The North-West Ceramics Foundation was recently able to support Fredi Rahn’s residency at the Zentrum für Keramik in Berlin through the Marion Wright Bursary. Her account of the experience reveals the depth to which she absorbed and benefitted from this remarkable opportunity. We look forward with enthusiasm and excitement to see the new work this residency will surely inspire. Below, please find an excerpt from her remarkable story.
Tucked away in a leafy prosperous neighborhood just outside of the busy center of Berlin is the Zentrum für Keramik in Pankow. Surrounded by the 5-storey apartment buildings typical throughout the city, the Zentrum is housed on the grounds of a villa from the turn of the century. . . . One doesn’t think of cities as wild places, but Berlin is a green city, with large parks in every district, some populated by foxes and wild boars. The garden at the ZFK is dominated by a huge beech tree, well over 100 years old, home to flocks of magpies and doves.
. . . . Germany feels at once familiar and exotic. The layers of history reveal themselves constantly – in the architecture, which spans the newly restored neo classical to post-war Soviet brutalist concrete, to sleek modernist constructions of glass and steel; also in the monuments and remnants, big and small, from the Stolpersteine (tiny brass plaques with the information about former residents who became victims of the holocaust, set unobtrusively into the pavement outside their houses; to the Gleisdreieckpark built on the ruins of a destroyed railyard, with sections overgrown by scrub and small forests, the entire space lined with bike paths and punctuated by playgrounds. The city seems to say “we have experienced unimaginable violence and destruction, and we have endured, and we remember“. . . .
Everywhere I look I notice themes of home and belonging, and, in contrast, the feeling of the outsider. As we know, these themes are woven deeply into German history. Overlaid on this is a pride in the remarkable contributions to technology, art and culture that this country has made, a testament to a culture that values learning, innovation and craftsmanship. The other prominent and remarkable theme I witness here is that of memory and history. This is a culture and country that has had to truly face truth and reconciliation, and must continue to do so as time unfolds. . . . ..
. . . As a maker, my practice is rooted in the domestic, quotidian world. I feel the power of ordinary objects transporting you to imagined worlds. My research pulls from architecture, typography, textiles, as well as historical ceramics. . . . I think about the meaning a vessel carries, its potential to hold and to transport both physical and metaphorically. My deeper dive into the German language leads to a series of word fragments, stamped and inscribed into the walls of cups. This experience offers so much inspiration, so many threads to pick up and play with. I feel that by working intuitively, ideas that live just below the subconscious rise, connecting story to object.
The last week is a blur of loading kilns, organizing packing, visiting museums, and saying goodbye. A journal full of sketches and notes, a phone full of images, and a head full of memories are carried with me along with the 60 pound suitcase that somehow manages to protect its bisque fired cargo. There is a saying “ich habe ein Koffer in Berlin” which signifies the intention to return, and I have literally left a suitcase full of pots in my cousin’s cellar, stored with the intention to glaze and complete them upon my return.