Pottery art inspired by fish and olive

• Category: Interviews

Katharina Bolesch and Alexander Reichardt is a couple of talented artists who live and work on the island of Naxos, Greece. If you have walked around the narrow paths of Halki, you must have spotted their elegant pottery workshop with the olive tree as motif, a plant so much connected to Greece. "I first came to Naxos in my early childhood", she recalls. "My parents fell in love with the island and so we spent all our holidays here. For my brother and me, it was the most precious time ever: a time of endless beaches, not one house or hotel in sight, sun and clear water and friendly relaxed people. We were free spirits here. Over the years, whenever I had to return to Germany, I felt so sad and empty, that I decided I would settle on Naxos once I had finished high school and my three years studying ceramics in Germany. I have never regretted my decision."

That is how Katharina moved from the cold snow-covered Germany to a sunlit Greek island. In Naxos, she met her husband Alexander, a keen diver who had been brought up in Alexandria Egypt and had come to Greece for holidays. Together they opened a gallery in the village of Halki, in the heart of Naxos, in 2006. "We had already been settled there with a shop and a ceramics workshop since 2000. In 2001, it became possible for us to buy an old ruin in the centre of the village and we started to restore and add another floor from 2003. During restoration, thick marble, stone walls and arches were uncovered and we decided that this beautiful building was perfect, not only to display our work, but also the work of other artists. Since the gallery opened, it has become a meeting point for artists and friends from all over the world. For us, it is not simply a place in which to sell work, but a showcase for a collection of very personal items through which we try to express the beauty of nature through art."

As you live permanently in Naxos, how is the island out of summer season?

You can only learn to love and understand Naxos if you live here in autumn and winter. Naxos is both beautiful and rugged, its landscapes and its Nature are inspiring. There is so much beauty in the island at all times of the year: the first green shoots under the olive trees after the rain in autumn, the wild storms in winter and suddenly, in the winter dusk, the sun shining through clouds at sunset. Until December, you can often sit outside and enjoy all that beauty. The winter for us is also very productive and rewarding. Then, we can concentrate on our work and on new designs. You have time to meet friends, and everybody is more relaxed.

How did you become inspired by fish and olive for the decoration of your creations?

The fish design is my husband's, Alex, inspiration. He has a very strong affinity with the sea. I have used the olive as a design motif for more then 15 years, and I still find ways to make it better, or I find a new form to present it. All my designs are inspired by Nature, like the vine, frogs, lemons and bees. I try to represent Nature as closely as possible, but I also introduce a personal touch. The shape of a piece also plays a big role in what I do because it must always be in harmony with the design that I create and that I attach to the finished piece.

Your work can be used daily or are they only for decorative purposes?

We work only with stoneware and porcelain. Every piece is thrown, every leaf or tiny frog is shaped, by hand. I fire twice the first time at 96oC, after that all the pieces are hand-painted, and then glazed. The glaze firing is at 126oC. Stoneware clay is high quality clay that does not chip off, nor does the glaze crack after use. All the pieces are functional as well as decorative and are safe for food use and for other everyday uses as well as for decoration.