Of Desert, Frankincense and Porcelain

At first sight, these words are just words. But for me they have a lot in common. I like the Rub al Khali desert of Dhofar, in Oman in the southern Arabian Peninsula for many reasons. During the night the sky explodes with stars. You can wish upon many of them…Sand dunes highs up to 300 metres, climbing them you become part of this ‘quarter of emptiness,’ the largest sand sea in the world. But be aware there is life in the desert, there always have been…Archaeologists and geologists have found remains of thousand of lakes and sabkha deposits, evidence of past periods of higher groundwater table than today…Sabkha deposits (salt flats) looks to me as porcelain…White colored and with several thin layers above one another they often form large interdunal spaces.

(click on thumbnail to enlarge the pictures)

   

When having a small walk on the crust of the sabkha, always the works of the late Belgium ‘Pieter Stockmans’ comes into my mind. For several reasons….this ceramist, I met on several occasions, who fell in the porcelain, always went for ‘authenticity’ and ‘essence’ in his designs. These qualities you find in the desert.  In his works, be it artistic, craft or industrial, he continuously moved between these lines. Each part is closely related and that his work expressed.  Also in the Empty Quarter not only extreme climate, hot and cold, but the land forms, such as sand dunes and sabkha deposits continuously moves into and to one another…

I don’t believe in coincidences….on his website Pieter Stockmans wrote:

How nice it is to be creative
with a simple material like clay.
I did it my whole life
and still have new ideas.
How wonderful to express myself
every day
with this white gold
as porcelain is called.
Always
in the same philosophy
of tactility and vulnerability.

Dhofar homes the magical frankincense trees. The fragrance of the trees is still used in the daily life of the Omanis. From the incense women make their individual fragrance you can experience at local markets. Because of the vulnerability of the trees, the harvesting still requires traditional rituals. In ancient times incense was considered as ‘gold.’ ‘Hojari,’ the highest quality was called the ‘white gold.’

(click on thumbnail to enlarge the pictures)

   

The Rub al Khali desert and the Frankincense trees leave their traces in the landscape behind.

Pieter Stockmans who passes on his fifty years of expertise gave his love for porcelain through to his daughter Widukind, who runs the studio since 2007, and to his son-in-law Frank Claesen, who creates new designs. Together with a team of six they pursue the special tradition of handcrafted hard porcelain in their workshop.

One thought on “Of Desert, Frankincense and Porcelain

  1. I cannot wait visiting Dhofar, and ofcourse meeting you, for the third time probably last week Octobre 2017.

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