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"Mission impossible"
Intonation - International Clay Symposium

"The Deidesheim Symposium is unusual. Uncommonly private, personal, international ,small, familiar. Terms which seem to be contradictory, do not match, but they give a description of what it is. Every year in Deidesheim happens what we call a wonder (something which is not possible, probable, against gravity). The subjectivity of "Zeit", linked with her ability to organize, all this together tamed by good wines and good food, creates a special micro climate for ceramists to meet, to work, to exchange, to have more time than these ten days."
Passau, Hans Fischer (Ceramic Artist)
March 2019

Fifteen year ago, after a long late night talk, spinning around ideas, Intonation was born. A dream of an international clay symposium, experimental, short, improvised and intimate, but in the same time on the highest level.

The circumstances where perfect. A studio placed in South-West Germany, Pfalz, in a little city from 1100 called Deidesheim, situated in the middle of beautiful wine yards.

Nice premises, with a big enough working space and showroom, only two minutes away a former synagogue, used as a culture house, empty, high roof and fantastic light for working and exhibiting.

A fantasy came true. In 2005 the first five ceramic artist came to Deidesheim, courageous colleagues, open for experiments.

Friederike was and still is director, curator, organizer, host and stamp licker, all in one person. To start with, it was all on her shoulders. Her workshop at disposal with tools and materials. Organizing workspaces exhibition and handle the medias. She would make all the meals every day. This has changed over the years more and more local people have been involved in all aspects of the symposium.

Every participant is asked to bring finished works to exhibit during the symposium and look after their own travel. Everything else was covered. The start was modest and in a relatively small scale. But the level was immediately very high and interesting with well known artists.

This is now 15 years ago. A small miracle. 47 artists from 22 countries have been guests in Deidesheim. Significant artists like Torbjørn Kvasbø and Oyekan Lawson, both of them Grand Prize winners from the Biennale in Korea, and long list of artists who have built up a worldwide reputation.

During all this years a concept has slowly developed. There wasn`t really a plan to start with. It has grown,... learning by doing.

The main emphasis is ceramic sculpture, the group of invited artist should be international, different generations and forms of expression.
There is no theme or tide requirements, open for all kind of ideas and directions. All material can be ordered, tools, clay, 500 liter gas kiln, two electric kilns and an earthenware wood kiln are available.

"I am interested in people that I don`t always understand completely. I want to learn and so it`s only logic to look for something I have to investigate.
It`s my hunting instinct what keeps me going every year. I follow artist sometimes for years. Seeing exhibitions, making research to try to get a picture of their work and personality. The challenge is to set up a functioning group. And it`s so much fun to meet this people finally in real, in our kitchen in Deidesheim" says Friederike.

The symposium starts on the Thursday, that`s the arrival day for the artist. Always exciting. "Have they made it to the plain, the train or the bus? Has their old car managed the long journey on the high way? Are they as nice personalities as their great art carry message of?"

The lost suitcase, the not arrived boxes with art from America or sick landed colleges have to be handled with creativity and care. There has been only minor incidence like colds and broken teeth.

Everyone is nervous. The first hours are not easy for any of the participants. Strangers in a strange land. All must find their place in every aspect. Is it an interesting group, full of contradiction and apposing views? Will it work?

Thursday evening is always spaghetti Bolognese in Friederike`s and Svein`s kitchen and regular seats are taken at the table. A small family evolves.

On Friday morning we start with setting up the exhibition and working places. Three artist in the former Synagogue and three in Friederike`s and Svein`s studio with exhibition in our big show room.

"This year I got a call in the morning of the day everybody were arriving. The TV wanted to come on the next morning, friday, at eleven o`clock. What a challenge! The big wooden boxes with works delivered from all parts of Europe still standing unopened in the yard. No working places set up and the participant arriving late in the evening, tired from traveling. What to do? Normaly we start slow and cozy. This time I had to tell them to get up early, set up exhibition and working places in two hours. That was a flying start! And we made it. Exactly eleven o`clock the TV team could film the first hands on clay. And the Intonation artists showed great team work in a couple of hours! This made my day!"

The audience are welcome every day from 3 to 6 o`clock with the possibility to follow the artists at work, have a dialog and learn about different culture.
Public lectures help to understand the artist work in larger scope. And they make use of it. We open the door and in time the first curious visitors come to see.

During the week the working time is usually from morning till dinner. It`s amazing how fast everybody is organized and starts to work serious.

"For me it`s very important to show our guest some local lifestyle. Bring them closer the culture of Pfalz. For instance on a warm day we had a picnic in the middle of the wine yards with a beautiful view over the whole valley. A local wine maker, Michael Andres, working biodynamic introduced us to his philosophy. Another time we visited a famous guitar builder in our neighborhood, or a guided tour into the deep wine cellar of "Weingut von Buhl", wine tastings, and city guiding.
More than once, I heard the comment: "I feel I`m on holiday!"


The composition of the group is very important. There should be a tension between the different directions of working. There is a choreography behind the placing of people. In the former synagogue it`s wonderful to see Torbjørn Kvasbø handling tons of clay with live long artist experience, and vis-a-vis the young German, Johannes Nagel, playing very freely with the material.

2016, three men were working in the same room: Zsolt Józef Simon from Hungary with is very complicated, delicate casted shapes standing side by side with Simon Horn`s, from Germany, mixed media architectures and Juan Orti`s, from Spain, supreme craft thrown cylinders build together to silos in endless combinations. When you enter a room like this and you are able to listen carefully, you can possibly hear the dialog of the art works.

This is one of the big task, inclusion and education. People can experience such a rich selection of techniques, different artistic approaches and mentalities. Take discussions with the artist, ask and learn. This has resulted in Intonation building up a quite impressive group of people, coming every year, with growing knowledge, bringing new ones inn.

Seven days of intense work. Amazing what is possible in such a short time. Oyekan Lawson, Nigeria, build a porcelain sculpture nearly one meter high and finished fired, Sprout Arte from Italy took the risk to develop a performance with clay with their audience. Christoph Möller from Germany stayed for ten days all alone in the dark wine cellar with only natural sunlight sieving through small cellar windows, a room as large as a cathedral, working on a huge installation.

"This is one of the most interesting parts on Intonation for me. I wanted to have an open space for artist who are searching for experiments and special projects. It`s a special challenge for the artist, because he does it in public, with the risk to fail and its a big challenge for me to organize and supply what is needed. Also provide the public with information."

After two days the artist feel at home, moving in our space, like they have always been here. Kirsten Jäschke from Germany, participant 2019, said to me: "To be here in Deidesheim for Intonation is so good for me! I feel so well treated, seen as an artist, respected and handled with esteem." One reason to feel like that, is, that many people are involved to make the stay here so comfortable as possible. Every day someone comes to make dinner for us and they do it with great passion, join the table and bring in a local flavor and their own interesting stories. In the same time it`s a possibility for them to learn about people from all over the world. Absolute win win!

Intonation has become a very important culture event, and the town, the tourist agent, the medias and many people have understood, so we can count on wide support. What ever is needed, some black smith work, wood for the wood kiln, a stack gabler, what ever, there is always someone around willing to help.

During the week there are several evenings with lectures within the artist group to introduce ourself. It`s about the work, These evenings give the opportunity to ask about technique, ideas, exchange opinions, talk shop.

Exchange of knowledge happens also a lot during the jointly work in the workshops. Curiosity must be one of the main reasons to come to a symposium.

"It`s important to learn for me, always, even when I`ve been in this trade for more than thirty years. The atmosphere in the workshops are very different from year to year, but there is a permanent and lively exchange of knowledge. Sometimes even joint work. I remember Dylan Bown making quiet big figurines in his wild a free-minded manner. And he ask Sarah Bartmann, a young German artist to decorate it for him. It was a fast act and he commented in his charming way: "Good, hmm, really good!"
This little spontaneous happenings are great fun."

The days are running very fast. Bigger works will stay here, waiting for biscuit firing later. The smaller ones can be finished for the weekend.

The ten days of Intonation are a bit like a good theater play. Starts slow and the excitement rises more and more towards the end. Time to get ready for the public lectures, the big finish with speeches and a lot of people coming, curious; What has happened during the week?

With some luck the sun is shining and the audience are walking around with a glass of wine enjoying the art and the dialog with the artist. Celebration mood is in the air. The highlight is the opening of the wood kiln, sales are made.

"For me the two last days are very special. I have to fulfill the expectation of the artist and the audience, be everywhere. But at the same time, I feel a bit proud. We have manage it again. Good work is done and an interesting exhibition is presented. Our place is special, where else in Germany is there a possibility to meet ceramist from all over the world?"

Sunday evening, the guest have gone home and suitcases have to be packed, tickets bought, transports for the works to be managed, addresses and little gifts exchanged. The group sits down to a slightly sentimental last supper.

"Suddenly the day of departure has arrived. We are standing down at the gate. Once a young colleague had tears in her eyes: " Please,.... he should not go! I like him so much!" Touching moments

The past ten days feels like a much longer passage of time because we have become so close. Such an intense time!
Then everything is empty again, the studio, the gallery and the synagogue.
And I feel like a parent must, when their children have left home: rather lonely and with the strange sense, that no one needs me any more."

Now a couple of weeks are coming with cleaning up, finish the firings, sending works and slowly realizing, that there is some own work to be done.

To run Intonation, now for sixteen years is an effort, sometimes a struggle and people ask from time to time : "Why are you doing this, will you go on? It`s so much work!" And of course, I ask this myself from time to time too. Sometimes I would like to call everything off. But then there are all those wonderful people, like my assistant who, for the last 10 years, takes her holidays to help me organize the event. The people in Deidesheim, who cook for us, help us out with a forklift, develop websites, supply the gas for the firings and always help immediately, when they are needed. Companies like Goerg & Schneider sponsor us with clay, Michael Saelzer, Zephyr kiln and Rhode kilns have helped us to acquire a new gas kiln this year. People from all over Germany are coming year after year, to see what`s going on in Deidesheim. How can one think about quitting under these circumstances?!"

So ceramic art will be celebrated in Deidesheim in future! We believe in miracles!