Sifnos is not only an island with picturesque sceneries and cosmopolitan atmosphere. More than that, it is an island with rich culture and interesting traditions. Ceramics, in particular, is the most famous tradition of this small and lovely Cycladic island, an art that first started in the ancient times and continues till present.
Ceramics has flourished in Greece since the antiquity, starting from the first Cycladic Period with small statues and vessels for daily or decorative use. In the centuries that followed, from the 8th till the 4th century B.C., pottery works were painted with black and red colors and they depicted scenes from history, mythology or daily life. This tradition continued all through centuries till modern times, as clay was the easiest element to find, coming right from the earth.
Giannis Apostolidis has been occupying with ceramics for many years. His family has a long tradition in pottery art for more than 100 years and the art goes from father to son. His workshop En Sifno is located in Kamares and he makes mostly pots for daily and decorative use or other pieces after request, such as signs for shops. He eagerly talked to us for his art and the importance to keep on this interesting tradition.
Have your methods in working the clay changed with the course of years?
There are some new machinery that makes the process easier, saving too much effort and time, but generally we don't like automatic things. It is important for us, the pottery artists in Sifnos, that this procedure will be kept traditional. Otherwise, pottery is transformed into pure business, not art.
What makes the clay of Sifnos so different?
The most important feature is that the clay of Sifnos includes argil and some metals that make the utensils extremely fire resistant.
How well is this tradition kept today in Sifnos?
Sadly this tradition is clearly declining compared to few decades ago. The peak of pottery art in Sifnos was just before the Second World War, when 90 workshops were working on the island, occupying about 180 craftsmen and many more people for external works.
But technological development has changed things dramatically. Today there are 16 workshops in Sifnos but we all work together to protect this art. In fact, we have established the Union of Pottery Artists of Sifnos and our aim is to show the great history of this art, present the traditional methods of pottery, follow the changes in material and new techniques and also to promote collective activities.
Is your workshop open to visitors?
Our workshop is located in Kamares and it is certainly open to public. People who are interested can see from close the procedure and all stages of making a pot.