Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Pilgrimage to a Pottery Festival

Every two years, the International Ceramics Festival is held in Aberystwyth, Wales. It was on my bucket list to go at least once and this year I made it happen.

Getting to Wales is definitely something that should be approached with patience. From here, it was two planes, three trains and a bus ride over the course of two days just to get to Cardigan. From there I started the 100 kilometre walk along the Wales Coastal Path to Aberystwyth. It was a great way to get over the jet-lag, take in the stunning landscapes and meet many kind and interesting Welsh people along the way.

Admittedly there are probably faster ways to get to Aberystwyth, but only slightly.

Wales Coastal Path - near Llangrannog
The walk felt a lot like a pilgrimage. Walking is a really lovely way to travel across a landscape. You don't have that feeling that things are passing by too quickly and it's easy to stop whenever the mood hits you, take photographs, even stumble into a pub or cafe for a little liquid replenishment without the hassles that come with other forms of transportation. The UK has an amazing trust of public land and walking paths that make it possible to spend years walking around without ever repeating your route. In Wales alone the entire coastal path is 1400 km. 

I confess that it was a bittersweet moment as we crested the last hill and looked down over Aberystwyth. Although with the rain threatening a proper downpour and after a long day of walking I was happy to be headed indoors to a bed and a shower. As we walked the long, last mile along the promenade below with the wind howling and the rain beating sideways a van pulled up along side the road and a group of kids poured out. Seconds later they emerged from an alleyway between two building with surfboards. They scurried quickly across the road and into the water for their surfing lesson. Another testament to the saying "There's no bad weather in Wales, only poor clothing choices." Ironically though, we were pretty well prepared for rainy weather on this trip. We were less prepared for the scorching summer sun and heat wave that was happening during our walk. 

Aberystwyth as the sun is setting.
The International Ceramics Festival is a relatively young event, started in 1987. It's held every two years at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, University of Aberystwyth. 

The Old College - Aberystwyth University
The festival has developed quite a reputation for itself since its conception both for the caliber of presenters from around the globe it attracts (this year was no exception) but also for the unusual kiln firings that happen during the festival.

The "Eco-Kiln": a small wood fire kiln.
A pizza kiln/oven.

The Lual Kiln by Rita Gudino 

Unloading the Lual Kiln

Sergi Pahissa's kiln from local reclaimed material
Not shown here is the medieval Japanese anagama kiln by Gas Kimishima. And that's just a highlight of the kiln firings... The workshops and presentations were a LOT to take in.

I probably would have benefited from doing a second 100 kilometre walk just to let my mind digest some of the wisdom and creative spirit from the festival. Here are a few more photos of some of the gorgeous coastal path from the Ceredigion Region of Wales.

In my next post I'll talk about how the festival and the landscape is making me rethink how I work with clay.

Aberystwyth Castle- photo taken around 11 pm (long summer days slightly further north) on the way back to my flat after the kiln firings 

This section of trail on the hot sunny day required some focus on footwork.


Trail marker on top of another hill near the end of the day.

North of Aberystwyth

The extensive sand dunes of Ynys-Las

1 comment:

  1. I love the cliff-side trail shot. Your note that it "...required some focus on the trail" makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Alas, I'm afraid the bay bottom and I would meet all too soon on that trek Tracy! Very beautiful shots.