemägi plain is the current Estonia cell factory which is in full operation unlike the towering concrete cement factory on the town’s side of the river.
The below map traces the route I walked on this day.
The day began with the train. They are really big diesel trains, all coloured orange in Estonia. You feel safe in them. Watching the dense tree forests pass by. The leaves haven’t burst yet here, but all of the buds are ready and waiting. The crazy tension in all of their branches. It was essential to have good weather for these days. I would be walking a lot, carrying all of my gear on my own, and filming with a digital camera. There had been heavy rain and snow in the days previous so I was hopeful that this had passed by. Just as the train was approaching the last few kilometres before Rakvere a torrential hail storm started. As I got off of the train this had just stopped. All of the roofs and drain pipes were running with water, it was gushing off of the roofs. It seemed that this large dark cloud had passed by, but there were other lurking and I was a little worried. The sculptures that I am bringing to Kunda this time are not waterproof, if they get wet they will dissolve and break.
The same backpack I used to carry the Kunda clay back on my first visit, and the Kunda Pair on my second, was being used this time. This was my heaviest and most physically taxing journey. My backpack had the camera, clothing, water and food for the night, the sculptures were in one separate cloth bag to carry, and I had a tripod. All in all it was a lot of weight, more than what you might think. But to be honest, I love Kunda, there is something special about that area to me that makes me feel so full of energy. I went by myself this time, because I knew that the principle of the installations would work better. I was visiting sacred spaces, and burial sites, leaving behind sculptures that were made of clay that I had processed and worked with, for reasons that were found through absorbed and slightly obsessive research. I knew it would be harder to go by myself, but it was important to me for every step and action to be carried out by someone who fully felt and understood this place, so I went alone.
After finding the bus stop I waited, but all of the benches and pavements were soaked, so I stood for half an hour with all of my heavy things waiting, and eating a banana. I knew I had a lot of walking ahead, the bus timing was unfortunate, but I waited, and settled into being on the way. The nerves and apprehension of the journey were easing.
Once at Kunda the skies were crisply blue. What luck. So I set off away from the soviet square apartment blocks. Certain ones are really growing on me, the crispness and integrity of their commitment to the soviet era is so clear and true, they are becoming familiar. As I reached the river I was slightly out of town. And the cargo lorries were back. Trundling, knocking up dust. I passed over the bridge. The river was absolutely billowing with force, and there were old and new structures. I felt the bridge might just be pushed away. It became apparent that this section of the river has been used for power for quite some time. Causing a still bulge on the one side of the bridge and dangerous rapids on the other.
After the bridge the road began to rise to a horizon, and so was all of the land on this side of the river. It seemed that this must be the ridge. Estonia is a pretty flat place. Encountering such big raises like this is not common and quite striking. I could not see where it was going.
The two small buildings dug into the earth below are old cellars, large ones. There were quite a few old derelict buildings surrounding the hydro site.
As I walked up onto the ridge it just kept going. I soon realised the size of Hiiemägi.
The grassland on Hiiemägi is beautiful. There is absolutely no one up there. The moor runs and runs until there is a sharp drop, and after that large flat fields of farm land. It catches all of the wind coming in off of the sea up there. There are a few trees and moss, twigs and grasses. And some birds. The main sounds are the wind, and the creaking of the branches of the trees and their twigs. This creaking is the only other thing making noise up there. The grass feels like it just continues and continues. From the heath the factories are visible, and just, the sea. The factories still seem the size that they are, but their significance becomes quite less. The heath seems much more powerful, and has a much greater dominance on Kunda.
Now came the exploration for the graveyard. It seemed to me on that day that most traces of the stone graves on Hiiemägi had crumbled away or were not visible. The erosion was clear. However the land mass itself held so much history and feeling.
Hiiemägi’s ridge is what held the ancient lake of Kunda in.
“A well-known Mesolithic site that has given its name to the entire archeological culture – the Kunda culture (8th-7th millennium mother). At that time, to the south and east of the location of the current cement plant, there was an extensive lake, which as a result of land uplift had remained behind the edge of the klint, similarly to Lake Ülemiste near Tallinn. The shores of this lake have provided suitable habitats for Mesolithic fishermen and hunters. One has been on or near Hiiemäe on the eastern edge of the city of Kunda, the other on a small island in the middle of the lake – Lammasmäe. Around the 5th millennium, the mother of Lake Kunda near Hiiemäe broke through the klint, gradually began to run empty and swamp. Currently, the Kunda bog has been drained.
The first ancient finds were made from the northern end of the lake bog at Hiiemäe in the 1870s by mining a marl for the Kunda cement factory. They were located under a layer of peat in a marl a few tens of meters wide near the shore.1904. by the time the mining of the marl ceased, 191 Mesolithic objects had been found.”
In this quote I am not sure what they mean by the ‘mother’ breaking through the klint. This is an automatically translated page by google. It could refer to the spring, or it may just refer to the water, the lake itself.
Seeing the slopes on the edge, and the flatland beyond I could imagine this place full of water, and this water forming the grooves of parts of these slopes off the edge of Hiiemägi.
The mining of the entire area of Kunda has been very intense in recent industrial years, for many resources, as a result uncovering many stories in its wake. I could really feel the quantity of water that was being held in by this land, the size of the lake, and the only other land mass the small Lammasmägi island within it’s shores.
The grass on Hiiemägi was flattened into waves by the wind. The only things upright were trees and twigs. The curves of the grass perfectly summed up the way that the wind moves over the form of this piece of land. This place used to be quite possibly an oak forest, and with the passing of these trees the land has been sculpted in another way. The layer of grass and moss and fresh shoots is thick, you cannot tell when you step with your feet what surface you will land on. You don’t step on the ground but on the mass of built up growth. The grass was dry and crisped by the sun and air. The twigs were so many that as you walked you couldn’t help but snap them.
The days that I went must have been the height of the migratory period for geese. There were hundreds and possibly thousands of geese on the flatlands of Kunda. They were coming in from the sea, fliying over Hiiemägi and landing on the flat fields right on the other side of the ridge, finding shelter. They would fly over me, coming closer to the ground as the land raised. I have never witnessed so many geese. It felt fitting, as the clay I was placing had migrated, and my studies to do with the migration of people and grog in the Neolithic, as well as my own questions about my place and where I am going next, and the limits on migrations for some and not others.
In the photograph above there are some mounds.
As you go up onto Hiiemägi there is a trace of some tracks or an old road possibly, this leads to the area of one of the drop offs. Around this area and further afield there are some mounds. Covered in moss and grass. Some of them appear to made up of piles of rounded stones that have then been grown over. And some have quite perfect domed mound shapes. I do not know if these are burial mounds covering a grave or collections of rubble from something else. It is a protected site that has been used for burials for many years so it is likely that these may have been burial sites. They were the only recognisable human interference in the land, but in a way that had been absorbed by the carpet of the heath. Their form and the shape of the stones made me feel it was the correct place to leave the piece I had carried with me.
After filming the installation of the piece it was time to take the walk to the small cottage I had booked to stay in for the night. It was the only place to stay in Kunda and it just happened to be on the other side of the Hiiemägi ridge.
In the whole area surrounding Hiiemägi there were no fences. This was quite an amazing feeling. All of the fields were not seperated by fencing, or the ridge or the roads.
There was a lot of walking in these days. I set my pace, and worked my way along. I felt that I could hear so many birds. And the air was so fresh. I realised how much I need to be away from buildings. It seems that when you are from a rural place this can be something you always need. I felt tired but yet so fresh. The freshest I had felt in a while. I keep thinking about that feeling and the place. It is so addictive.
I made it to the place I was staying. And there was geese visible from out the back. With their red legs. Who knows how far they’ve come. You can see my boots and bag and tripod. In the bag is the saggar carrier, and the sculpture for the next day. I was hopeful after eating most of my food that evening that the bags would be lighter tomorrow.
Forms for the installations in Kunda at Hiiemägi and Lammasmägi.
Suurlaid Island clay and Kunda clay.
There are two sculptures that will be carried with me to Kunda to install. One on the ridge at Hiiemägi and one on the past island of Lammasmägi.
The ideas for these two sculptures came through making in the studio. They moved around a bit until I landed on the settled place and form for each.
Above is the island clay in its raw state. Mixed with all sorts of different pigments. With its grit sand and grass left in. Even while making the forms below stripes of differently coloured clay could be seen in the box and pinched pot. Wild clays are so alive while being worked with.
The island clay is quite crumbly. I knew I wanted to take unfired pieces to Kunda this time. There is something about the dissolving of the work, seeing as they would both be left on land this time rather than in the river, that felt right.
The first sculpture for Hiiemägi hill is a small pinched and coiled pointed bottom pot made solely of the Suurlaid island clay, that would be slightly burnished and carried in a protective saggar of island clay mixed with the stronger white stoneware. The small pot being made only of the island clay with all of it’s impurities was weak and delicate. Its shape comes from the shapes of the Prehistoric Pitted and Combed Ware. These pointed bottom pots are a form that has been stuck in my mind since arriving in Estonia and doing the initial research into the pottery cultures here in prehistory.
A drawing of Baltic Neolithic Ware from the article – The Neolithic of the Eastern Baltic, Rimutė Rimantienė, Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 6, No. 1 (March 1992), pp. 97-143 (47 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/25800611
A recent pencil drawing of these forms.
A drawing done in September 2020 of these forms and initial thoughts on sculpture practice.
Below is the protective saggar face down with the lid next to it, and the smaller delicate pot in the background is the one that will be held inside. The saggar clay has been kneaded with white stoneware in order to give the casing strength and stability.
Saggars are boxes that delicate ware is fired inside in the kiln. Saggars are refired repeatedly in the kiln to protect each load, being reused in every firing. This gives them a beautiful materiality, withstanding the flames and heat, and picking up the traces and marks each time. They are often stacked upon one another. A kiln being full of towering stacks of saggars, and within each collections of the finest ceramics.
The delicate inner pot would be taken to Hiiemägi and left there, on the burial grounds of many past ancestors. The saggar will be carried back with me to Tallinn, going on the journey to and from Kunda, returning empty, to be possibly fired. One vitrified and kept, that is the carrier and the other left to break down in the rain.
The second sculpture to be installed at Lammasmägi would be a lidded box made of Kunda clay with a small bump on the bottom inner face of the box, this small bump is made of the Suurlaid clay. So there is a small bump just like the mound of Lammasmägi that sits in the flatlands of Kunda, it’s form revealing that it used to be an island in the large ancient lake that covered much of present day Kunda. The box that holds the island will be buried in the past island of Lammasmägi, its container made of Kunda clay, to be left to dissolve in the Kunda earth. A burial of an offering to the past island, made from the earth of Estonia.
The Suurlaid island clay in both installations has experienced a migration. From off the South-Westerly coast of Estonia up to the North Eastern coast of Kunda. It has been dug, carried, and put on a rowing boat by a friend, to be brought to a larger island, then in a car, on a ferry, and up to Tallinn, to then be left in Kunda.
When the two halves were joined together the jar was very heavy. I carved down the jar significantly, inwardly and outwardly which helped slightly to reduce its weight. It’s become apparent through this process that throwing the halves rather than coil building would be much more effective, both for the fineness and the movement of the jar. The flow of the wheel would allow the form its movement once assembled. They need to move as you walk around them.
It is a lovely thing to hold. And it’s asymmetry allows for the bumps and grooves to be seen as you walk around it.
When you look in from the top, the space inside is like looking into a giant pit, like falling off a cliff into a deep lagoon. There was something relating to rock formations in looking into this hole. The ceramicist Mitch Iburg makes a lot of large jars, with local materials, and has studied kettle holes in relation to this part of large jars, the openings of vessels. The drop over edge of the rim into the big empty belly. I will make more of these large rounded jars in the future.
Mitch Iburg on kettle holes: “These holes were carved into solid stone by fast moving flood waters and rapids carrying large amounts of rock debris. Loose stones slowly chipped away at the exposed rock until becoming trapped in the hole itself. As currents continued over time, trapped stones and sediments consistently ground away the surrounding bedrock, creating a wide range of cavernous volumes now exposed and eroded along the banks of ancient rivers.”
(from: his personal instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/p/B37Og6LHok3/)
Kettle holes relationship to metaphors surrounding vessels.
Moon jars have an essential presence in the Korean history of ceramics.
Made of porcelain, thrown of two halves which are then joined. They are joined together so that the line of the join is visible often. Usually to contain flowers or wine, but they are also votive, ritual vessels.
From Jisu Hong’s article The Evolution of Moon Jars in Korean Ceramics :
“the adopted ‘moon jar’ in Korean art seeks to minimize insincere traces by reviving natural beauty, and has become a symbol of the rejection of artificiality.”
As written by Simon Olding of the artist Young Sook Park in the article The ‘Moon Jar’: A Transcendent Ceramic Form:
“The Moon Jar in Young Sook Park’s deeply skilled hands is both a singular example and a type. It is a symbol of purity through reticence, of an august serenity that has respected the past and yet might appeal to a present hope for calm and reflection. The Moon Jar plays a vital part in her repertoire of vessels: perhaps now at the core of her practice. Her Moon Jars, in graduated sequences of sizes up to the largest-possible, are universally recognized to be the purest representations of a singular and deeply symbolic form. This is a pot of tranquil force; a pot of the night sky.”
A particularly well-known moon jar in Britain, is the one purchased by Bernard Leach in Seoul in 1935.
“Leach’s Moon Jar played out a particular narrative: it represented the apogee of work by the anonymous craftsman and thus took its place in the pantheon of Korean ‘folk craft’; and it echoed the reticence of European modernism, such that its loan to Rie seemed inevitable. It may also have carried an emotional message: a gift to a deeply-loved friend.”
Lucie Rie sat in her London studio in 1989 next to Leach’s gifted moon jar.
(Photograph by Lord Snowdon, image source: https://smarthistory.org/white-porcelain-moon-jar/)
There is also a relationship between the moon jar and the Confucian aesthetic and principles.
Confucian aesthetic research:
“Confucian practice is aesthetic in nature since it entails cultivating the self through the practice of ritual and art.”
“The early Confucians stressed that rituals and arts must be practiced if one is to become fully human. The arts provide the polish that human beings need in order to become humane or ren. Seen this way, ritual and artistic practices work hand-in-hand to develop a moral sense and ultimately to bring about a state of social harmony. This, in turn, raises the question of whether or not this approach does justice to the power of art to generate intense aesthetic experiences.”
(The above quotes are from the paper Carrying the Jade Tablet: A Consideration of Confucian Artistry by Eric C. Mullis)
“Its white color suggests the Confucian virtues of purity, honesty, and modesty, and the form was thought to represent the fertility and embracing, gentle qualities of women.”
Prepping the slip, jar, and glazing the inside by pouring out. These are stills from some videos I have been taking of myself making in the studio.
Brushing the outside with Lahemaa clay glaze.
Drawing of an erased moon jar, redrawn and erased repeatedly until its outline is worn into the paper by its erosion.
This was an attempt to further explore the quiet pot drawings. To try to capture the quietness I am looking for in my making. The drawing is present through having been erased. I feel that this holds a lot of what I am doing with my installations of pieces in the landscape, through their erosion they are present.
This was my shadow as I bent down to see the proportions of the foot of the jar to the top rim and the belly, my hand dangling in the light with the wooden tool.
Back in the studio, boots left next to the buckets of clay.
This jar is being made from white stoneware. It is now assembled together as one whole, in the early stages. Next will be to carve, refine and burnish the form. This may be glazed or slipped in the Lahemaa clay.
The two halves, one open, upwards, a bowl; and one with its open face downwards, a mound, joined to create one closed whole.
The research extracts in the previous post have linked together the offerings made to water bodies and wetlands in the Baltics in early history once again with the area of Kunda. Expanding out the number of places of significance within this area and their value in relation to native Estonian culture.
The interference of the mining in Kunda is clear. The mining is what is seen as forming the present-day town and it’s people. The mining and docks at Kunda allow for the largest exports of goods in Estonia. But the mining is simultaneously taking away the very earth that holds the ancestors. It is a place that exists between two. The present seems to be destroying the past. I am wary of this thought, as I do believe in things moving forward, and I use the clay from this place, but I worry about what might be lost if we take too much. We rely on it, and although the earth can take thousands of years gradually working away to reset life forms and resources, on its slow crawling pace of life, our lifecycle is not one that can survive like that. So if we take everything now then there won’t be anything left for those of us who come next.
Maybe there is some link between preserving an ancestor’s place, not for the ancestors but for the next generation. In preserving the last generation you provide for the next. There is some cyclical understanding of learning in this.
Water seems to be one of the most precious and fragile resources. And so the respect and understanding of it, to the extent that it is felt as being part of your body, and it’s passage. To the extent that a body of water that is external to your body existing in the landscape is connected to your breathing, and your breathing after you die, makes sense. Why shouldn’t you give to it as you would give to a loved one, because without it you would never have existed.
“1.7 kilometers long, up to 400 meters wide and up to 15 meters high
Folklore, however, remembers the giant mountain as follows:
Near the town of Kunda is an upland that extends from Kunda Manor to Kunda-Mallan. In the middle were large oaks and large rocks, they are no longer found in the weather. Tammesalu was a place for local people and he was called Hiiemäe. In the old days, local people, according to older people, had brought their victims there and treated their diseases. The weather must also be a burial place in the old days. It used to be a settlement under the steep slope of Hiiemäe.
We remember the sacrificial stone in Hiiumaa and the source from which the medicinal water was obtained, as well as the fact that people were buried in Hiiumaa:
There was a spring on the slope by Iie. Smell of sulfur, bitter taste. Water was taken to wash the face, against skin diseases.
When the people die, they are taken to Kunda Hiijemäe and burned, so that the spirit will go to heaven with fire.”
(From: University Of Tartu Faculty Of Philosophy Institute Of History And Archaeology. Kristjan Sander. Kunda Lammasmäe Stone Age Settlement. Master’s thesis Supervisor: Professor Aivar Kriiska. Tartu 2014.)
‘Kunda ancient lake on today’s main map. Streaked area – ancient lake, black spots – case finds from marl mining, red spots – Stone Age settlements in Muinasjärv around. The elevation map of the area bounded by the frame is shown in Figure 3. Author’s drawing Jaanits et al. 1982 and Based on the main map of the Land Board.’
Lammasmägi Hill image from google above.
I have pieced these two fragments of maps included in the previous post together to form a full map, after looking at them further I realised they matched. A jigsaw.
Another image of estonian Maausk gathering on top of Hiiemägi hill with the fumes of the factory in the background.
The above image and those following are all from: https://register.muinas.ee/public.php?menuID=monument&action=imagegallery&id=10290
Hiiemägi Hill is the ridge. Falling into this gravel quarry.
Aerial views. Dated 2014. Perhaps some of the site is still holding on and hasn’t fallen down into the old quarry site yet.
Figure 2. The north-eastern part of Kunda Muinasjärv today. The findings of Hiie farm were obtained with a red dot marked from the field between the high slope of Hiiemäe and the quarry. Aerial photo of the Land Board.
(From: University Of Tartu Faculty Of Philosophy Institute Of History And Archaeology. Kristjan Sander. Kunda Lammasmäe Stone Age Settlement. Master’s thesis Supervisor: Professor Aivar Kriiska. Tartu 2014.)
Figure 3. Altitude map of Kunda muinasjärv area and settlements on the shores of muinasjärv. Signatory based on the data of the Land Board.
(From: University Of Tartu Faculty Of Philosophy Institute Of History And Archaeology. Kristjan Sander. Kunda Lammasmäe Stone Age Settlement. Master’s thesis Supervisor: Professor Aivar Kriiska. Tartu 2014.)
Muinasjärv is the ancient lake. Muinas means ancient and järv, lake.
I discovered this Estonian scout handbook detailing the entire history, it’s founders, and their activities, here is a page about the muinasjärv. Roughly translated by google:
Date of the camp: July 29 – August 7, 1961.
Laag_ri place: Kotkaj bill cub in Muskoka.
Background of the camp _mHngu: Early Estonian ancient times Ociviaeg), when it was used
stone, bone and horn raw materials and weapons. Skins were used for body covering. Elati
locally asleep, but was obtained from fishing, hunting ~ and harvested from nature
The fire was felt and they could be extinguished. As the only pet
was considered a dog.
Scientifically, the background is the ancient finds of Kunda
From Virumaa. From the poles of the settlement below Kunda- ~!
n.n. Lanrnasmael is rich in stone and
bone utensils, of an estimated age not exceeding 6000
years before Christ. These “Kunda culture”
the findings were stored in the Estonian National Museum.
According to scientists, it was based on this
above the dam created by the melting of the jaja-time lirjaja.
From this flowed the Kunda yogi, falling
below the lake from the rock wall of the Viru coast as a waterfall
alla merre. The current Lann3smagi accounted for
island vol low j bill, mi llel as us ancient inhabitants
plush chambers settlement or silent village. In the museum
there are utensils found in the resin and the lake
was later found in bottom sediment layers.
The falling masses of the waterfalls constantly break up the rocks and move
all jets over the years upstream. Kunda waterfall moved tiles to the lake, shot the lake
waters into the sea and later on the bottom of the lake.
Kunda as a dam lake created from Urgja like the ancient lake
there is currently Lilemiste Lake near Tallinn,
whose flow has been obstructed and controlled by humans
Bearing brand: Wooden (bone) arrowhead leather pendant
On the side, with cover letter M (sleeping lake) and 61 (year).
See the brand design at the bottom left of this page. —————– · ————–
The supposed map of the Kunda ancient lake has been chosen as the theme of the camp
timing. The location of VaikUla is the current Lanrnasmagi. Waterfall
is gone and the January grids are far away
f ~ half the lake. Rotten! kaliabar on the shores of the Gulf of Finland is
\ Expanded and partially forested
It is interesting to see this place as being part of the people’s knowledge and how they would communicate it. Information existing within this context rather than academic reports. I would imagine them to be reenacting living like the stone age people for one evening, camping on Lammasmägi hill and pretending that their surroundings were a vast lake. This imagination of children.
I feel that I need to go there very soon.
I had two hours of art research sharing of work with others, and two hours of presentation methods and contexts sharing of presentations last week. The conversations that arose from these have really helped and contributed to my thinking.
One thing that was mentioned was the difference in scale. The approaching of this landscape from a large expansive geographical perspective with all of the maps and searching, and then at the same time the personal attention to the specifics of the clay and small fragments of finds and people’s stories and actions.
‘The Bog Offerings of the Balts: I give in order to get back’
By Audronė Bliujienė
“In one way or another, offerings were related to water, and, by their essence, they were offerings into water as a universal mediator in the journey to the afterworld or the eventual realm of the dead. Without doubt, a portion of these votive offerings were intended for the gods. Water is one of the principal components of the world’s structure, from which, according to myths about the creation of the world, the Earth was created (Greimas 1990, p.133). Slack water, water flowing westwards or eastwards, a spring gushing from the ground, or the source of a river, or water falling from the sky: all these were given the role of a mediator in various situations (Vaitkevičius 2008a, p.77). Therefore, water in all its states could act as a mediator with gods and ancestors. Water was also an ideal medium for the transfer of desired valuables into the transcendental space; through this substance, as time went on, the owner would follow the valuables he had sacrificed. Water not only gives an opportunity to transfer desired objects into the afterworld, it also gives the person who performed the rites the right to use the objects after his death.” p. 136
” On the other hand, hoards deposited in the ground also carry a similar meaning (Riekstiņš 1930, p.477; Quast 2009). Consequently, in principle, the ground, too, could serve as a mediator between different spaces of the world.” p. 136
“According to Richard Bradley, mankind’s offerings into water were ‘a mirage but permanent’; in other words, it was a long-running tradition (1990, pp.9-16). This ‘permanent mirage’ as a particular phenomenon characteristic of a specific time and space has been ascribed by many authors who divide bog finds into different categories: familial and tribal sacrifices of a village, great tribal sacrifices at central sites,boat sacrificesas an act of cult-worship in order to obtain a greater esprit de corps, and special sacrifices and human sacrifices (Hagberg 1967b, p.67ff, with further literature).
*Consequently, water was always important as a transcendental space and a contact zone intended for communication with the gods and with ancestors in prehistoric times.
In the Neolithic, offerings into water became extremely widespread. Furthermore, the attitude towards offerings in bogs changed. Offerings into water became a site of contact with the spiritual world, whereas a votive offering became the basis of community rites.” p. 137
(Votive: “A votive offering or votive deposit is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and ancient societies and are generally made in order to gain favor with supernatural forces.” )
Map from ‘The Bog Offerings of the Balts’ showing the Kunda deposit in the North East.
“In the Bronze Age, the number of offerings in the bogs of Central and northern Europe increased again; however, the composition, and apparently the main intentions of the offerings, changed. At that time, the ambition of people who enjoyed a high social status to become divine tribal chiefs or ancestors worshipped by future generations attributed more importance to the rites of offerings in water, and revealed the principal wish of those making the offerings: ‘I give in order to get back’ (Hänsel 1997, p.13ff). Therefore, exclusive regalia, weapons, work tools, ornaments and other valuables2 became a component of such offerings. Bronze Age offerings into water became widespread in the east Baltic region ” p. 138
“Some water offering sites were long-term ones, because at certain intervals of time offerings were made at the same site for several hundred years (such as the village of Šernai in the Minija valley). People would come to make an offering at a certain lake shore or river bank for several hundred or even a thousand years or more ” p. 138
The Kunda deposit.
“we can presume that it was only in a small part of the water offering sites that offerings were made intermittently or for a longer period of time (Barstyčiai, Bernsteinbruch and Užpelkiai and the Late Migration Period and even earliest Estonian bog war booty sacrifices at Kunda, Rikassaare, Alulinna and Igavere; for this, see Tamla 1995, p.103ff, Fig. 1).” p. 141
“Most east Baltic region votive offerings in water, especially during the Migration Period, should be ascribed to war booty sacrifices. However, the question arises whether offerings were the booty from attacking or defending armies? And this is not an issue that is easily solved. In other words, the question of the intentions of these offerings arises. It has been suggested that war booty might have been brought home from victories abroad to be sacrificed, perhaps copying the Roman Triumph, and that these sacrifices would be psychologically bizarre to risk for life, honour and property (Ilkjær 2003, pp.44-65). One more suggestion has begun to circulate in archaeological literature that the sacrifices represented warriors returning from battles around the limes, where they might have fought on either side, or that war booty offerings bear witness to migrations from the continent to Scandinavia. Seeking land as they returned, they engaged in fighting with the local tribes of southern Scandinavia (Hagberg 1967b, p.65; Lund Hansen 2003, p.84ff). Of course, it is possible that a votive offering is performed in the area of a battle between two or more tribes, and the defeated tribe would lose its treasury to the victor (Grane 2007, pp.242-259, for an overview). At the same time, it is possible that votive offerings were made by the inhabitants of surrounding regions to their dead during a certain period as great tribal sacrifices.” p. 138
“Sacred sites of the Balts are known under a common name, alka,-s (elk, olk), which means a sacred offering site. There is quite a large number of bogs called alka (os)/aukos (cf. Vaitkevičius 1998, p.338ff, Figs. 11-22; 2003a, pp.21, 155). Therefore, it would seem self-explanatory that offering sites should coincide with sacred waters: sacred offering sites (alkos), sacred rivers (alkupiai), sacred islets (alkos salos) and meadows, as well as holy rivers and springs considered to be sacred, in other words, with former sacred sites. However, on one hand, there are far fewer known offering sites into water than there are locations considered to be sacred waters. On the other hand, there is no clear-cut connection between offerings found on the banks and shores of clogged-up rivers, lakes, marshy meadows or quagmires, and sites that were considered to be sacred waters and are known from stories or which exist as mere place names” p. 141
“Nearly 200 names of bogs, marshes or swamps known in Lithuania and Semigalia (11 out of 15) contain the roots vel, pikt-; therefore, it is believed that the name indicates that the bog used to be the abode of a devil (velinas or velnias); we cannot deny the possibility that offerings might have been made to him there” p. 141
‘Holy Groves in Estonian Religion’
by Tõnno Jonuks
(Grove- a small wood or group of trees)
Holy groves in eesti – hiis or hiied (plural).
*”The place of the Kunda prehistoric lake is situated between the grove-hill with the graves and the settlement site (see Jaanits et al. 1982, 36). Even now the ancient lake site is filled with water at the time of high water in springs and has been a wet place until the middle of the 20th century.”
I am yet to fully read this article, but it’s detail is incredibly useful.
“The Kunda Hiiemägi – Sacred Hill – has held an important place in the minds of the local people. Currently, the ancient burial site is on the verge of destruction due to former mining in the area and the later erosion. The place is extraordinary for the fact that it functioned both as a sacred grove and a burial site.”
“Unfortunately, the ancient burial ground along the edge of the quarry is being destroyed. Although mining on Hiiemäe ended decades ago, the grave is threatened by natural erosion: *gradually the grave surface crumbles and parts of it move to the bottom of the quarry.”
The dig was done in 2005 so it is most likely completely destroyed now.
example of translation-
“Scientific treatment of sand. The giants were examined more scientifically in the first half of the last century, although a romantic approach is still to be found.” (http://vana.loodusajakiri.ee/eesti_loodus/artikkel1037_1029.html)
Maausk (Estonian neopaganism, nature worship, indigenous religion) ritual, making porridge on Hiiemägi hill.
Some dodgy articles, referring to the international people moving into the country as taking away the native Estonian culture, published in a strongly conservative newspaper.
The inhabitants of Hiiumaa were associated with the souls of the dead (from Holy Grove article).
Departing from this life. Changes in death culture in Estonia at the end of the 20th century.
By Tiia Ristolainen.
Death connection to weather.
“Beside other signs Estonians have looked for weather forecasts and death omens from dreams. Interestingly, these are closely connected. Nearly literally, by seeing weather conditions death was predicted and by seeing the dead, weather was predicted. Through his existence man sensed his link with nature and therefore omens were looked for in nature – predictions of weather as well as of death. For the inhabitants of islands these two are identical. Bad weather could become fatal for people who are connected with the sea (Saaremaa island, Hiiumaa island).”
*Dying is not a biological process only (see more Sootak 1996: 1821-1822). In the 1992 folklore trip of the University of Tartu an 80-year-old informant from Hiiumaa andswered the question, what she thought life was:
Dear child, there is nothing else about death than the human organism just stops existing and that is all. [Adding later:] Don’t you read “Eesti Loodus” [‘Estonian Nature’, the journal]? (Hiiumaa island, Suuremõisa parish).”
“Offerings by the Balts into water are in some respects similar to burying in water and offerings made by sinking various artefacts in water basins or seasonally wet areas around burial grounds. Certain stretches of lake shores or river banks were selected for burying in water (Obeliai, in the Anykščiai district; Bajorai, in the Kaišiadorys district; Lake Vilkmuiža, not far from Talsi hill-fort; in the 14th and 15th centuries people were buried in Lake Laizde Kalni [in the Talsi district]; during the drainage of the River Mazroja, artefacts from cremation graves were found; finds dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries were found in Lake Kaķīši next to Ēdole) (Urbanavičius, Urbanavičienė 1988, pp.35-46; Asaris et al. 2008, p.64ff; Grinkevičiūtė, Vaitkevičius 2006; Vaitkevičius, Grinkevičiūtė 2008; Vaitkevičius 2009). It is difficult to tell whether there might have been water in natural terrain depressions located in Marvelė burial ground, or if the water appeared there periodically. It is not clear whether the layer of cremated bones and abundant fragments of artefacts formed at this point in Marvelė burial ground during Viking times due to a unique manner of burying the deceased, or whether the layer formed due to offerings made (Bertašius 1994, p.56; 2009, pp.108ff). However, the very fact of burying in water does not eliminate the possibility that offerings were made in the same place, too, for the simple reason that no cremated bones are found in water (Lake Vilkumuiža) (Šturms 1936, pp.85-86)” p.142
The fifth season.
The spring high waters. Combination of melting of snow and river network structure and sloping of the land.
The propping of floors with sticks to stop them floating up.
Soomaa park family (https://www.soomaa.com/experiences/five-seasons/fifth-season/):
“People get used to much, especially to regular phenomena, which occur without failing each year. Flooding is like this. Living with the flowing water has introduced its own way of life. Local people were prepared for the floods and were expecting them like a visit of a rich relative. When the feet splashed water while getting up in the morning, the saying went “Hey! Our guest has arrived!”
“Strange things became possible. For instance, when the water level was extremely high, the boat could be rowed right through the window into the living room. Preparation for the floods also provided extra work each year. Props were thrust against the ceiling to prevent the floor floating up. Grain-bins were lifted up on trestles, or taken to the loft. Special rafts were built for the cattle, sometimes pulling out the boards from the ceiling to give the animals more space. Firewood was tightly roped against fences. Several makes of bread were baked. The ovens had to be dried and repaired after the floods.”
“The floods in Soomaa are a combined result of the flat relief, small height differences in the lower reaches of the rivers and many small streams discharging their water close together. A tectonic fault further influences the flow of the left-side tributary streams to the Pärnu River. The uplift of the Earth’s crust is therefore faster in northwestern part where the Navesti River flows than in the Halliste River drainage basin. Floods are frequent in the lower reaches of the rivers Navesti, Halliste, Raudna and Lemmjõgi, since drainage is hindered. The neighbourhood of the Riisa village is known as the Riisaküla flood area, which covers more than a hundred square kilometres and is the biggest in Estonia.”
five – viis
Tuhala witch’s well:
“As the water levels rise in spring, this well is known to overflow at a speed of 100 litres per second. This creates an effect that is considered one of the most unique natural phenomenons in Europe.” (visitestonia.com/en/why-estonia/the-spectacle-of-the-5th-season)
Water and watershed maps.
(Watershed – an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins or seas. An even or period marking a turning point in a situation.)
Most important watershed in Estonian territory – Pandivere Upland. Highest area in Northern Estonia.
The Phosphorite war protecting the water sources around Kunda. Specifically a key watershed in the county.
Rituals for dissertation reading – Van Gennep.
Kaali lake meteor – iron falling from sky.
Parts of meteor preserved in bottom of ocean in clay, discovered when oil bed drilling.
Anu Põder referring to 70s in Estonian art as the ‘bronze age’.
Bogs are the acidic spots within the limestone plateau.
I have been struggling with the idea of producing things. I have been making some things out of clay, but they don’t make it to the kiln before I dissolve them back into the water bucket. I have this feeling that there are already so many other things in the world, that why on earth would it be necessary to make more. For these things to become dusty in a cupboard somewhere, to use electricity in their making, or just to exist in a way that isn’t biodegradable, even though I am working with natural materials. I just can’t move myself past this thought of producing objects to add to this gigantic mass of stuff that people have already produced, that is too much. Surely I should be working towards us all producing less rather than adding.
It has forced me to the conclusion that if I am going to be making sculpture then I will install things in a way that they are not stagnant. And that if I don’t produce many things then this isn’t a problem, as long as my thinking and my research is gathering, actions are still happening without things having to sit on my desk. I will make work that breaks down, that dissolves or that’s buried. Leaving traces but not continuing to be whole.
Maybe this approach or this feeling will pass, but for now this is where I’m at.
And the snow is back. The pipes froze in my house where I am staying, again. But the water soon came back the next day. It is still snowing. I should try not to let it bother me, I shouldn’t complain as it is Estonia. There is a lockdown now. We are number one apparently in the world. I can still go to the studio but it’s not exactly the atmosphere.
If you can’t tell I have this cynical little commentary going on in my own head about my art practice, and the weather. I will kick it out.
I have been feeling for quite some time trapped by the snow. To begin a new work to move on from Kunda I felt I had to dig up more clay. And with the ground so frozen I was stuck. The temperature was always well below 0 and the studio was a fridge, not very good for your body. The climate was so harsh for such a long time that I couldn’t leave the city and explore new places in other environments safely.
The snow was a relief when it came as it made everything lighter and quieter. It covers all of the dark spaces, sharp edges, and hard surfaces, and so sound doesn’t seem to exist in the same way. Not bouncing off everything but kind of being caught by the snow and absorbed.
I’ve gradually crawled forward in my thinking. When I dug the clay from Lahemaa and walked around the bogs there, the peat seemed really important to that place and so to the material I took from there. I felt there must be a way to connect peat to clay, but it will take some time to come and I won’t rush after it.
I have found the connection. And it also moves on from Kunda.
The next movement of work will explore past and present lakes. It will be a dialogue between two bodies of water. One that is now a bog peat landscape that holds prehistoric artefacts and traces, and the other in close proximity a current lake, that may be a shrunken remain of the pre-existing larger lake. A site that seems promising for this would be Akali settlement and Kullamäe settlement, which are in the South East of Estonia next to the current Lake Peipus. Lake Peipus is the largest trans-boundary lake in Europe on the border of Estonia and Russia. These settlements have been found under a three meter thick peat bog layer.
This map is from the article ‘Hunter-gatherer pit-houses in Stone Age Estonia’ by Irina Khrustaleva1, Raido Roog, Margarita Kholkina & Aivar Kriiskal. Published online, 27 January 2020 by Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020.
You can see number 6 and 7 as the Akali and Kullamäe settlements in the South East on the shore of the lake.
I have just discovered through reading this article, that the clay I dug up from Lahemaa national park, which was from a place just outside the small village of Vihasoo is also in close proximity to an archaeological site. On the map, number 9, it shows a site of pit houses at Vihasoo. Maybe the ghosts are pushing me towards their clay. Going to the Vihasoo to dig clay was a completely random and unknown decision. Kunda was calculated because I knew there would be clay, but similairly I did not know the large prehistoric importance of the place I was digging.
This map above is detailing pit house, sites where all of the floors are sunken into the ground. Houses dug as vessels into the earth.
” All these houses had floors that were intentionally deepened or sunk into the natural layer”
This map is from the paper ‘Excavations of the Stone Age site at Vihasoo III’ by Aivar Kriiska, Arheoloogilised välitööd Eestis 1996. Stilus, 7, 1997, 19-28.
The Loobu River is where these sites are along, on the google map below I highlighted where I dug the Lahemaa clay from.
Anyway, through writing this I have gone on a bit of a detour.
The lakes as the past basins, and the houses themselves as basins dug into the earth, and me making basins.
I will be doing further research into the offerings made to bodies of water by these prehistoric people.
There is also the Pulli settlement along the Parnu River, which is number 5 on the first map. The Pulli settlement is the oldest dating settlement in Estonia. There is this beautiful small sculpture that was found from there:
” Pulli summer camp, built on the banks of a stream once lapsed into a giant Ancylus Lake “(http://www.parnumuuseum.ee/parnu-museum/permanent-exhibition/stone-age)
Another relationship to a large body of water, the Ancylus Lake.
It seems that in fact most archaeological sites and findings now exist in land areas that are now earth, which were previously in very close proximity to bodies of water, or have conversely been taken away by the sea as sea levels have changed.
Then there is the Suurlaid island clay. This may lead in a different direction. This is a current site of land surrounded by water. In future however this would probably be submerged rather than land bound. There may be a possible to create a relationship between this Estonian island and a Scottish island like Orkney.
Each act of digging seems to call for an entire action or body of work. Each act begins another whole series of movements that are coming from that initial action. And then within each new body it calls for more acts of digging. And so and so and so.
I took the train down to Tartu, in the South of Estonia which takes two hours each way, to see an old friend who was opening a group exhibition she had curated with a friend, and was part of. The exhibition was called ‘see sinine maja Baeri tänaval’ (That blue house on Baeri street).
I felt I needed to sit for a while and read on the train, and also to be surrounded by some close friends and young artists. I read ‘The White Road, A journey into obsession’ by Edmund de Waal. It tells of his relationship to porcelain, and his journeys to key places around the world where this material is sourced from. He is talking about the whiteness of the material all of the time, and so it felt fitting with the passing of the last of the flat white landscapes of Estonia by the window. I had also been listening to some of his interviews. One with Theaster Gates, talking about libraries and bricks, and pots. I enjoy the combination of books and clay that was happening in this conversation. He has talked about silences. And the making of bowls as the making of an empty space within our current space, and so bowls being the physical creation of a silence, or a volume within a space. So in making bowls making silences. I think this might be part of the reason why I keep making so many vessels. I also was reading one Paul Celan poem about snow and silence.
So I was thinking through all of this, the lakes and the silences and the snow and then I found the blue house. The exhibition was in an empty apartment, quite big, everyone was in their socks, leave your shoes at the door. The overarching feeling of the place was a focus on emptiness, and what that means. I asked my friend how she was and she said that she didn’t have any particular feeling. I spent some time there, watching the mix of performances and video works, interactive, and stiller pieces. Then I walked back to the train station and spent another two hours on the way back up to Tallinn.
It felt really important to be around this moving mixture of artists and performers, that there was still things happening. The next day the Estonian government announced the closing of art and culture institutions and tightening of covid rules.
The snow has completely melted now, and the sun has been shining, and birds singing, it feels like the cold spring is here.
I have been collecting a plan together, of what to focus on. I think that the dialogue between past bodies of water now filled by peat and present water bodies (a conversation between lakes gone and lakes now, lakes filled and muted), in relation to human traces and pottery sherds, will link with my feeling to keep making quiet vessels.
Works such as Anne Bevan’s ‘Source’ 2001, where she transports water from Venice to the harbour of Orkney, offer an example of carrying and moving water between different places to create dialogues.
I have the opportunity to be in contact with an artist Juss Heinsalu, who’s father works as a specialist in one geological centre in Estonia. Juss and his father have extensive knowledge of local clays.
Below are some images of the exhibition space that I am planning on organising a show in in May, these are the two floors above the level where I make work in the studio. The studio is approximately from the 14th century.
This is a very big and beautiful space.
I think that the best way for me to communicate the amount of research behind whatever installation I make would be through a series of interviews and through me making as part of the exhibition. I would like the interviews to play on a small screen and for the person to sit in the chair that I make things in while listening to them.
If I am going to exhibit some large pots, I need to plan now to fit with firing schedules.
I would like there to be some raw burnished unfired works however just as much as fired ones. Maybe I fire them after the exhibition and take them out into the landscape to be installed.
My dissertation takes the form of an object biography of the material of Estonian Cambrian clay. It explores the narrative of my making of the Kunda vessels, and a fictional constructed narrative of a prehistoric maker of pots along the same North Estonian coastline. The two narratives are grounded by contextual academic footnotes. The research and writing involved in my dissertation became very intertwined with my art practice last semester. There is a close relationship between this piece of writing and the installation of the Kunda Pair in the Kunda River.
Here is a few extracts from the conclusion section:
“The two narratives preceding this tell of two encounters with Cambrian clay. They serve to plunge the reader into two journeys. The first journey is an account of my own, the second is one of a fictional character in a prehistoric setting. Both of these take place within the landscape of the Northern coast of Estonia.
These pieces of writing are a biographical exploration of me as an artist through the material that I use. Clay has become the central element to my art practice as a means of discovering knowledge of landscape. To illustrate this relationship to clay I have approached the material through the method of an object biography.
Object biographies give lifespans to things. This idea was first suggested by Kopytoff (1986), that things could be written about just as people are, from birth, through life, to death. An object biography provides a metaphor for expressing the way that objects are fundamental to human activity and allows a demonstration of the series of changes and movements that evidence this (Gosden, C. and Marshall, Y. 1999 p. 169).
Within a report by Mímisson (2020), equal weighting of human and material elements forms a life record of an excavated site. The position of this body of research identifies the co- dependency of material – stone, and person – Þorkell (the inhabitant), in creating life in this place. The life being articulated as both material and human; “His material relations endowed Þorkell at Búðarárbakki with life, in the same manner as the stone themselves, through their human relations, acquired life.” (Mímisson, K. 2020 p. iv). This gives an appropriate affirmation of the connection between people and materials, especially in regard to makers and their material.
Cambrian clay is a material that has accumulated histories. Through the first act, of digging up this substance, a relationship is established, and this material is activated. It comes from the ground and is eventually returned there, to decay. Being part of geology, clay has a longevity that is able to witness many interactions. In turn, amassing a weighted significance to our history.”
“The journeys explored through my writing, at Kunda and Narva, are employing the overarching structure of an object biography. Within that, narrative and fiction are used as an activated framework for a grounded academic context. The importance of physical engagement with my surroundings, in order to learn about them, is essential to my art practice. To communicate this approach in written form seems only possible through writing in a way that is equally alive and moving. Creating stories to carry forward theoretical ideas is an attempt to bring to life the materials and people that, through their interactions, form cultures and leave behind the evidence that is collected into history.”
“Through my connection to clay I activate the material into a series of exchanges. I work with the material through the information it has gathered in previous lifecycles. My approach to clay in my practice is very similar to the structure of an object biography, from excavation, to activation, to reinstallation into its landscape. These actions leave marks. Unavoidably we all litter traces of ourselves. From my making, and the making of those before, sherds are distributed. The cycles of life and material that repeat within different contexts present a pattern. In breaking this down and then collecting the broken pieces we can trace our connections to our ancestors.”
Since finishing the writing I have been floating around a little bit, trying to find the path forward. I have a plan now, which builds on this body of work and ideas but is also moving onwards.
It has gotten down to -18 C this week, and has been snowing for some time now. It stays below – 10 C consistently. The whole environment has changed. The sea has frozen close to shore, with the Baltic sea’s salt percentage being low. I hadn’t walked on sea ice before today. The amount of icicles in some places is quite surreal. Everything is beautifully crisp, and it is somewhat of a relief for the Estonian winter to be back after the complete absence of snow last winter.
My dissertation has been submitted and I have had the chance to read more for new research and new work. Wetland archaeology may become the focus. Bog archaeology, underwater archaeology. Estonia’s relationship to its bogs. The presence of clay in wetland areas. The traces of old bodies of water. Peats relationship to preserving artefacts. Changes in water levels. Our relationship to preserving our environment. Discovery through digging of peat. Paludification. The ending up of evidence at the bottom of lakes and riverbeds.
Images of the stillness and quiet of snow. It seems to cushion all of the sound and of the visual.
The sharpness of lines.
Pirita beach and harbour:
Frozen waves, layered up and covered in snow:
On the sea ice there were large beautiful ice crystals. I could see the delicate structure. I will be investigating the surface patterns on Neolithic pottery, how these differ between communities and play key roles in their holding of identity. I recently took some macro photos of the skin patterns of my hands. Considering finger prints left in the surface of pots by the maker (and microscopic pieces of skin left in the surface). These crystals have a similar delicacy. There seems to be a possible overlay somewhere. Maybe to do with the structure of water, and it’s roll in the making, disintegration and preservation of things.
A post box without a door, on the walk to the bus stop from my house, nobody lives in this house. I have considered using this postbox as a small exhibition installation space as many people walk along this residential road:
EKA Christmas Fair. December 2020. Selling the dug clay glazed work.
The fair took place in Telliskivi – Creative City, in Vaba Lava, a performing arts theatre. It was full of students and graduates of the Estonian Academy of Arts. Selling paintings, drawings, textiles, jewellery and ceramics.
The fair was busy. I sold all of my work and have established connections for subsequent orders. I was very surprised by people’s interest and feeling of connection to the things that I have made. It was amazing to experience this. The encouragement has really stayed with me.
When I was dipping the bisque ware in the slips of the clays (as glaze) the coating started to peel off, leaving bare spots or cracks in the surface. I tried to fix some of this before they went in the kiln, but ultimately it is not fixable. I now know of different methods to stop this from happening but at this moment it had already happened. I decided to leave most of them, because the way that I make my work is in one go, and I believe if I start to be hesitant about making my work it loses something. The flaws are often what make things interesting, and this was surprisingly also appreciated by those who bought my work. Some people thought that this effect was kintsugi (which is a japanese way of repairing broken or chipped pottery with lacquer coated with gold powder), as it had a similair appearance in some way – but the body of the clay was showing through, rather than there being any cracks. Also, the combination of the Kunda and Lahemaa clays created are harsh and coarse bubbled texture in some areas. If I had only used the Lahemaa clay as a glaze – as the small vases are – all of the work would have been perfectly smooth and glossy. This is what I was aiming for but the results were much less perfect. When I make the next orders I will repeat the process that is less technically efficient. The mistakes are what people appreciated.
Finished shots of works glazed in Lahemaa and Kunda clays.
One red drop of glaze landed in the bottom of one of the cups. Having dripped from someone else’s work in the kiln firing at the same time.
Some of the work in people’s homes. Shared via Instagram.
The work is now out into people’s homes all around Estonia. I feel very warmly about this. It could really be felt how much people are connected to the land of this place.
Testing the dug Kunda and Laheema clay as glazes. Coating bisque fired white stoneware (high firing clay) with thin low firing clay slips results in the low temperature clays melting and having the possibility of creating smooth glazes made purely of clay.
Applying slip to clay bodies to create this shiny finish is a technique referred to as terra sigillata. This term also carries other meanings. One of which being as a medieval medicinal earth. Studied in this time certain clays from certain areas were said to prevent disease and protect against poison, once tested on two dogs. The dog that ate the tablet of clay survived the poisoning. The meaning of the term can be translated as ‘clay bearing little images’. There are also some definitions as ‘sealed earth’. Terra sigillata is also used in archaeology to refer to the large group of ware produced in Italy and Gaul during the Roman Empire which has a red slipped glossy surface.
Kunda clay slipped test before firing.
Laheema clay slipped test before firing.
The colour of these raw clays applied on top of the fired thrown ware captures something I have been looking for. The pigments are strong, distinctive, however they are simultaneously purely earthy. The forms are carrying the movement of the wheel, they are finely made with crafted skill but they are not overworked, done quickly without hesitation. I did not know how these would come out, whether they would produce a smooth surface, one with a shine, how much they would melt and run off the vertical forms as no flux or other elements were in this coating. I seived the slips through as fine a seive as was in the studio however it still contained many imperfections. The clay would be left to it’s own devices, I made some small dishes to sit under these forms in the kiln to prepare to catch the molten run off expected.
The centre cylinder above is the Laheema, the other two on either side are the Kunda clay.
This smaller cylinder in the three images above is two layers of clay. It is the Laheema clay underneath the Kunda clay. This test produced the best result. It has the smoothest finish, there are minimal gritty grains. And it still carries this amazingly rich colour, also with a density of very small black speckles.
Below are further detail images of the tests. I am completely astounded by the glossiness of this clay when melted. The results are completely smooth. And the colour is beyond anything expected. The clay also did not run at all, it suspended itself. The Laheema clay has a smooth coarseness to it, the quantity of sand can be felt in it’s textured surface which still carries a very silver sheen. For food-safe functional ware all of these tests would be very usable. I will glaze the majority of my functional thrown ware in the double layer of Laheema and Kunda clay. I appreciate the mixing of these two clays, possibly from different geological times as the Laheema clay is not certainly Cambrian, to be part of one body. The two layers are fused together.
Bisque fired throwing next to the glazed tests. With the dry greenware sculptural forms waiting in the background. The different stages of production gather together on the work desk.
I have produced around 30 pieces of functional ware on the wheel. Below are images detailing the freshly thrown work through bisque firing and then glazing in the clay slips. My throwing has taken a long time to arrive at. It really requires me to be in a fully engaged and calm space. It is a full body and mind concentration, most definitely requiring a meditative certainty. I believe that I have captured what I wanted to in these forms. That will be sold at a market in a few weeks. They have a fluidity but the bases are also grounded. The groundedness I associate with being necessary after studying the geology of this place, and the fluidity is something to do with time, it’s movement and preservation. The forms are simple, no added handles, everything made from the movement of the wheel.
In producing this ware there is something similar in the process to the Kunda sculpture I have been pursuing. In the sense that the applied glaze is the found clay, which was dug up, to be activated, to be birthed. Then applied to a form, to a vehicle that provides it function of some sort, in this case being the white skeleton of the stoneware, which is the body that carries the finish, the skin. This is then fired, it undergoes a point of no return where the clay is vitrified and so can only decay in becoming grog, breaking and grinding into dust, grit. And so it is fossilised, it freezes and can withstand time to a certain extent.
The difference with this group, is that firstly they are a group. The Kunda sculpture is a pair. A pair of finely crafted forms being sited with an intention of sculptural metaphor. This group of functional ware is not made without sculptural sensitivity though. It has taken me a while to find the meeting point of function and expression in pottery in a way that is not overstating in any way that might be naive or unnecessary. I have been looking for a modesty, an understatement but also a clear movement, my hands, my feelings, my work within my environment that expresses the importance of things that I feel important. I think this only comes through repetition, through dedication, and the finding of that material and your relationship to it through craft approaches, through respect. And inevitably a lot of time, a kind of embodiment through process of material.
This group will be redistributed into people’s homes, what we see as the domestic, ‘separated’ from ‘nature’. I go out into the environment, collect, make, and then redistribute. These items will become part of people’s everyday. These objects were made with my immersion into understanding the landscape of Tallinn, of the North coast, of Estonia. Most of the people who will carry these works away with them also live within this same place. Maybe by having an object that is attempting to carry everything that is the expanse of this landscape, the one-ness of our environment, of us within nature, as natural beings, maybe that will somehow allow a few people to feel this connection with what is theirs and what is ours. And ours as in the earth’s and who we belong to, where we are.
These wares being part of people’s homes is different to the Kunda sculpture, being left in the river to flow down into the sea. One is an offering for us and I suppose the other is a surreneder or an offering back to a sacred place, to a place of importance, more than any of our small lives, eating away and mostly not adding.
All of these things are being carried around in different ways by different movements. Sometimes I wonder what exactly it is that allows all of these things that are constantly moving to start, where does it all come from, but I suppose it all comes from everything, and that’s how it continues.
Lammasmägi (Sheep hill) is shown with the red marker in the two maps below.
Lammasmägi hill was the first discovered site (in the 19th century) that provided extensive finds of Mesolithic inhabitance in Estonia. There were people living in this place since the Stone Age. It is the most well known archaeological site in Estonia. And is known of by most European archaeologists because the Mesolithic Kunda Culture was named after it. The Mesolithic Kunda Culture was a culture of hunter-gatherers from the Baltic forests stretching into eastern Russia dating from 8500-5000BC. Lammasmägi is the place where “the oldest known traces of human activity on the Baltic Klint (from about 9000 years BP) were discovered” (https://www.looduskalender.ee/klint/eng/16.html). The oldest known human settlement in the whole of Estonia is the Pulli settlement of the Kunda Culture which is on the right bank of Pärnu river, which is in the very south of the country.
In ancient times the area of Kunda was a lake. Lammasmägi hill was an island in this lake. This site was inhabited from the time of the ancient lake, through it’s change into bogland, with the Kunda river being the left trace.
The Kunda River runs past this settlement on it’s right side and continues all the way to the coast. This river is the river that I encountered while finding my first batch of clay in Estonia, from next to the Kunda quarry. This is the river that I was considering siting the sculpture in, submerging the bottom vessel in, if digging the work back into the ground didn’t feel right or didn’t quite work.
Below is some writing I have been working on, mainly for my dissertation describing the process of finding the clay and highlighting the special feeling this river seemed to carry, even when I had no idea of it’s history.
“As I followed the path I was once again engulfed by tree cover. I came to a swell in the river, the light was shining through the trees and I could see how clear the water was. Listening to the river on my right and hearing the thundering trucks passing a short distance to my left. I continued to follow the path as it changed into deer tracks and became more boggy. The deer track led to the edge of the river, on the opposite side of the river there was a worn opening in the trees and the path continued. The animals were passing through the water as the forest on my side of the river became too dense. The water was too cold and too deep for me to cross alone. It was becoming clear that this river was not leading me towards the clay but on another journey. I sat by the water and ate my lunch. There was something magnificent about this river. It was so strong and beautiful running right through the heart, surrounded by the dust and grit of industry.”
I know the specific calm outlet where I would leave the work.
I was listening to Samantha Clark’s spoken word that accompanied her short films. She talked of water as being this ancient material, constantly in a cycle within our environment on earth, water is old, changing form and moving always but it is old. I have been thinking about how some materials gather history as time moves around them. They are able to have a physical constance. As time moves and lives unfold and collapse some things stay and witness these passings. Before I was seeing this material as geology, as rock, silt, clay. But it is not only rocks. As geology can’t happen without water. Water exists and withstands just as much.
My main reason for considering the river from the start was because of the sand. I collected sand to place in the top vessel to fall through into the form below. This sand I took from the beach at Kunda bay. If it was to be put into the river it would make it’s way back to where it came from. And the water would similarly wash, break down, carry the clay vessels. I believe vessels belong with water. The bottom vessel, while following the undulating profile of the land at Paldiski, has just so happened to find itself as a boat-like form, with the line of the profile creating a keel.
I have recently visited some sacred springs of Estonia at Saula and have been reading of Estonian people’s relationship to sacred springs. Once again there seems to be this interaction between geology, rocks, earth, holding, and water.
The Baltic sea has always been a place of exchange, of trade, not a barrier but a connection. I have been reading of the Neolithic Corded Ware Culture and Narva Culture. There were extensive movements between Estonia, Finland and Sweden. These movements were not only of pottery but also very often of young female artisans, who would learn their craft in their homeland and then relocate with marriages. Movement of grog provides evidence of this. Through analysis it has been found that when these women moved to a new place they took with them crushed sherds of pottery from their homeland, from the generations before them. I find this to be an incredibly beautiful tradition. Allowing for their work to carry time upon time. Working containing the work of those before is again carried into new work and so on and so on.
Map detailing networks from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338514138_Tracing_grog_and_pots_to_reveal_neolithic_Corded_Ware_Culture_contacts_in_the_Baltic_Sea_region_SEM-EDS_PIXE>
In this sense there should be no fear of breaking work and allowing it to be part of the landscape because this is what allows it to continue. When I was learning from Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew they would regularly abandon, throw pots over the other side of dykes if they were no good, even with small flaws, as did many generations of potters before them throughout Britain, as well as elsewhere of course throughout Asia.
“fragility does not mean ephemerality; what we know of ancient civilizations is often based largely on the persistence of broken bits of clay.” (Koplos 1998)
To place my work in the Kunda River and leave it there, the broken vessels would eventually become grog and flow into the sea. Some sherds would become stuck in the surrounding land and add to the mass of our traces and others would float back into the floor of the ocean. Finding their way back to the environment where during the Cambrian period life existed. And where during the Neolithic period people travelled over to establish the civilisations we have now.
Kunda the town is formed around the processing factories for the mined resources. The river can be seen running along it’s right side and down past the blue exposed veins of the quarry.
Here is a map to illustrate the proximity of the place where I dug the clay and the beautiful swell of the Kunda river.
The forms are bisque fired white stoneware. All of them have this speckled surface texture made by the carving tool, and all are coil built so there is not much symmetry and they are very fine.
I made them as tests, in forms and also for glazes.
While being tests these are the earliest initial forms I made in this body of work. All of the forms are thin but strong. I think it can be seen that I have been spending a lot of time looking at rocks and geology in their volume and grounding to surfaces they sit on. With raw glazes, even of differing tones the forms still worked. But once fired the finished results are too loud. But they have worked effectively as tests. I was surprised by how the speckled texture held, and was not smoothed or engulfed too heavily by the glazing, even on the thickly applied sections.
Above I am holding a high firing pencil. They exist in different colours, and so I can effectively draw on my sculptures and this drawing will withstand 1250 degrees.
Within my practice I have been heavily concerned with the raw materials, the finding and processing of the raw clay. Now I am in the stage of firing, and so the clay body is transforming, and glazes and slips are a very present option/stage. When the clay is bisqued, especially the white stoneware which is not a clay I have found but that is coming from a bag, it feels like a skeleton. As raw, as leather hard it is alive, and then once fired, clay can become static. I want to use this white stoneware clay, it’s properties as a durable, light, flexible body, to expand my understanding of ceramic surface. It allows a back bone to play with.
In glazing and slipping I desire a certain amount of understatement. I think this is often hard to find in most widely used ceramic glazes. All of the tests I did here were using the glazes in the studio. These glazes are Estonian recipes.
I am trying to find an earthy-ness. Something that captures some of the pigments present in the rocks. Broken down very simply this seems to be greens, blues, browns and reds. Above is the green test bowl. All of these individually came out surprisingly earthy not too loud, they carry patches of pigment, the shine isn’t too much. With some alterations these could produce what I’m looking for.
Below is the blue test bowl. In the lighter blue side the drips of bright blue are beautiful, especially when set on the green darker patchwork of background.
There was also a red tester and a black/brown tester, these two were not so successful, too harsh, too strong, too metallic.
Here are the sample tests of Kunda clay at 1250C. The Kunda clay is low firing temperature clay and so melts at such high temperatures. It is hard to know what will happen to which locally dug low temperature clays, as material from different places reacts differently depending on it’s composition.
The first photo below is the samples before they go into the kiln and the second photo below is how they came out.
In the above photo, on the far right is the pure Kunda clay sample, in the centre is Kunda clay with a layer of Turkish copper glaze on top, and on the left is the Kunda clay with a layer of the red ‘magma’ glaze on top. It can be seen in the far right sample that the Kunda clay on it’s own once melted has a natural shine, which I think is beautiful. It’s colour is a rich dark brown holding some other pigments of green. The natural texture of this molten is perfectly capturing the earthy, rock tones I was wanting. These were put in as small experiments and they have came out and will form a whole series of work.
The other two tests of magma and turkish glazes on top show that the Kunda clay can settle and lie very nicely under a layer of glaze. In the magma test the Kunda clay is bubbling through and so visibly mixed with the other. There are some very exciting possibilities for using the Kunda clay as slip, terra sigillata and pure glaze that I will be exploring.
The other patches on these tests are chlorides and high firing pencils. Chlorides when applied can hardly be seen but once fired behave like watercolours. When speaking to some of the ceramicists that also work in the studio they told me of the work of Helle Videvik. She makes many sculptural ceramic works with the effect of rock-like texture on the surface. She has perfected a technique over her lifetime of spraying chlorides with air brushes onto the clay to layer these effects. Her work is the image below.
I have also been reading the biography of Lucie Rie who developed an amazing way of layering glazes and textures in her pots. This is one of her pots below.
The top vessel requires a small hole in it to allow the sand to pass through and be caught by the other below it. The form had become slightly too dry, I had missed the easy time to do this, and so the surface was much harder but also much more brittle. I had to spin the screw with force but softly, all the while worrying that the base may all of a sudden crack.
The burnished, textured surface made the inner of the form seem like a whole undulating landscape. As I twisted the screw I felt that I was mining, until I broke through to the other side. There was nothing left to drill.
The Kunda forms have been burnished using a small sphere ended metal tool. This method is completely new to me. The affect created came purely from experimentation, a desire to painstakingly capture the ability and expanse of clay. While evening out the surface with a looped carving tool small indentations are created in the surface, when burnished with the sphere ended tool not only are these small marks highlighted by the shine, not smoothed out, but new small indentations are created by the small sphere. Ripples are created in the clay.
This process takes delicacy and patience. While burnishing the time passed by, hour after hour floated as I concentrated on the surface and it’s curves. These forms took hours to polish. I lost all awareness of the passing of time.
The marks of the surface of these forms reflect above all else a sensitivity. It isn’t possible to work the material in this way without being completely, gently, invested.
Once fired this shine will stay. Burnishing pulls the small amounts of grit to the surface of the clay. When this happens the material’s surface gains depth. It literally pulls to the surface the elements of the material, the smallest of grains of the different elements. There’s something similar in this to looking at the night sky. The longer you look the more small dots appear which collect to form this embracing infinite depth. For me, within clay, this type of depth is possible, especially when you work and fire the material in a way that allows this depth to appear.
As greenware, unfired, the clay is incredibly delicate in it’s current state. I was originally planning to leave one vessel unfired. So that the unfired greenware could dissolve while exposed to the elements and fall into the fired vessel, which is sunk into the earth. It has now become clear that to transport one of these forms unfired back to the location of Kunda would result in it being completely broken before it was installed. I will have to fire them both. Perhaps I will alter the porosity of one vessel to re-instate some contrast in the ability of the forms to hold.
Now burnished, this is the last stage of the clay in it’s green blue colour. Soon, once dry, they will be fired and the iron released.
Eru Laht, Vihasoo, Lahemaa National Park. Clay finding. 24th October 2020.
Lahemaa National Park is 70km East of Tallinn. Lahemaa is one of Europe’s most important conservation areas where moose, bears, lynxes and boars live. It is massive, dense and wild. I travelled by car with two of my flatmates, Oli and Pierre. We went to get out of the city and catch the autumn colours but I brought my shovel and my backpack.
We parked and walked into this marsh area, heading for the tall bird hide. I was doubtful that the marshy bay would result in much clean clay underfoot, expecting mostly sandy mud.
As soon as we entered the marsh areas I began looking at the trenches that were sectioning off many areas. In them I felt I could see the possibility of clay underneath a foot or so of top soil. This lighter layer. I reached down over the edge of one section and pinched the earth with my fingers. It was soft and malleable, it had the immediate plasticity of fresh clay.
I was surprised at myself of how quickly I recognised the slight sheen in the mud. There is a certain silky texture, even when in a completely rough gritty state that identifies the clay. I was instantly excited by the thought of knowing there was clay once again under my feet.
We went up the bird hide first. As it was clear that we would have to climb over the trenches and electric fence in order to get to where the clay was easier to dig.
In the top of the hide there was a bird spotters record book for all visitors to leave notes. There were so many different messages left, in many languages over several years. I left one too. A small poem really, dated. About finding the clay, and some sentences that Oli was saying while I was writing, although he didn’t realise I was instantly recording his words. We all signed the bottom. I didn’t take a photograph of the poem, I felt it was best to be left in that place, for other people who also travelled to that place to read. It was written of the present moment and so I left it there.
Here are some photographs of others messages and drawings.
The book was wet. It was a wonder it had held together and survived so long. It was kept in a plastic case but the water had clearly leaked in. This day was much colder than my digging at Kunda, gloves were a must. It seemed to affect the whole experience of digging. Somehow the smell of the soil was stronger. Maybe because of so much bird life living there too.
Coming down from the bird hide we found a trench to jump, luckily the electric fence wasn’t turned on. It was the only way to get to the good clay. You couldn’t think about it too much. If you hesitated then you wouldn’t make it. It was also too wide and too deep to land completely on your feet, your hands touched the grass and earth too as you landed on the other side.
I found a spot and started digging. The others amused themselves by climbing up very tall trees.
This clay is very different to that at Kunda. It is much lighter and brown in colour as well as texture. It was not as even, some parts being speckled with stains of rusty iron, some more blue-ish, others very sandy. It is definitely clay but the variations within this one area were large and near impossible to get a pure sample.
The plasticity of the clay seems low, mainly due to the fact of there being such a high sand content. The speckle of iron and variation in colour could make for a very interesting body or addition to glaze. However, I suspect that in order to make strong forms it may be necessary to mix this clay with another body.
I stopped digging at around the same weight as before. 10-12kg, maybe slightly more. This is the limit of what I can carry on my back, and probably too the limit of what my backpack can support.
In jumping over the trenches weightless it was not so difficult. However, on the way back we had the weight of the clay. Oli jumped over first, now on the far side of the trench. I handed the bag to Pierre. He preferred to hand it to Oli because of the weight to catch but Oli insisted on him throwing it over, it was slightly too far to hand. Pierre gradually swung the rucksack back and forth to build up a swinging momentum and then released and threw it to Oli. Oli reached and caught it just right with the weight throwing him back a little with the clay.
This act, or series of movements, is something I am considering incorporating into the sculpture that will be made from the clay.
If I had been alone I would have had to split the clay in two. Throw it over first before me. And then myself jump. However in company a pendulum exchange of the material happened. It was much less an intensely individual experience as I felt at Kunda. To be alone and relying on yourself, without the help of others. In this way it would be fitting to have the others actions as part of the finished work, as in some way they are also now within the clay collected.
I have always found the thin spindles of silver birch all over Estonia very enchanting. They are so white against the darkness of the woods, and the shine that they catch in the sun is beautiful. I have been working over in my mind for a long time how to portray this in sculpture, in ceramics.
There was a large group of Valgepõsk-lagle. They had striking white faces in contrast to a purely black neck.
There was vihasoo künnapuu. The ‘angry swamp tree’. The third largest plum tree in Estonia.
From here we went onto Viru bog.
The bogs of Estonia are one of the country’s most distinctive natural habitats. There is a board walk which allows you to walk the 9km trail through the peaty landscape. The colours are quite unreal, so distinctive in their reds. Most of the trees are only able to grow to a small height because of the climate and over-saturation of water. The first image below shows one large area of the bog which was extensively damaged by peat mining. Throughout many attempts to reconstruct the delicate eco-system of the bog it has not proved possible and this area remains very different to the preserved parts of the bog. In the preserved areas there are deep dark peat water pools, which are reservoirs as they collect purely rain water and are stagnant. The algae in these pools purifies the water. These pools take many many years to form, as they are literally puddles that have gradually eroded and grown. There are some interesting lifeforms that survive in the barren environment of the bog. One of which being small red carnivorous plants.
The time span it takes for these peat pools to form may provide some interesting further research to impact my vessel making.
The whole day is one that has provided lots of information to process that will form the work made from the found material. This will happen as I unpack the clay and wedge it into one.
Having left Tallinn in the morning, we returned in the evening. Very hungry having not eaten since leaving the city. The day ended with a large dinner, finished with crepes made by Pierre.
Studio, Kunda forms ready for turning onto sponges to finish them and turn over into vessels rather than mounds. Finding some new textures. There seems to be an overlap between the forms of the brachiopods and these.
Along the red line of this map you can see the North Estonian Klint. Above this red line there is the grey blue marked showing the Cambrian area along the Estonian coast and into Russia.
The diversity of geology of the Baltic sea is amazing.
Saaremaa island fossils. Jämaja bay.
Saaremaa island fossil found at Jämaja bay next to Jämaja kalmistu (graveyard) of a Brachiopod. Brachiopods lived in shells, they were one of the most common and populous animals during the Cambrian period.
Jämaja kalmistu was one of the most perfectly maintained graveyards I have ever been to. With many candles constantly kept lit at the graves right next to the shore, Estonians have a special regard for memory, especially it seemed on Saaremaa. The closeness of this place to a shore filled with fossils seemed like an apt reassuring reminder of the passing of time and the preservation of ephemeral past.
The Cambrian Period is part of the Paleozoic era. During this period the intensity of evolution that occurred is some of the largest to have ever happened. It is known as the Cambrian Explosion. The diversity of animals that appeared are directly linked to many of the groups of species today – like the chordates, which are animals with backbones, like us. Fossils of marine worms are the evidence for the earliest known animals with backbones.
The cause of such a dramatic increase in life on earth is not completely certain but would be to do with the change in amounts of oxygen due to climate change caused by algae and cyanobacteria radiations. The climate also warmed and sea levels rose creating more hospitable habitats.
The hard shelled species that emerged are also much more surely preserved in fossils as opposed to the previous soft bodied life, adding to the volume of evidence available. These hard shells also provided the frames for larger bodies to be supported and for better protection from predators so an increase in the breadth of the food chain.
The hard skeletons were formed from calcium carbonate that the animals took in from the water.
The amount of time that oxygen consuming life has been existing is astoundingly short. The impracticality and workload this puts on life to maintain itself is almost counterproductive. The perspective this offers I find reassuring, that we are not and will never be the ones in charge of life on earth or it’s fate; the persistence of the earth will long outlive us, even if it has to deal with the mess and damage we may leave behind.
To be using a material from this time stretches my mind beyond any scale I can comprehend. It is calming to know how small we are. The responsibility of using something so beautiful that has been made for me by the earth through so many years of compression of rock into silt and then clay. I need to plant some trees when the spring comes.
Processing Kunda Cambrian clay. Dug on October 7th 2020.
Clay in unprocessed state, containing grass, rocks, and different unmixed impurities of clay.
Mixing the clay with hands down to a slip by gradually adding water and mulching out the lumps.
The feeling of the clay being broken down into this glossy slip was an immediate exciting contact.
Sieving out the pulp leaving only pure clean slip. Then pouring this slip onto the thick plaster slab to pull out the moisture overnight, to return to a leather hard plasticity.
The next morning:
Ram’s head kneading. Prepared clay, ready.
This clay fires to around a maximum of 1000c. It is mostly used for bricks and tiles within the industries using it in Estonia. It is a low temperature earthenware. When fired it turns to a red terracotta. The blue green colour of this clay is surprising in contrast to it’s fired colour. This is as a result of the iron within the clay having been trapped, unable to oxidise.
Having found, dug and processed the clay I feel it has a real depth. The surface once fired, holding the colour of the newly oxidised iron, after 541-485 million years of being held under the surface.
From my journey and my carrying I feel an emotional attachment and engagement to the material. The memory and physicality of sourcing it provides me with a full understanding, not only of the clay itself but of the landscape that I am in and interacting with. Much more so than cutting open a plastic bag of pre-prepared clay.
Kunda. 107 km East from Tallinn. Half way between the capital city of Estonia and the border with Russia.
Kunda is the largest mining site in Estonia for cement, operating since 1870 using local limestone and oil-shale ash. Exporting around 650000 tonnes of cement to other European countries. Coal and clay are also mined at this site.
Blue Cambrian clay occurs at Kunda in large amounts.
Walking down to the quarry I could see the colour of the clay in the earth. However access was restricted, not allowing me to enter. Running alongside the quarry was a road with frequent large articulated lorries trundling past full of cargo either from the docks down by the shore or from the quarry. On the opposite side of this road was a natural heritage park area with a beautifully clear river. The feeling struck me of certain places being decided as their land not ours.
I continued to walk down past the quarry towards the shore for hope of a different way or some land that was publicly accessible where I could dig. The whole perimeter was blocked and so I reached the beach.
I decided to take some sand, as a grog and texture/glaze experiment, and as a substance to weight and fill vessels. I also gathered some wood on my way back up the hill to make some light structures to hold forms.
Going back up passed the quarry I decided to follow a small footpath that ran between the road and along the edge of the quarry site. I noticed a small pile of discarded blue clay next to where I was walking. Quickly I gathered it, and then noticed that the surrounding earth under my feet seemed clay-ey. I took my shovel and discovered that there was immediate available clay.
I returned to Tallinn with a backpack full of around 12kg of Blue Cambrian clay. I will now slop it down, seive out the vegetation and rocks, dry it on plaster bats and begin making.
During investigating this area and the mining heritage of Estonia I have begun to learn of the Phosphorite War which occurred during the late 1980s while Estonia was still a Soviet Socialist Republic. The movement opposed the opening of large mines, specifically in the Virumaa region – where Kunda is. The movement played a definitive key role in the ending of the Soviet power in Estonia.
The movement was driven by two main points – protection of environment and land, as well as (more under the surface) to prevent large migration of Russian labour into Estonia for the new mines and so causing large imbalance in population demographic.
This is something I have only just learned of but will continue to investigate. The relationship between mining, culture and politics is incredibly substantial, where I am from in Yorkshire and where I am now in Estonia.
The path along the top of the cliff at Pakri peninsula had an undulating curve. By lining up these curves in the landscape with the constant line of the sea’s horizon I found profiles of shallow vessels. With the clay I dig from the land I will use these profiles to make forms.
The coastline of Pakri Peninsula, 50km West of Tallinn on the Northern coast of Estonia faces the Baltic Sea. Showing astounding layers of geological structure.
The green blue streak is Cambrian Blue Clay. Dating from the Cambrian period 541-485 million years ago. This blue clay also occurs along the Northern coast East of Tallinn, in soft form, occurring naturally with the possibility to be used for making ceramics. This period of geology is usually completely covered by the deep layer of rock that can be seen in the photographs above. For it to occur accessible and in suitable form is a small geological miracle.
The variety of rocks and minerals present at Pakri peninsula provide a beautiful collection of textures, colours and materials.
I will investigate these and apply them to the surface and forms that I make.
During Soviet times civilians were not allowed to enter this place. It was one of the most important military bases, having the largest training site for nuclear-submarines in the whole of the Soviet Union. I could still feel something of this atmosphere, especially being alone on foot, walking along the only road out of the town which ran between two very large fenced off military areas. I didn’t stay there for long, with the clearly unstable crumbling cliffs and looming rain storm, I made my way back home.
To pursue vessel making.Unquestioned resolve and encompassment.
To apply mytechnical and sculptural understanding of the materiality of clay, in a way that seeks to find delicate certainty.
To continue to develop my understanding of experimental firings, presence of natural found materials, and, chemical compositions and reactions within these methods.
I will undertake a consistent research practice to establish the foundation that I need to reinforce and develop my studio practice. Research will involvestudying historical artefacts, archaeological findings and reports; specifically, those relevant to my environment and cultural surroundings; the unique properties and processes developed from natural occurrence of materials and cultures within communities. Geological and botanical investigations into material properties of landscape; the entire process of finding, excavating, refining and then applying to forms or installations; establishing an understanding of not only the application but the sourcing of material.
The installation of vessels is of equal weight to the vessels themselves. Cradle making. I will work with equal emphasis between the forms and their interaction with their environment. Forcing continually an exploration of installation that is out with my comfortable sculpture practices.
Pushingmy understanding of scale and site.
Working in a new country, establishing a new network and understanding of both sculpture and ceramics within these communities.Responding to the challenges, differing environments and approaches that occur.
Seriously consistent unself–conscious dedication.
Experimentation within material working dually alongside consistent development in form, and refinement and application of skills; with an openness to interpretingopportunities of installation and presence of work within environments.
Nature leading the experimentation.
Definitively balance practical studio work, with contextual and formative research and attending lectures and exhibitions of other artists. Allowing the three areas to feed into one another in a way that is maintained and recorded. To map the evolution and refinement of influences and approach.
Recording of thinking through reworking written objectives. Establishing a sculpturallanguage that can identify and clarify my practice. Writing provides a formal framework of communication that will help to ground my working process.
Outcomes of practice evidenced through the sequential progression of work. An amassing of photographs and drawings recording movement of ideas.
Applying focus onto consolidating the presentation and receiving of work. Communicating effectively and succinctly. Continuing to develop the importance of interaction of my work with audience, within new given contexts. Finding professional presentation with activation of installation of work.
Requiring repetition, persistence, solidity in practice, movement, observation, adaption.
I hope to create sculpture that is quiet and thorough.