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Festive Christmas tree idea - decorate it with... pottery

Photo: Ancient Karlovo tourist complex

There is no correct date to put up the Christmas tree, but in Bulgaria it is customary to do it on December 6 - the day of St. Nicholas. And, of course, there's nothing better than decorating the tree with handmade ornaments, especially if they're made of... clay.

The place where you can see how they are made and get to feel the magic of clay with your own hands is the pottery workshop in the Ancient Karlovo complex, where you will have an experienced tutor - Maria Vasilevska. The complex, located in Central Bulgaria, consists of five buildings of high historical value, one of which, the Renaissance Buhalova Inn, has been turned into a Centre for Crafts and Cultural Traditions.

Buhalova Inn

"In our workshops, everyone can make a ceramic with their own hands. For Christmas we offer blanks that are cut out of clay with special moulds," explains Maria Vasilevska. Different types of clay are used and the firing is done in refractory kilns. No special skills are required, only desire and diligence."

But the real craftsmanship lies in the details. The various figurines of Mary - angels, bells, snowmen, reindeer, snowflakes, stars - are made with great precision. Painting on the soft clay certainly takes a skilled steady hand, an artist's flair. Each ornament is shaped and then painted by hand to to complete the look.

"The craftsman puts his heart into the handmade products," says Maria Vasilevska.  - As for clay, it is a very rewarding material, yielding, cost-saving, very pleasant to work with. The raw clay initially requires more effort and strong hands to knead it nicely, then we roll it out to a layer of certain thickness, and we cut out the figurines and shape them gently and carefully."

Maria Vasilevska also uses an authentic potter's wheel to sculpt exquisite little bells. Let us see how she brings the Christmas spirit into her works:

"For inspiration, I light a candle, play nice Christmas songs and use the colours that are typical of Christmas - white, green, red, silver and gold. We all have an artistic side to us, we just need to unlock it and bring it out into the material world," Maria Vasilevska believes. When a person starts to create, whether it is painting, sewing or weaving, this creative process brings out the best in them. When a person tries and finds his own, it feeds his soul."

Every single item created by the skillful hands of the present-day craftsmen in the Buhalova Inn is not just an accessory, an object, a beautiful purchase. It represents a state of mind, a captivating magic that always makes one come back to Karlovo.

English version: Elizabeth Radkova
Photos: Ancient Karlovo tourist complex
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