Elvira Roslund Gustavsson
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
Our little west coast town on a river near the sea has been producing pottery for over 350 years, sadly today little of this age old practice remains, however one thing that is still standing is the delightful pottery in the old part of town and this particular building has been helping potters to produce their wares since 1854. One morning in late Spring this year whilst out walking the dog, we noticed a sign outside about upcoming pottery classes. We immediately signed the girls up for the summer course - four weeks of pottery heaven as part of their summer project and they could not have been more pleased. During the long endless days of summer their Friday afternoon course has been the highlight to each week, making pottery in the dappled sunlight, soaking in the history, feasting on cherries and watermelon and being gently guided by their teacher - the ever charming artist Elvira Roslund Gustavsson - this is what summer is meant to be.
After seeing our enthusiasm as we bonded over a shared love for music and wabi-sabi, Elvira invited the whole family to an afternoon of ceramics - more specifically she wanted us to experience making Japanese raku tea bowls (chawan) for our very own tea ceremonies. Elvira's passion for pottery is utterly contagious and so we listened attentively as she explained the unique process we should adopt when carving into our clay, giving time for pondering and connecting with each and every mark on the bowl, she explained to us that as the saying goes, a very good bowl when held in ones hands, one should see and feel the entire journey of life. This probably explains why making a good chawan is one of the biggest challenges facing a potter, it needs to sing the song of life, have intensity contained in stillness and for 400 years this celebrated clay form has been challenging potters, creating a perfect vessel of segmented harmony, so that one can enjoy tea, truly yet simply - is easier said than done.
So we settled into the rhythm of the afternoon, fully present, listening to the music, each other and our bowls, with our feet firmly on the ground, knowing instinctively when to pause, letting our energy flow, feeling relaxed, knowing that with each movement of our tools we were adding underlying messages to our bowls about our lives, adding our unique chi. This was about a commitment to the process of becoming rather than the end product, the journey was the key. Several words swirled around our heads whilst we were carving - feelings, beauty, transformation, quietness, individuality, relaxation, acceptance, courage, unity, simplicity, balance and finally restraint.
Elvira came to Sweden via the rest of the world you could say, having been brought up in India, Malaysia, Vietnam to name but a few, she went on to gain a Diploma in Art and Design from London College of Fashion and a BA in Ceramics from Camberwell College of Art. She was herself inspired to take on pottery by the encouragement of a teacher and she is duly returning that favour by encouraging her own pupils to reach their full potential by giving them the space in which to grow. In her own pieces she is keen to reflect “the process of becoming, rather than a means to an end”. She therefore usually creates the work in pieces, then builds the pieces together by letting them match to each other, talk to each other, finding their own way, letting them create themselves, a symphony, she acts as a conduit to their creation, she starts the process and the pieces finish it off. Her wave pieces are particularly delightful, fluid and yet solid, in motion but stable, oceans, lakes, seas, with browns, whites, blues and greens. Her Peace Pillars, are towers made from individual hand prints that make very similar towers reflecting that whilst we are all different, our needs are in there most basic form often rather similar - everyone loves, everyone hurts, everyone laughs and everyone cries.
Having happened upon our little town by a serendipitous turn of events - coincidentally also how we ended up here - she is now hoping to grow her practice both in terms of teaching and in her individual pieces, taking the Japanese concept of raku out into nature, with workshops, reflecting her experiences, learning from others, learning from nature and above all learning from the heart, taking notice of the small things in life and making them significant. With balance, simplicity and spontaneity.