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The Village of Bussintzi in Western Bulgaria, a Pottery Centre for Centuries

Bnr.bg, Written by Rumyana Panayotova, English version by Radostin Zhelev

The village of Bussintzi lies only 8 km away from the town of Trun, near the border with neighbouring Serbia to the west of Sofia. Its fame is largely due to the centuries’ old tradition of the popular Bussintzi ceramics.

Bussintzi is only a couple of hours drive away from the capital city Sofia. The road meanders among hilly land. Parallel to the road run the wild waters of the tiny Erma River. Magnificent cliffs dominate the landscape cut by the river and shaped into a colorful ravine among the hills.

One more bend in the road, and the village looms before our gaze sprawled over a gentle mountain slope. The first building that arrests our attention is a simple one-storey house. But the long years of its history simply cannot remain unnoticed. It was built at the turn of the 20th century to house the first Bulgarian ceramics school. It has saved to this day the olden ceramic furnaces, but has nevertheless one big modern electricity-driven furnace in one of its workshops. The master potter school of old has become today a small workshop for ceramic souvenirs crafted using the traditional patterns, earthen jugs, bowls, etc.

The traditional potter’s wheel is there for visitors to see.

Pottery has been the main means of existence for the local male population for many centuries. In the village environs there are rich deposits of various types of clay, the mixing of which remained one of the best-kept secrets of the local craftsmen. They were able to make pottery that gave out a peculiar ringing sound when tapped on.

The village has its own Museum of Ceramics, whose curator is Tzvetanka Zaharieva. Says she,

“The colours of autumn, yellow, green and crimson are typical of the ceramics crafted in Bussintzi. In the old days the local craftsmen applied local ores and plants for the dyeing of the ceramics. Every one of them had their own recipes for the hues, the mixing of the clay and the crafting of the pottery. One typical example are the small wine and grape brandy pitchers decorated with small figurines. Those were used for inviting a best man or other guests to weddings and various celebrations.”

The museum collection traces the pottery making tradition to present-day artistic ceramics. The museum premises were built in 1982, and encompass workshops and a small hotel wing. The latter makes it very suitable for hosting national and international open-air seminars on artistic ceramics.

Another local landmark is a one-storey house, whose façade has been richly covered in colourful ceramic plates. The house has been declared part of the cultural heritage. It has an interesting history. It was erected by a potter, who had inherited the family trade, and who enjoyed tremendous popularity, and even got an invitation to present his art at the first Bulgarian industrial and agricultural exposition in Plovdiv way back in 1892. But instead of making simple utilitarian pottery, he mastered a ‘collection’ of clay human figurines. The collection stirred unprecedented interest among the visitors to the exhibition and was bought off for a considerable price. The money lasted him to build the house in question. After him, his three sons became potters in their turn, but it was only the youngest of them, Petar Ghigov, who became world known for his skills. Works by him have become the possession of Le Louvre and Le Musee d’Homme in Paris, British Museum, the World Ceramics Museum in Italy, as well as museum collections in Japan, the United States, Russia, New Zealand, and India. He continued to work right up to his death in 1991. His descendents have decided to establish a school for the learning of the local pottery making traditions. But the beautiful scenery and the calm atmosphere give Bussintzi a chance of becoming a mighty attraction for tourism and recreation.

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Sofia 17/10/2012 21:07

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