Outstanding Belgian ceramist Mie Ghesquiere shared with us her experiences creating a local community of artists with the intention of promoting their work.

This autumn in Prague, we held a workshop for the outstanding Belgian ceramist Mie Ghesquiere. Based in the coastal town of Ostend, she draws inspiration from the surrounding life and color of the sea to create beautiful ceramics, porcelain vessels, and installations. After the workshop, she shared with us her experiences creating a local community of artists with the intention of promoting their work.

Ostend (Dutch: Oostende) is located in the Belgian province of West Flanders, and has a population of 70,000. A few years ago, Mie bought and renovated an old mansion there, where she founded a small gallery with workshops where artists and students could work. “We called this place Tussenin - the house of art,” says Mie. “Tussenin means 'In between', and this name reflects our desire to create a dialog between different visions and types of creativity. Of course it was difficult to start this project, because it is not so easy to start something new in art. We believe in the concept that, if you work together on different projects, you will be stronger. First, I contacted the artist who lives on the street next to us. She also has small gallery, and it is hard for her to promote it as well. So we published flyers of our galleries and shared the costs. She started bringing people to me, and I to her. The project started to grow as other galleries in the town joined, and now our group includes 10-15 galleries. Painters, sculptors… the more you are, the stronger you are. We strive mainly for quality and atmosphere, as all of the locations are very cozy and unique. It is very important to have variety.”

Twice a year the group holds an event called “See&Sea”, when all the galleries are open to the public. “People can take a tour of all the galleries in town on these days. We have a website as well as promote the event on Facebook. The city administration started believing in our project, as they announced it on the official website of Ostend, and helped us with printing the flyers. The visitors are both locals and people from Brussels. I believe we will be growing, as I am unaware of similar projects in Belgium.”

According to Mie, for the last 5-6 years, Ostend has been changing for the better. “There is a farming project here as well, which cultivates organic fruit and vegetables. Local people pay for a membership and consume these natural products. It works really well. I think there is a growing trend of people beginning to appreciate handmade things. If you buy a unique handmade object instead of something mass-produced, you will be less likely to discard it so easily. You enjoy things more when you start to care about them. It is important to enjoy every process, even if it's as simple as having some tea.”

We asked Mie for any advice she may have for newcomers on how to stay strong and not be discouraged by the difficulties involved with local projects and the world of art. “I think that you have to believe in your project and just keep creating. I never made things while only thinking about selling them, I enjoyed the process. Be yourself, and people will start to find and believe in you.”

Mie likes scuba diving, and adores the see and its world. “It’s a different world, and we have to respect it. It can be destroyed very quickly and easily, and takes years and years to recover. I try to convey this message to people as well.”