The Wheel Turns

by Jeff van den Broeck, Studio Potter

The successful Belgian Presidency of the European Council in the last semester of 2010 is over. The project of the Belgian Embassy in Manila to make a booklet about the activities of the Belgian citizens in the Philippines, did not push through, because of lack of a budget.

Nevertheless we would like to share with you the text we prepared for this publication.

In 2007, Putik, the representative organization of the potters in the Philippines, organized a competition “Tea-articulation” for teasets. The exhibition of the competing teapots was held in Manila at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati. The jury awarded the first prize to Jeff van den Broeck, Belgian potter working and living in Baguio. His pots were praised for the harmonious symbiosis between East and West Pottery.

“When I moved to the Philippines in 1997, I intended to continue my production of stoneware.
I graduated in pottery and design at the Academy of Visual Arts (Anderlecht) Brussels in 1983 and had a modest production of pots as a sideline to my professional activities of being an information officer of the European Commission in Brussels.
The move to the Philippines did not turn out as I expected. Housing was a problem. The house we found didn’t offer enough space to install my kiln and other machines.
I took time off and started to explore the clay world in the Philippines, visiting potteries and sampling clay. I stayed for a short period of time in the pottery of Jon Pettyjohn, a well-known potter in Laguna and an authority in the field of pottery.
After a period of testing and sampling, I decided to import clay from Australia.
In the meantime, we found space to start making pots in Suello Village, Baguio. We needed space for the stock of clay, the gaskiln, the pugmill and the electric potter’s wheel, as well as a kick wheel on stand-by. Finally, we could start the production of stoneware pottery, fired in a gas kiln and reduced at 1280 grade Celsius.
Exhibitions in Manila and Baguio followed with some very successful sales, but it was also a very exciting period meeting and sharing with other potters.
One of my most elating moments was when we prepared an exhibition at the Maryknoll’s gallery in Baguio and I was told that Jaime de Guzman, a famous Filipino potter and painter, would be my partner.
More than 25 years ago, I saw a very interesting exhibition of Filipino potters in the Cultural Center in Manila. I was very attracted by the work of de Guzman. In the following years I tried to keep informed about his work and got some clippings from Filipino newspapers.
It was wonderful to meet the real man and his work in a shared exhibition.
Pottery leads to many meetings with craftsmen and teachers in the art world.
It also leads to some special meetings. One day, a Dutch nun named sister Francis came to see me in the pottery.
She had a project for the handicapped people she was caring for in her convent in Lupao. She wanted to initiate them to work with clay and after some hesitation I went over and worked with them for a week. Some were interested in working with clay while others went over to weaving and beadwork. We kept in touch and from time to time I still visit their place, where they now have clay, wheels and kilns.
Locally, I have a demand from the UP-Art department to help fire the work of students and their professor, Roberto Acosta. It became a routine job and yesterday, I got another call to reserve some space in my next firing for two sculptures. Roberto left UP recently, but we will still welcome him for the firings of his sculptures.
At the moment, we are intensively preparing for an exhibition. I don’t know yet when and where, because the pottery market has had a hard time in the last few years. Galleries have disappeared and the interest for new work is relatively low. But nevertheless, we hope to find a venue where the interest and sympathy for stoneware pottery is still blazing.”

We are happy to announce that the next exhibition will be held in the Bencab museum in Baguio from Nov 5, 2011 on.