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Shortly after my arrival my friend has taken me to an almost hidden museum of one of the best known and respected Slovak artist-potter and maker o ceramics, Ferdis Kostka located in Stupava. Stupava is a small town located about 11 miles North of Bratislava. If it wasnít for my friend, I am sure I wouldn't find it my self. The little sign in the window had informed us that the museum is closed due to a sickness. We walked to the courtyard through the main entrance of a fairly new looking house. We were told that the museum is closed. After a brief explanation of my lack of time for return visit we were allowed to see the exhibit with the help of the great grand son, an eight year old Maros Kostka and were given valuable lecture. Maros is continuing in the tradition of the Kostka family and makes ceramics too. The museum is located two restored older houses in the court yard, one of them has his studio that also houses an original wood burning kiln. In the other house is a display of his work. The fairly new looking house, was built by Ferdis Kostka in 1951, and he lived in it for only 10 days before his death at age 73 after loosing his battle with heart asthma and diabetes.

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Ferdis Kostka was a descendant of an old potterís family in Stupava that continued in the tradition established in many localities in Slovakia specializing in pottery and earthenware production and developed the folk faience into applied, decorative and figural ceramic production of high craftsmanship and artistic value. Ferdis Kostka drew on the family's pottery tradition-work of his grand-father Jan Kostka senior and his brother Jan. In the years' 1896-1913 he worked in the shop of his brother and after his departure for Marianka, near by, Ferdis Kostka took over the shop. His initial production included utility kitchen items. He later on combined ancient Haban elements with the artistic tradition of his familyís workshop, imitating and varying inherited patterns and old formulations.

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His life, way of thinking and actions, were deeply affected by the World War I, which was an important landmark in his creations. Experience from the prisoner's camp and work in ironworks were valuable sources of inspiration an intensified his feelings towards his people and the nation.

Kostka's actual artistic development started however only after the World War I with the decline of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. That period in Slovakia was characterized by an increased attention devoted to the preservation of artistic monuments, folk culture and art. This was the time at which Ferdis Kostka found a new content and form of folk art. In addition to applied and decorative ceramics, he developed his talent especially in the original production of faience sculptures and compositions which-in a genuine folk realistic fashion-represented folk characters and scenes from life, as well as the world of plain people.

Work and social motives make up an extensive and special part of his ceramic creations that depicts numerous characters from popular settings. He aptly conveyed their temperament, liking and weaknesses, stressing their psychological characteristics. He thus created a number of original, realistic, affection-inspiring figures and figural compositions such as: At the Spinning-Wheel, The Hunt, The Farmer, The peasant and a Tramp, An unemployed clarinet player, Lunch in the field and many more. Each variant of the represented character was an original work. Kostka made each new version of the original with new features, thus expressing endlessly pulsating life.

His large series of figural sculptures, each of them constituting one cycle consisting of several figural compositions with single theme, such as The Potter's Work, Musicians of Stupava, Life of a Farmer, Life of a Wine grower, Wood-cutters, are of high artistic value with deep message and expression.

Applied and decorative works and especially small figural compositions of Ferdis Kostka have special and significant place in the framework of the Slovak art of ceramics in general. Kostka's ceramic art fulfilled an important national mission as it honored simple folk and their work.

Kostka's artistic creation is a valuable example of true folk art and as such entered into the treasury of Slovak national art.

Following the viewing of the museum we were invited to the fairly new looking house and met Mrs. Magda Koska, the daughter of Ferdis Kostka and were able to view her personal collection of additional works by her late father, including some of the ceramic tiles and his last work a plate made for the peace celebration at Devinís castle on July 6, 1951.


Bibliography: Ferdis Kostka, SFVU Pressfoto, Bratislava 1982 by: Pavol Michalides

Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 2, No. 4, Winter 1997
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1997 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.