Peasant-style ceramics


Category:
Traditional craftsmanship
Canton:

Description

The region of Thun-Heimberg-Langnau is well known throughout Europe for hand-made ceramics featuring rich slip decoration. The producers, mostly family businesses, use traditional techniques to create both small batches and unique pieces. For a long time, pottery was practiced on small farms to produce goods for own use, and this led to the term "Bauernkeramik", meaning farmer or peasant-style ceramics. In the early eighteenth century five pottery centres established themselves in the canton of Bern, each with its own trademark features: in Langnau, Heimberg and Albligen, ceramic goods were slip decorated while in Simmental and Bäriswil they were made from white-glazed pottery. Demand for peasant-style ceramics soared with tourism in the nineteenth century. In the trade's heyday around the turn of the twentieth century, many manufacturers presented decorative ceramics, exhibition pieces and Thun Majolica at fairs in Paris and London. However, in spite of training programmes run to recruit new talent, today the craft is at risk of become a dying art. A new consumer society and cheap imports by wholesalers have made economic conditions tough for the potters. The situation has been exacerbated by the Confederation's decision to amalgamate the professions "potter" and "ceramics painter" into "ceramist".

Image gallery

  • Traditional animal design © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • The blue colour on this soup bowl from Alt-Langnau was achieved by brushing on cobalt oxide © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter at the wheel © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A handle being attached with slip © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Greenware and glazed jugs on the shelves © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Decorating the goods © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter carefully placing a jug in the kiln to be glost-fired © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Every potter has his trademark © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • View of a pottery © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter at work, Heimberg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Cream dishes and salad bowls being made at a Heimberg pottery, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: New wares set out to dry outside after being shaped © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: Paint being applied to new ceramics goods following shaping and drying © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: An old potter adding the final decoration to a vase © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • A potter from Steffisburg taking his goods to the market in Thun in 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Pottery shop in Steffisburg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Figurines by sculptor H. Schmalz, Heimberg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Traditional animal design © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • The blue colour on this soup bowl from Alt-Langnau was achieved by brushing on cobalt oxide © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter at the wheel © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A handle being attached with slip © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Greenware and glazed jugs on the shelves © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Decorating the goods © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter carefully placing a jug in the kiln to be glost-fired © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • Every potter has his trademark © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • View of a pottery © Töpferei Maurachern, Wichtrach, 2010
  • A potter at work, Heimberg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Cream dishes and salad bowls being made at a Heimberg pottery, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: New wares set out to dry outside after being shaped © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: Paint being applied to new ceramics goods following shaping and drying © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Heimberg, 1917: An old potter adding the final decoration to a vase © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • A potter from Steffisburg taking his goods to the market in Thun in 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Pottery shop in Steffisburg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Figurines by sculptor H. Schmalz, Heimberg, 1917 © Hermann Stauder/Fotostiftung Schweiz

References and documentation

Publications
  • Beate Engelbrecht/Theo Gantner/Meinhard Schuster: Berner Töpferei. Mensch und Handwerk. Basel, 1990

  • Adriano Boschetti-Maradi: Gefässkeramik und Hafnerei in der Frühen Neuzeit im Kanton Bern (Schriften des Bernischen Historischen Museums 8). Bern, 2006

  • Andreas Heege/Andreas Kistler/Walter Thut: Keramik aus Bäriswil. Zur Geschichte einer bedeutenden Landhafnerei im Kanton Bern (Schriften des Bernischen Historischen Museums 10). Bern, 2011

  • Andreas Heege/Andreas Kistler: Poteries décorées de Suisse alémanique, 17e–19e siècles, Collections du Musée Ariana, Genève – Keramik der Deutschschweiz, 17.–19. Jahrhundert. Die Sammlung des Musée Ariana, Genf. Mailand, 2017

  • Andreas Heege/Andreas Kistler: Keramik aus Langnau. Zur Geschichte der bedeutendsten Landhafnerei im Kanton Bern (Schriften des Bernischen Historischen Museums 13): Bern, 2017

  • Hermann Buchs: Vom Heimberger Geschirr zur Thuner Majolika. Thun, 1988

  • Ethnologisches Seminar der Universität Basel (Ed.): Berner Töpferei. Mensch und Handwerk. St. Gallen, 1983

  • Katrin Roth-Rubi: Chacheli us em Bode. Der Kellerfund im Haus 315 in Nidfluh, Därstetten. Ein Händlerdepot. Wimmis, 2000

  • Robert L. Wyss: Berner Bauernkeramik (Berner Heimatbücher). Bern, 1966

Documentation