April 24, 2020
ADH Studio spoke to Ivan Belyaev, one of the leading ceramic artists in Russia today.
Q. You studied to be a musician, how did you become a ceramic artist instead?
A. Yes, I studied classic and electric guitar at a musical college. All in all I have devoted about 10 years of my life to music. I started to work with ceramics by accident. One day, I went to a ceramic studio to order cups for a tea ceremony, which was my hobby at the time. In that studio, I met my future teacher Vladimir Kholschzhagin. The studio, the pieces and, mainly, the introduction to ceramics by Kholschzhagin impressed me greatly which led me to return to the studio a year later in order to take a full course. Interestingly, when I enquired as to the price of the course, the teacher told me: "If you came just to have fun, I will charge you money but if you are serious I will teach you for free". This honest and simply formulated principle with a little twist still has a lasting effect on me.
Q. What are your interests nowadays and how does it affect your creativity?
A. At the moment, as before, I am interested in the philosophy of a process, focusing on thinking over its irrational part. Frankly, I am keen on studying meanings. The creative process is a universal thing that points out meanings, revealing concepts, and at the same time becoming a by-product of concepts.
Q. Do you have students? How do you organise your classes? How liberal are you if you do not particularly like the works of your students?
A. I have students, of course. Private individual classes are organised in a form of intensive learning courses, usually no longer than 10 days of a very focused work. I customise the programme depending on the level and the goal of a specific person. The attitude of my students to the medium is very important as well as their understanding of why they would like to take classes from me in particular. I am not practicing the rigid adherence to techniques nor do I see the process of making ceramics as entertainment - these are the most important points that my students and I should have in common, everything else is their personal experience. Apart from private tuition, I teach at The School of Traditional Culture (Vologda, Russia). I have a good number of students there. There are even a few kids that have not absorbed the concept of “beauty” in mediocre terms yet and I am glad to see their absolute freedom when creating.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration from? Which leading ceramic artists do you like?
A. I get inspired by various interactions and relationships. I am not talking of only positive experiences in a wider sense, but only interpersonal relationships initiate the practice of mindfulness towards daily life. We cannot disregard it.
As to my favourite ceramic artists, Lee Kang Hyo is the only master whose development is important to me.
Q. Has the self-isolation mode and the current state of the world influenced your work in any way?
A. Yes, indeed. I can devote more time to work on texts and finish my essay without being pressed for time.