We began our adventure in 2006 after receiving an offer from (our now very good friend) Lou Smedts from Belgium - to organize an international workshop right here where we are now. Our house (now house and atelier) was then completely in ruins due to the war - with no water, no electricity, no floors, no kitchen, not even one good room or bathroom and we were then living 130 km away from it, with three small kids in Opatija.
In January 2006 Lou offered to come to us with some of his ceramist colleagues and we were going to have our fist international ceramics colony in August that same year.
So we said YES! ...and started running to get everything done.
What seemed as a mission impossible for many, became one of the most interesting projects in Croatia and of our lives.
And yes, we did manage to get everything done (or at least get everything functioning), and yes; we welcomed 15 guests from Europe and yes; we had a great workshop. Maybe not in a sense of luxury but certainly in the sense of knowledge sharing and international art exchange, starting the journey that will birth the International ceramics center Atelier Janja Gora.
Since then we continued building our atelier - we organized many international events (workshops, exhibitions), helped organize big international exhibitions around the world and started many projects in our local community.
It has not been easy without any help from foundations or institutions and no money of our own, but the project soon became an inspirational communal drive. It's energy drew people from everywhere to help and join. So, not only did a good project come to life, but enormous friendships and ideas emerged and came to stay forever. It was and still is worth the lifetime.
In these 13 years of existence we have met great people within this world who share the same ideas and life philosophy.
To share this enthusiasm and bring more people like that together, we wanted to organize different events. In the following text, read about our past international ceramics colonies, exhibitions and projects we participated in, helped organize or organized ourselves. We have just shortly listed them for a general overview whereas some of them are described in detail on our other pages.
If you want a closer look to our life, visit our Facebook page or just send us an email with your questions - we will be happy to answer them!
How it was built
Atelier Janja Gora is an 'organic' project. Starting there - with the ruined house, 'in the middle of nowhere', with three small kids - was an idea insane enough to raise questions and eyebrows among our friends and family, especially considering we were returning from the Netherlands where we lived a good, 'regular' life, to back here in Croatia to start an art project full of uncertainty and misunderstanding from the world.
But - diving in without regrets - we started building.
We became a communal challenge, and our community grew with people from all walks of life, willing to help, wanting to participate. There would be no atelier if it was not for their greatest help.
Everything you see here, we built by ourselves. Every stone dug from the ground, every brick laid, every piece of carpentry and piles upon piles of reused materials (windows, doors, furniture) have passed through our hands and our thoughts. Every new venture discussed in long hours of planning and choosing the priorities.
That was, and still is the biggest of challenges, as the financing of the whole project depends solely on us, also in parallel with our 'regular' daily lives. It must be said that a lot of our friends who we can call donors and sponsors helped us a great deal with sourcing materials in the past and some are still doing that to this day, so we thank them and invite you to see who they are on their page.
A great 'side effect' of all this was connecting people - people from all walks of life came in contact with each other here in our atelier, became friends, business partners or even lovers. Heads and owners of big companies, journalists, artists, travellers, even some politicians and of course a wide range of other people.
As we all sit at our big dining table, many philosophical and existential questions have been asked and answered.
That is what makes us big, all of us together. That's what made us possible, and that is what we are most proud of. It fulfilled our life and gave us strength to go on., also enriching the lives of all the people who came here - in touch with this place and its energy.
The picture collage below will give you an overview of what and how we did it, and still are doing it today.
Building this place
Our atelier grows slowly, but steadily, like a tree. It is a lifetime project. We never had money to invest in big and expensive building processes. We did it all by ourselves with huge help of friends and allies. That is the greatest creative challenge. To stay honest and dedicated to your dream, to make long days and nights, to plan and re-plan, to suffer floods and enjoy sunshine therefore. On these pictures you can get the impression of how it went.