Pottery in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been around since the ancient times assisting people survive and providing them with a higher standard of living. As one of the oldest human inventions, the practice of pottery has developed alongside civilisation but Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the rare countries where best pottery artisans still nurture the ancient secrets combining with the modern technology.
One of the most intriguing stories of this century at, possibly a global scale, is story of Bosnian Pyramids. Whether you are a sceptic or not, it is a fact that Visoko area has evidence of the first traces of life dating back to the 5th millennium BC. As a matter of fact, Archaeological excavations of Okolište are one of the biggest neolithic settlements of the Butmir culture in southeastern Europe.
Local communities in area of Visoko have been known wide across the country as the guardians of traditional arts and crafts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is to say, among many others crafts you can find in this region, pottery found its safe haven in area of Visoko helping people for thousands of years to enrich their lives both-materially and metaphysically.
Meditation place at the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun.
Unlike world wide contemporary pottery artists making their best effort in radical movement of preserving this ancient craft by shaping it the way it fits into modern world, Bosnian pottery craftsmen are less known in their successful attempt to preserve this ancient technique by steadily following the techniques inherited by generations of devoted families who unknowingly turned their way of mundane survival into a transcendent art form.
Bosnian pottery craftsmen are a living proof that art is not only a “do not touch” exhibit piece in a museum and have found a way to bring art into the home of an everyman.
Rest of the world, including some of the major authorities when it comes to clay shaping, is still in a beginning process of learning the history, geography and art of pottery in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, when it comes to returning to the basics and going for quality there’s the accented mention of the country’s name among the retailers and pottery enthusiasts from all around the world.
In green chambers of nearby forest, Vahid Ohran digs his own clay. This way, he says, he is involved in every single part of his work, from scratch to incredibly beautiful art work that found its way to reach some of the most eminent restaurants and wineries but also humble homes from all around the region and wider.
The only human trace in this unspoiled nature are the traces of clay excavations which, strangely, perfectly fit into this wild scenery. Humankind and nature once again found a way to cooperate without harming each other.
Clay is formed when feldspathic rock is being broken down over many eons, by water, snow, ice, wind, and erosion. “For a perfect product, it is important to recognise the structure, density and oleaginous of the clay” says Vahid while supervising our amateur skills of using a shovel in search for the perfect lump of dirt.
“As soon as I was able to stand on my feet I escaped the bed and went for a long walk. This place never stops surprising me” explains Vahid who was struggling with the serious illness condition all until recently.
Besides being a treasure trove of the finest clay this forest, and his second home, place where he finds his inner peace, this forest and its surroundings complemented Vahid’s beautiful small museum of ancient pottery artefacts some of which are absolutely priceless. Over the years, Vahid has managed to turn this place into a vault treasuring the ancient pottery tools and artefacts which would awe inspire even the elite of pottery connoisseurs.
“For each of these pieces you see I know exactly what mood I was in. I know each of these pieces better than myself. Pieces I have shaped have also been reshaping me over the years and helping me to understand myself through my skill, patience and dedication.” explains Vahid while walking us through his incredible work.
Watching Vahid silently communicating with with the old, hand-made, potter’s wheel-machine which is used in the modelling of round ceramic wares makes you feel as if you are in a consecrated place in the immortality of time, between the process of creation and the magic universal conversation.
It is extremely ungrateful to interrupt this passionate collaboration of an old wheel, earth and a man in during the captivating creativity. There is no loudly spoken answer to any question from primordial origin that would replace this perfectly orgasmic collaboration. For this reason, we left the story to be told by the quiet and mesmerising communication of the skilful Vahid’s hands and clay.
“Anyone working with ceramics requires a wealth of knowledge, patience, and painstaking skills, but also the ability to cope with failure.” Vahid explains. And failures happen. As a matter of fact, clay shaping is one of the wide known arts and crafts dealing with so many unfortunate failures which you learn how to accept and deal with.
Most of Vahid’s work is custom made on client’s request and Vahid closely cooperates with myriad of eminent restaurants and wineries who discovered the benefits of teaming up with local artisans and elevating their service due to a demand for unique, handmade goods over mass-produced items.
Vahid talks about his art extremely modestly. He has no social media publicity and his best advertisement are people who have been passing a word about his work from generation to generation. When it comes to the quality, Vahid’s name is continuously spread by thousands of satisfied customers and pottery art fans and lovers.
Vahids family, two sons and a wife are directly involved in the whole process. After finding the perfect lump of clay, Vahid’s son cultivates the clay in an old and massive tillage machine and then softens the clay which becomes the perfect tool in his hands that provides myriad shapes possibilities during the wheel-throwing, glazing, firing and painting.
Upon completion of a process that Vahid says sometimes takes a couple of months, the item goes into a custom made pottery kiln that Vahid built himself. Massive oven bakes for up to ten hours at temperatures of 700 to 1,000 degrees. After baking, Vahid approaches one of the most difficult phases, which is the so-called burning.
Handmade pottery kiln.
During the process, Vahid’s product gets a patina equal to the one that is hundreds of years old. The product from the oven is then immersed in a mixture of wheat flour and water and bran is added. In this way, the product is being hardened, gets a natural colour and resistance to permeability and temperature.
Ever wondered how people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are so genuinely friendly, hospitable and sometimes even relaxed in the way it makes you think there is no earthly burden that could harmfully silent their loud laughter?
It is the impeccable nature that is keeping their spirit undefeated and vitality unweakened. This is what we found at Vahid and his lovely wife Hava’s home. Breath taking art of tradition and old crafts, incredible hospitality, pungent but healthy food, strong Bosnian coffee, home made juice, enormous love and a complete acceptance towards all the small differences that makes us so unique.
Benefiting from the vast fertile fields and art of ancient craft, Ohran family found their way or preserving their good spirit and incredible sense of humour that shaped Bosnian mentality over the centuries.
Those of you who would like to meet Ohran Family and/or actively participate in mesmerising act of clay shaping or simply sharing a home made lunch over some pleasant talks please make sure to check our tours:
Bosnian Arts & Crafts: Pottery Workshop in the Countryside of Visoko-Valley of Pyramids
Full Day Tour of Visoko & Valley of Bosnian Pyramids + Lunch with Local Family