For me, one of the best things about travel is the opportunity to meet local artists and be exposed to their traditional arts and crafts. Such meetings always provide inspiration and get the creative juices flowing.
I spent a day with the potter Dainius Strazdas at his studio, Vilniaus puodžių cechas. This brilliant artist is not only an accomplished potter, he specialises in an almost archaeological reconstruction and re-creation of ancient pottery techniques.
The level of detail is mind boggling, beginning with the restoration of kilns and furnaces, to figuring out the formulations of the materials and glazes, recreating the equipment and forming techniques, and rediscovering the pyrotechnics.
On a personal note, despite living in Auroville which has long been a breeding ground for notable potters, I got my first pottery lesson ever from Dainius, (who has actually spent time in Auroville, engaging with the potters here). You can see the resulting bowl in this final image. I'm told that it's very good for a first attempt, but I think I'll stick to creating garments for now.
My host in Vilnius was the amazing olfactory artist and perfumer, Laimė Kiškūnė.
She is what we would call a "nez" in French - that exceedingly rare individual who is blessed with the sensorium, discrimination and creativity to invent perfumes. This magician of scents can take one whiff of perfume and tell you what the ingredients are. She manifests aromas starting from a mental construction of the "feeling" it should evoke, and then experiments with ingredients until she creates a mix with that exact sense.
When we first met a couple of years ago, she told me that one of my prized aromatic cosmetics (a famous brand of natural, organic products) actually had synthetic components, just by smelling it. Sure enough, when we tracked down the ingredients, it turned out that she was right. Pure "natural" scents are rare, because it is much easier (and cheaper) to use synthetic chemicals than to find natural ingredients that can be combined to produce the same effect.
An intensely spiritual person, Laimė has been associated with Auroville for many years. For her, aroma blending is meditation, karma yoga and a spiritual practice that helps her attain pratyahara, dharana and dhyana (and maybe samadhi).
I had the unexpected pleasure of spending time with Saulius Vaitiekūnas - jeweller, sculptor and installation artist. His Galerija Terra Recognita, located in old town Vilnius, unifies his creations into a single multi-faceted constantly-changing space which is itself an art-piece. It exhibits all aspects of his talent.
I was particularly drawn to his jewellery, which combines beautiful sea-sand-wind-wave washed stone and flint with intricately crafted silver. It is a stunning synthesis of natural material embellished with gorgeous man-made metal art.
On a personal level, Saulius is that rare animal - a brilliant artist that is also a gregarious and super charming person. His friendliness, humour, cheerfulness, kindness and generosity made it an absolute delight to be in his company.
In the images, Saulius is encouraging me to try one of his masterpieces - this heavy Baltic sea-stone and silver multi-strand necklace. As you can see, I was quite enthusiastic and energised about wearing it.