Novy Bor, Czech Republic
At the end of my last update, I mentioned Ricardo and I were headed off to a newly opened glass art studio with several artists collaborating together in business and art. The studio and business are aptly named Kolektiv. It is the brain-child of a young entrepreneur named Michal Vlcek. Michal has several friends who have all been trained at the school I had visited earlier. They all have different specialties and techniques. The processes used by these artists involve stained glass, fusing, slumping, kiln-casting, glass painting, cutting, and engraving. To put it more simply…they use just about any glass process that does not use fire to melt the glass. The artists all went to school together about twenty years earlier, and they have collaborated many times through the years. However, Michal had the vision and capital to put them all in the same building with all of the space and equipment they could possibly need to let their skills and imaginations run wild. These artists are incredibly talented, thoughtful, confident, and motivated.
Zdenek, one of the stained glass, fusing, casting, and design specialists, showed Ricardo and I a whole bunch of images on his computer of completed architectural and commission projects the group had accomplished. He explained some of the techniques they are innovating, and then he gave us a tour of all of the studios. At this point it was quite clear why Petr had sent us over to this studio. These young men and women clearly represent the cutting edge and future of Czech glass. Surely, there are many other talented and driven Czech glass artists of a similar age, but the group effort and exchange of ideas going on at Kolektiv is just astounding. Their mission is to truly honor the Czech traditions while innovating and taking the possibilities even further. From what I was shown, they are well on their way, and I cannot wait to see what they accomplish through the coming years.
From Kolektiv, Ricardo insisted on bringing me a few miles outside of Novy Bor to an even smaller town called Lindava. Petr had another Ajeto facility there. It was built in an enormous old farmhouse and was equally well-designed to his facility in Novy Bor. Next to the farmhouse was a beautiful old barn that Petr had restored a bit to be used as a space for events, parties, and historical glass demonstrations.
It turns out that April 30th is a holiday in this area, and there was a big celebration brewing in and around the barn. They celebrate the burning and eradication of witches with a huge party and a finale of witch effigies and bonfires being burned. There were women dressed as witches, kids with faces painted, gentlemen performing the historical glass demos, music, and merriment…lots of merriment. At this point it was about 7:30 pm, and Ricardo and I were exhausted. Of course, we had enough energy for a quick beer and some merriment, but we ducked out long before the big fires began and the merriment became too much.
Ricardo delivered me safely back to Ajeto, and we found Petr working in the studio. In addition to all of the other work he does, Petr mentioned he never turns down a reasonable commission job. He was making objects that would later be assembled into lighting designs. As he finished he brought us back to the basement to dig through the old tools.
I thought what I saw on that wall earlier was great, but at this time he took us to a small storage room to look through multiple shelves and boxes of all sorts of thoroughly-used hand tools. It was really difficult to make decisions with all the options and his incredible generosity. I grabbed a handful of varied tools and gave Petr a very heartfelt thank you.
At this point the day was pretty much over…finally. Ricardo and I exchanged contact info, and I went back into the Ajeto restaurant for a late dinner. I was amazed at what had been accomplished on this day. I had seen two great glass schools, two museums, traveled on three buses, seen hundreds of molds and tools…even grabbed a few to take home. I had also seen three of the nicest private glass facilities upon which I had ever laid eyes. I had seen 8 witches…and lots of merriment. It was time for a very deep sleep.
I have two more days of glass adventure ahead. Stay tuned…