Irina Vachkova and Ivaylo Ivanov are the creative duo behind Thermocouple — an artistic atelier where ceramics meets talent and nature. Named after the thermocouple — the most famous tool used to measure the heat inside a furnace — the atelier is home to unique works of art you can’t find anywhere else. The couple has plenty of exhibitions in their biography and has organised demonstrations of their unique pottery style at exhibitions in Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Greece, and beyond.

“Like some kind of an obsession, I feel that the most important thing I should do is create. And be ready to suffer for it. It’s a mission.” — Irina Vachkova

I like to work in my studio and also in the open air of my garden or my home’s terrace. Everything in Nature inspires me – every spore, every little seed, blooming flower, or beautiful scenery. I am also inspired by the achievement of humanity and its artists in the field of design, architecture, and landscape architecture. Impressionism and Art Nouveau are styles that inspire me too. I take a great interest in the crafts of jewelry making, furniture making, and clothes making, as well as the new artistic movements – the cinematic arts, land art, street art, and graffiti. However, I feel most at home when I work in harmony with Nature. I want my art to be perceived as a part of our wise Mother Nature and also as a warning that will nag and remind us that we can lose our paradise if we’re negligent.

“Our art looks like the outcome of a natural process. It is inspired and imbued by Nature.”


Irina Vachkova

I grew up in Apriltsi, Bulgaria, where I live to this day. Apriltsi is a scenic little town at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. The town has shaped me as a person and artist worshiping the splendor of Mother Nature. I was raised in the family of a landscape architect and a forestry graduate, which naturally led to my love for the woods, the mountains, herbs, crafts, art, and folklore. My art looks like the outcome of a natural process. It is inspired and imbued by Nature.

I’ve been drawing from a very young age. It happened just as naturally as walking and talking. I’ve been surrounded by art all my life. Our house was full of books with fine art reproductions that I often copied with a pencil - “The Birth of Venus” and “The Nude Maja”. Later, I signed up for Ikebana classes and was captivated by the aesthetics of Eastern culture. Gradually, a splendid world revealed itself to me, and I was totally enthralled by it. I am moved by beauty in all its forms - from poetry, dance, and fine art to the vast and unimaginable forms of the Earth and Universe.

The one person whom I trust wholeheartedly and whose experience and opinion I value is my husband, Ivaylo Ivanov - Benzo, also a pottery artist, with whom I’ve had a relationship ever since we were in school together.

How does time affect my art?

We live in a material world with questionable idols and values, and this reflects on our creative moods. The world of today’s people in power is a grotesque combination of aesthetic surgery beauty, full stomachs, and inferior passions. This has been set as the standard for the young, and I am afraid that we are hanging above an abyss of spiritual poverty, but this hardly is something new. I am interested in topics like the fall, forgiveness, transformation, and growth, which are as old as the world.

The world I imagine is a utopia in which we live in perfect harmony with Nature. Maybe deep down, we keep a perfect model of the world and always strive to achieve it.

This is the place to quote the great Bulgarian jazz musician Milcho Leviev, who shared in an interview a while ago that if he had to choose between a genius musician and a good person in casting, he would choose the good person.

The greatest art is being human!

Art expresses the sublime states of the human essence. Whether it will realises itself as a melody, dance, story, or painting – depends on the creative intent. A divinely creative job! That is why I find popular art to be so annoying. It is servile and aims to please the taste of the masses.  Art also mirrors society. That’s how I can explain some of its deformities lately.  


Irina: I like to transfer art to human relationships. The most beautiful thing you are capable of giving with an open heart while having peace of mind that you will also receive the most beautiful thing somebody else is capable of giving.

The Atelier

My husband and I are partners in art and use forgotten old stamps from various types of ritual bread with beautiful symbols and messages of harmony in the relationship between the man and the woman, as well as health and prosperity.

Photo by Handplayed
Photo by Handplayed

We want to take them with us in the time to come because we believe they are important and that this gaping abyss of forgetfulness will need a lot of effort to rectify the damaged shape of beauty in the relationships between people.

Photo by Handplayed

We love experimenting, but clay is definitely the material that helps us express ourselves best. It is a challenging material to work with. We’ve been working with clay for 30 years and we are still far from confident that we know all methods of working with it. So, some secrets remain secrets even to us. We like to combine different techniques – from ancient to contemporary. We want to have different cultural layers in every one of the creations. So there’s both – the imprint of a cavemen’s hand and a taste of the world today.

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