Exhibition “Ēriks Ellers” open at the Riga Porcelain Museum from August 12 to October 9, 2022.
Ēriks Ellers (1924-1994) was the chief artist of the Riga Porcelain Factory from the 1960s to the 1980s. In the course of his career, he not only coordinated the work of the factory’s Artistic Laboratory and revised the visual image of the products, but also created the shapes and decorations of the various vessels himself. He participated in several industrial exhibitions and won high awards.
Ēriks Ellers was born on May 18, 1924 in Moscow, Soviet Russia. In 1928, he moved to Rostov with his parents Paulīne and Pēteris. In the 1940s, he served in the Soviet Army and was severely wounded in 1944, which resulted in him being discharged. In 1950, he graduated from the Rostov Art School (now the Mitrofan Grekov Art School in Rostov), where he had been trained as a teacher of drawing. It was at this time that the school became an important art centre in the south of Soviet Russia. Later, Ellers moved to Latvia, entered and graduated from the State Academy of Art (now the Art Academy of Latvia), Ceramics Department, in 1957. For his diploma thesis, he designed a vase under the supervision of Georg Kruglov. He had also had earlier connections Georg Kruglov, the Academy’s professor and outstanding ceramist, through his previous military career.
After graduating from the Academy, Ellers worked for a year at the “Māksla” integrated plant and is also mentioned in the sources as a member of the team that designed the interior of the Moscow metro station “Rizhskaya” (“Riga”, completed in 1958), probably in connection with the decorative blockwork, technically executed in ceramics. From 1958 to 1960, Ellers worked at the State Electrotechnical Factory (VEF) as a shift foreman in the scale department. There, together with his colleagues, he developed and introduced the silk-screen press for scale production. This considerably accelerated the production and improved the aesthetics and quality of the factory’s products. Ellers returned to the ceramics industry and began working in the Artistic Laboratory of the Riga Porcelain Factory (RPF), where his colleagues were artists Zina Ulste, Beatrise Kārkliņa, Ilga Dreiblate, Aina Mellupe and others.
Soon, in 1962, Ellers was appointed as the chief artist at the Riga Porcelain and Faience Factory (RPFF), and he continued in this position until 1981, when he left due to health issues. Ellers was very supportive of the introduction of new solutions; in particular, he tried to develop and improve the silk-screen decal technology which has been introduced at the porcelain factory by Elmārs Kalniņš. His personal interest was probably related to his work experience at VEF. Colleagues recall that Ellers would still come to the factory to work with porcelain after 1981.
The responsibilities of the chief artist of the factory included the brand image of the factory’s products: responsibility for the decal shop, artists’ work plans and their proper execution, coordination of the Artistic Council, as well as the development of their own designs. In the course of his career, Ellers designed small plasticware, as well as various sets of crockery and serving dishes. His most popular designs were his 1970s thin-walled porcelain sets “Marianna” and “Sigulda”, which remained in production long after the artist had left the factory. Even today, these sets can be found in large numbers not only in Latvia, but also in Estonia and in other republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union. People are fascinated by the fine nature and lightness of the material, combined with the sumptuous decorations created by artists Maija Zagrebajeva, Aija Mūrniece, Vija Zaļeškeviča, Antoņina Paškaviča, Zina Ulste, Beatrise Kārkliņa, Ilga Vanaga, Ilga Dreiblate and others.
The exhibition will include Ellers’ works which have been previously exhibited or included in publications, as well as objects and design examples which have never been seen before. It is going to be an opportunity to appreciate not only the changes in the artist’s signature style over a long period of time, but also the overall development of stylistic trends in porcelain in the second half of the 20th century, when Latvia was occupied and was part of the Soviet Union. The exhibition will include not only consumer objects designed by Ellers, but also short-lived products and lesser-known decoration pieces that will be of interest to the connoisseurs of Riga porcelain.
In the photo: Coffee set “Marianna”. Thin-walled porcelain, poured, overglaze paint application, gold stamp, gold tracing and application. Form by Ēriks Ellers. Decoration by Beatrise Kārkliņa. 1980. Photo: Gvido Kajons