Doina Stici

Hello Doina, I'm so excited to finally visit your workshop, it seems a very busy place. What are your sources and themes? Is there a recurring element/symbol in your work?

One of my themes is traveling: where I travel, the direction in which I travel in space and time changes from case to case, changes from one work to another. A symbolic element I frequently use in my works is the void, the void that needs to be filled, the action of filling and the content I use to fill the void being different from one work to another.

For example, when I am making a vessel, I am not planting the plant myself in it, if I would plant it I would put soil in the pot, I would put the root of the plant into the pot, while the root will develop, the plant will grow, the leaves will grow, flowers will come, a whole process that is triggered, not last by the support, seemingly secondary at first sight – the vessel! The vessel is built around the void. I am not actually planting anything it in the pot, but I am creating the conditions for the existence/development of the plant inside it, for this I mold a suitable shape, I texture the surface, I give it color.

Do you have an “ars poetica”?

An “ars poetica”? I am a vessel into which God is pouring information, I don’t have the copyright.

Which is your favourite colour?

If I were to respond promptly to this question, I would say I like all the colors, absolutely all of them!
But there is that part of me that “speaks” through works, through ceramic objects, and I observed there that I use a lot of blue, dark and light, cerulean, cobalt, greenish blue, purple blue. I use blue in all color-related working processes: patina, coloring the mass of ceramic material, engobe, I mix it into the glaze, combine it with other dyes. And with other colors I work the same way, I use the same procedures, but blue, for reasons I cannot explain, I use a lot more of it.

A possible explanation would be that blue blends beautifully with the beige of fireclay, with reddish clay, with milky paper-clay, and the immaculate white of porcelain. Another possible explanation is that this color resonates with my inner structure.

Techniques stolen or learned? How important is it to you to master them?

Usually, ceramists use two or three techniques to better express themselves, two or three techniques from a wide range of working methods, ceramic techniques.
One of the working techniques in my “kitchen” is the impregnation of colored ceramic materials, porcelain, paper-clay (or clay and non-dyed sandstone) in a coarse base material as a structure: fireclay. Or vice versa: the fireclay impregnated in a finer material. I haven’t seen this technique with other artists, I used it for the first time just like that, without being inspired by others, I consider it is my own invention. There are mixes of ceramic materials, similar to what I do, the naricomi or marble technique, but in my version the colored yarns in the fabric do not impregnate the material entirely, from the outer wall to the inner part of the fragment, the fabric remains on the surface. Besides, I make use of technical mistakes, because according to textbooks, what I do is totally wrong, to burn clay at porcelain temperature is a major technical mistake, but in my ceramic fabric the way clay changes its color and flows at 1250 degrees, is just what I am looking for.

I use another technique I developed over time, transferring decoration engraved into plaster upon ceramic material; with this technique I get fine reliefs on the surface of the material. I never leave the color compact, I give it patina.
Patina, again, belongs to my “kitchen”, with patina I create fiction, I mimic the passage of time, I antiquate new ceramic objects, placing them in another time, different from the one they were created. In my workshop I often use glaze, I sometimes enclose objects to color them, I also use sgraffitto technique. I use negatives in the work process, sometimes free modeling with plates or by construction, I do not use the potters’ wheel, I get circular objects using the plaster lathe and negatives, or by free modeling.

Of course it’s important to master the techniques, not knowing them is like wanting to communicate something in writing and not knowing how to write.

How much does your art depend on the space you work in?

I worked in ceramic factories for 15 years, renting hall corners, quarters of halls in ceramic factories, industrial spaces where I worked as an independent artist. These were huge factories, industrial mastodons, with enormous tunnel furnaces in which carriages rolled without stopping, 24 hours a day; there was plenty of ceramic paste, fireclay or porcelain, it was like being in the bosom of God there.
We could burn at any hour, we had cheap materials of good quality at any time and in great quantity. Tons of ceramic material passed through my hands. There were no constraints in factories, so we could work a lot and make mistakes, we could redo, resume, repeat, correct an object if we couldn’t get it right at first. This is an important aspect to me.

I felt good in those places, they triggered my creativity … they were less quiet, there was a rushing noise, noisy machinery, loudness, workers, an alert rhythm .. people who worked a lot – and it was catchy, I was working like mad. I managed to concentrate, I learned how to focus, I had no escape, I disconnected myself mentally from the industrial landscape, it was a kind of yoga…
In order to get to these factory spaces, I commuted for years.

In my studios where I have been working over the last few years, in my own workshops, I am alone, I have all the peace and quiet in the world, but ironically, it’s harder to work this way. Now I’m working in a centrally located workshop where I have an electric ceramic burner not very large, 60x50x50 cm, after those factory furnaces this one is like a toy for me. There are many good things when you have a workshop of your own, of course, but not for me, unfortunately, after the factory experience. In the workshops where I have worked in recent years, personal workshops, I no longer work at my own capacity, I am materially constrained, there is not enough space for what I can do.

How do you put yourself in the state of doing in non-inspirational moments?

Of course I’m going through non-inspirational moments, in those cases I just go to the workshop and do my job: I clean up, make an inventory of my plaster forms, in the sense of taking them off the shelves, assembling them, and I just hang out in the workshop with all sorts of “chores”. I have a rule: even if I don’t feel like working, I go there, to be there, the space itself inspires me. I go to the workshop daily, no matter the temperature of my soul.

Tell me about an essential moment in your development as an artist.

I think it is the second master programme, done at Mark Bloch University in Strasbourg, after the one I did at the University of Art and Design in Cluj. In Strasbourg they accepted creators with a consistent artistic activity, almost all of my colleagues, like me, were about 30 years old. Studies were being carried out, as French teachers said – studies and laboratory research. In this “laboratory” young artists from different countries, painters, graphic artists, sculptors and ceramists studied their own creation, referring to the international artistic context. This study was very interesting for me, useful but also hard. After this master in Strasbourg I felt enriched as a creator, it gave me a clear vision of myself as an artist, as a ceramist artist.

What do you think about the local art community, how do you relate to it?

In my opinion, we ceramists are almost a different nation, we are a special category of artists, with a professionally active ceramist we can always find something to connect about, and then it all leads to “how fireclay Code 373 turned out, did you try the 480?”or: “What size did you set for the glaze? Does this glaze only go on biscuit?” A “bird talk” as among ceramists, you can not hear among other artists. We talk about all sorts of techniques and working methods used in ceramic art, so different from techniques and methods used in other artistic fields, sometimes we discuss ideas, sometimes events. Only a ceramist can understand “I packed it in seven layers of bubbles and it reached the destination chipped, and because of that crack it goes to the cemetery now” or “Three weeks of work just exploded in the oven, and everything was done right, no air bubbles at all, and the drying was done by the book.”

In Cluj there are some important events where we meet, the ceramists: Caolin International Contemporary Ceramics Festival, “Burning Arts” National Biennial,
International Ceramics Biennial, and there are annual joint exhibitions also, the Annual Art Exhibition, and other events which bring together artists from several
or all fields of fine and decorative art.

How do you integrate your practice into the current artistic context?

I have participated in many events dedicated to ceramics: fairs, exhibitions, festivals, every event of this kind influenced my route. But my personal exhibitions had the strongest influence on my artistic career. In personal exhibitions I am almost on stage, in direct contact with the audience, it is an intense experience. A personal exhibition involves financial and emotional investment, I am always absolutely involved for personal exhibitions, I always give my best in creative and spiritual terms.

I made 15 personal exhibitions so far, in various cities in Romania, in different locations, the most important locations being the French Cultural Institute, the “Old Gallery” and the National Art Museum in Cluj, the Unesco Center, the Romanian Peasant Museum and the Mogoşoaia Cultural Center in Bucharest.
I also participated in several collective international exhibitions in Austria, Bulgaria, England, Hungary, Italy. I participated at the Egypt International Biennial of Ceramics, we have sent works to the Japan Biennial, and since 2013 we have an International Ceramics Biennial right here, in Cluj.

How do the pieces you create reach "consumers"?

I sell ceramic works in collective or personal exhibitions, I collaborate with galleries in Bucharest and Sibiu, but there is a problem with galleries in Cluj, galleries with not only an exhibition space but also a shop. An opportunity for me, in this situation, is the Contemporary Ceramic Festival, with a few days in a row dedicated to the Caolin Fair, where only professional ceramists participate. I often sell the pieces I create from my workshop (sometimes quite warm, right out of the oven). Sometimes I have visitors in the workshop, and when they see something they like, they sometimes ask me to make them something similar or adapted to the space they want to keep it in.

And my last question, what are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on some ideas I want to translate into ceramic material. I’m preparing a work for the Cluj International Ceramics Biennial, scheduled for this autumn. I’m struggling with mental images of stylized trees and engraved apples. I am still searching for the best way to express these thoughts, in porcelain or clay, I have not yet established a final version.