Home away from home

Malkhaz Shvelidze (Kopi)

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

This is another post from Susanna Melo. Both of the small photos of sculptures are her works in progress.

“The Clay Office,” official name for the studio where a group of professional Georgian ceramicists and professors of the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts work, has become my home away from home.  This is where I go each afternoon to learn yet another trick on how to work with red Georgian clay.  Believe me, it is not easy.

According to my instructor, Malkhaz Shvelidze, more commonly known as Kopi, when I get back to the U.S., I will be able to buy different types of clay for different purposes.  For example, sculpture clay for small items. In the meantime, I am learning to make do with what is available here. So have these artists who, like magicians, have created amazing sculptures with limited resources. Sometimes, special clay and glazes are imported from abroad, like the real gold Russian glaze that I used recently to enhance my gold fish.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

If you like art, you will definitely want to follow the link to The Clay Office’s site: http://www.clayoffice.ge/. It is in the process of being updated, but you can see the intricate and forceful works of these artists. Each has his/her own style and all have taught abroad. For example, Gigisha Pachkoria likes to make wine vessels and teapots. Kopi (my instructor) makes structures that begin as boxes, but end up resembling mausoleums that are made up of several pieces which all fit together like a toy puzzle. Nato Eristavi recently had an exhibit in a brick factory and her unusual pieces captured small brick workers in brick-themed sculptures. Lia Bagrationi is in the process of creating an interactive exhibit using the brain as the primary source for her art, and Lali Kutateladze is yet another creative, free spirit who mostly uses the human figure and animals in her art. I cannot say that one is better than the other, but I can say that all of them have influenced my life through their art and friendship.

Nato Eristavi


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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