Profile: Horst Heinzlreiter
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Author:  Editorial Staff [ Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Profile: Horst Heinzlreiter

Profile: Horst Heinzlreiter
Horst Heinzlreiter
Photograph by Walter Pall

Horst Heinzlreiter is an Austrian ceramic artist known world-wide for the innovative, organic forms that he creates for kusamono and the ageless, rustic perfection of his bonsai pottery. Horst is also an accomplished bonsai artist, specializing in Mugo pine and larch that he collects himself from the alps. Additional photographs of Horst's work can be seen on his website and in Wolfgang Putz's kusamono gallery here at the Art of Bonsai Project.

*The following is an on-line interview conducted with Horst Heinzlreiter:

AoB: Horst, your pottery goes far beyond simple function, what first inspired you to create pots that also had artistic form?

Horst: Well, I must diminish this question somewhat. Because it is not so much my purpose to produce pots which comply with artistic claims. I believe much in canon, traditional forms, good and well tried, that's a fine with me. A round pot stays a round pot, you are adding your two cents and that's it.

AoB: You quite successfully broke away from traditional forms and finishes with your bonsai and accent pots, what was your biggest inspiration for these changes and what was the publics opinion at first?

Horst: Inspiration? I don't know, may be my inquisitiveness, my self taught pighead lead me to some not so beaten paths. But in general I believe that the aesthetic syntax is there already. One may bring something to the light again, one recombines, utilizes possibilities ... to give an example: an interesting demand towards a potter is the finish. Picturing a weather beaten pine, the pot should not be "eaten" by the tree. That means it must somehow stand up against the tree on it's own, must be "related" to the tree but at the same time stand on it's own feet. In order to achieve this demanded correspondence with the tree I have to go and find a related pattern, that could represent the bark for example. Well, there are a few possibilities, one is to work with rough textiles and use them for a fake bark mould. But then I have not done more than apply a common ceramic technique to the bonsai pottery. I have only reached into existing repertoire and have applied it in a useful manner. If there is anything new here then it is the combination of something familiar with another thing familiar and having created a new context. I think of this natural image: you are in unknown territory, come to a lake and see something totally surprising: along the shore there are picturesquely grown pine trees. One would have never expected these on this spot, you are perplexed. An inextinguishable view, this will ingrain. But really nothing more happened than that two elements were perceived in a not expected relation to each other. If there is a creative intention that I have then this picture describes it well. If the exclamation "what's this!?" hangs on the lips at the appraisal of my pots then I feel flattered because I know that something was successful. And many a visitor takes this "impression" back home.

Photograph and accent pot by Horst Heinzlreiter

AoB: You like to create pots that are perfectly suited for the plant that will be in them, what attributes do you look at when matching a plant to a pot?

Horst: One could philosophize around that long and broad and split hairs. I don't feel like doing it because I believe that the choice of pot just like the styling belongs to the personal bonsai design. I do not want to talk someone into a certain pot. Everyone has his own responsibility to find his way. Like you are trying to find the right strap to get the maximum effect of a beautiful watch. One will give this and that a try until the right strap was found. I think it is similar with bonsai pots. It is an ongoing optimizing process. On the other hand every potter somehow has his own "handwriting". Who buys pots from me knows into which direction they go. I prefer expressive pots which can stand their own next to the tree. One reason is that when producing pots I see the image of mature trees and not youngsters. Trees with strong character need a basis which is optically strong. I don't mean pots here which are exploding of avant guard look; no, they can well stay in the traditional boundaries of forms but they need the "extra" thing. That's a fuzzy expression, I know; what I mean is that they must be "asymmetrical" concerning form, surface, glazing etc.. Another reason is the following: doing something in the bonsai field one is prone to slip into the kitsch department. Bonsai in general has the tendency to be 'sweet', 'cute', it follows the scheme of childlike characteristics, it is small, cute and must be cared for. I do not have the intention to perform art theoretical summersault here. But if there is something that one can call the archetypus of a tree, the ultimate treeness, traditional metaphysics speaks of the essentials of a thing, then one must be able to bring out this phenomenon in order to live up to this demand. I am not talking about bonsai necessarily having to become art, but that one should not subordinate the complexity of reality to a rigid scheme of rules, then you will end up with kitsch. This context I want to keep in pottery too: tradition yes, but always cutting aisles, try to listen to the material and tickle it to get new varieties.

AoB: What advice would you give to those looking for the perfect match between pot and plant?

Horst: A great new gadget, if you are able to do it is playing around with virtuals on your PC. Before this I had a special technique: I drew the contour of the tree onto transparent paper and made several copies of that. Then I mounted different pots on these for comparison. It worked well, but it was cumbersome.

Horst Heinzlreiter in his shop with Jim Doyle
Photograph by Walter Pall

AoB: Your accent pots are widely thought of as being the best there are, where do you get your inspiration for these?

Horst: Very simple I let myself be kissed by the muse J. No, really I look for inspirations from colleague potters, from the ceramics tradition, from the IKEBANA department, I look around in the net and last but not least some grow entirely on my own soil. Where exactly the inspiration comes from is difficult to elicit. Often it is the common that teases you and you try to make this become ceramics. Some things are only explainable with psychodynamics. My love to torn apart, wild pots may well come from the fact that I always loved to repair something. I remember getting a brand-new plate car as a child, I think it was an OPEL. Something drew me to try a crash with it - immediately. The left front side was severely dented, only now was I content. I then tried hard with a lot of patience to give the car a good decent look again. With the cracked pot it is the same: first you make a meticulous pot, then you more or less demolish it intentionally, and then you carefully renovate what you have done. The marks of work stay, and it's good.

AoB: The high quality and artistic workmanship that is so evident in your pottery also is apparent in your bonsai. Is there similarities between the two arts?

Horst: I can only say the following: I never was a friend of seminars and workshops. There know-how gets across for every Tom, Dick and Harry, I never thought that this was enthralling. To find out for yourself how things work is partially the very hard way, but one never runs into the danger to become a "wheel in the transmission" to speak technically. This way often quite unconventional solutions are the result. My first trees which I have styled twenty years ago still show the charm of individualism, I see it that way, anyway.

AoB: Why do you use mainly Westerwaelder clays?

Horst: Well, I have tried the most different clays. In the beginning I used clay of an Austrian mine; this was a delicate clay concerning the rupture at drying. I have produced some waste then. There are still some pots of these times in my collection. They are becoming antiques by now. Well, twenty years, cool thing! At the moment I work with German clays, often just as I receive them form the factory. For special glazing effects I mix the clays, knead them and hit them by hand.

Photograph and accent pot by Horst Heinzlreiter

AoB: Your glazes are truly amazing and the texture you achieve is almost a trademark for your pottery, would you share some knowledge on this with us?

Horst: Now that's a bit tricky, these are trade secrets. I myself only slowly get the feeling to understand what I am doing. But a lot is still open, unknown and it's OK. But, this is still not the last word and maybe one day this becomes a book. Let's wait until the day when nobody buys pots off me, then I will have the time for it. :-)

AoB: If you could only give one piece of advice to aspiring potters, what would that be?

Horst: Experiment a lot, study the results carefully, document the whole thing, otherwise it goes into oblivion!

AoB: What do you feel has been the greatest inovation in the art of bonsai and in also the art of bonsai pottery over the years?

Horst: Hmm, for bonsai I don't feel to be in a position to judge that. Concerning bonsai ceramics it seems that a few outstanding potters from England have opened new doors by creating ceramics on which one can tell the human hand. These pots listen to the cold song of the factory pots. This is a new standard beyond doubt, these are A-rated pots, they compare easily with Japanese A-rated pots. This is probably combined with a strong turn towards collected trees. These often have a powerful character, they must have pots with individuality.

Horst Heinzlreiter
Photograph by Walter Pall

AoB: In what direction do you envision the art of bonsai pottery going in over the years to come?

Horst: The traditional pots, the classical syntax of forms will stay. What used to be good with modern bonsai ceramics? will stay; the 'vertical range of manufacture' will develop further. This comprises innovations in glazing outfit and in shape forming. This will happen when pots will be purchased form these small manufacturers. The innovations often come from these pink elephants who are only responsible to themselves and who are not fulfilling the specifications of somebody.

*Translated from Horst's native German by Walter Pall

Author:  Wolfgang Putz [ Thu Mar 16, 2006 8:53 am ]
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Here you can find many of Horst?s accent pots with plants: ... _Engl.html
I remember, it was in summer 2000: I organized the first exhibition "Fascination Bonsai" with 3 bonsai buddies (from Bavaria & Austria) in my bonsai garden and we had more than 1200 visitors from all over Europe.
Horst did make the first accent pots for me. I got the pots only a few hours before starting the exhibition and planted some different mini Hostas & other accents in Horst?s pots on Friday evening. The visitors liked this accent plant compositions very much!
Today i?m glad to have many of Horst?s nice accent pots in my collection. - Every time visiting Horst?s pottery i?m able to find new pot forms with interesting glazes ...... Fine! :o)
Maybe i should drive to Horst... Now. ;o)
Horst, did you fire some new accent pots?

Author:  Levon Arzooyan [ Sun Apr 16, 2006 5:20 pm ]
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Horst makes very nice pots and is also one of my favorite bonsai potters. He makes very nice pots with beautiful glazes.
If you want to see more of his great pots ..... read our book Bonsai Potters. Thanks Walter and Will for this nice interview!

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