Past - Present - Future
Ceramics in Sifnos
Ceramics in Sifnos is the work of local potters who create with passion utilitarian and decorative objects made of red clay, fired at a temperature of around 1000o C, often glazed.
Much has been written and said about the pottery in Sifnos, and rightly so since Sifnos is identified with the pottery art.
The first pottery finds in Sifnos date back to the period of the Middle Cycladic civilization (2000-1500 BC), revealing a long-lasting connection of the place with art.
Although the locality of the objects has not yet been confirmed, based on the excavations in the ancient citadels of the island, it is concluded that the main occupations of the inhabitants were agriculture, animal husbandry, metallurgy and pottery.
Apart from the production of ceramics, there is evidence of the existence of ceramic transport networks from Sifnos to other places. Characteristic is the marble inscription found in Calabria, written in the 3rd or 2nd century BC in the Doric dialect and granting the Siphnians an imperfection, a privilege that was not a small one. The Roman writer Pliny refers to these exports of tableware that were sought after for their elegance and for their 'precious material'.
With abundant deposits of refractory clay, the potters of Sifnos have the privilege of being able to produce their clay themselves, thus ensuring the qualitative superiority of the raw material for the creation of their famous clay utensils.
At the beginning of the 18th century, we have the first written reference to the excellent pots made on the island by the French traveller and botanist Tournefort. Red refractory clay is the main ingredient of their creations When this clay is fired at a suitable temperature it acquires its properties and is used for the production of various refractory utensils for use in electric ovens or wood-fired ovens.
The name Sifnos gradually became synonymous with Tsoukalas and the potteries were called Tsikalaria because of the mass production of tsikalas, cooking utensils with great resistance to fire. The tsoukali (pot) was the main cooking utensil in families of Sifnos and the main export product of the island. From the 19th century the potters of Sifnos did not limit their activity only within the island but developed commercial activity both in the surrounding islands and in more remote areas.
It is characteristic that before the foundation of the Greek state, the potters from Sifnos brought through the distribution of their products throughout the Aegean multiple times more income in their land than those who had these only on the island. The dispersion of potters from Sifnos contributed to the spread of ceramic technology and the pottery tradition of Sifnos to such an extent that on many islands the potter was called Sifnios even if he did not originate from that island. Seasonal migration often became permanent either because of marriage or because craftsmen sought more permanent employment on an annual basis. The first recorded permanent establishment of a potter from Sifnos in Attica is that of Angelos Paleos in Maroussi in 1833. Many others followed in the same place because of the good water of the area and the high demand in the production of pitchers.
Other potters settled in Kalogreza, Halandri, Agia Paraskevi, Kaminia, Crete, Peloponnese, Lesvos and elsewhere, while it is not rare for them to settle outside Greece, on the coast of Asia Minor or even in America. Indicative of the movements of potters are many names on the islands of the Cyclades and elsewhere such as: "Sifnaika", "Tsikalaria", "Sifneikos seacoast", "Sifnion Aggioplaston" Street in Maroussi, etc.
Use of tools
Clay from Sifnos
With pottery employing a large part of the island's population, multiple areas of daily life such as vocational training, social structure and cultural activity are affected accordingly. As far as professional potters are concerned, ceramics continues to be a means of livelihood for them, thus constituting the dominant object of their work and interest. The traditional potters of Sifnos are mainly active on the island in their traditional potteries. They practice the art in the traditional way, i.e. the use of a wheel and simple tools with clay from Sifnos. Modern potters, keeping unchanged the ancient art bequeathed to them by their fathers, but also modernizing the ways of making ceramics and creating new forms to meet the ever-evolving needs, continue to create in their potteries, which are scattered all over the island, not only high quality utilitarian objects but also elegant decorative items characterized by their uniqueness. By pursuing art they not only ensure the preservation of cultural heritage but also live off it, which makes it of paramount importance. In addition, modern potters are called upon to respond to the competition of commercial activity, modernizing equipment, adapting forms and responding to new needs and utilitarian requirements Thus, each craftsman develops new forms alongside the traditional designs, with each workshop acquiring its own unique character depending on the aesthetics of each artist.
As a practice with a long tradition, pottery is intertwined with the identity of the place since the pitchers, the revithada (baked chickpea stew) from Sifnos, the mastelo (Greek roast lamb from Sifnos) in Easter, the flaros (garden lighting) etc. are now identified with the island of Sifnos, being fully assimilated in the everyday life and habits of the Sifnos habitants. The preservation and transmission of the art is done through apprenticeship from generation to generation, with young potters being trained alongside the old ones. The potters from Sifnos, always willing and present in their workshops, not only thoroughly explain to the visitors the use of the objects -mainly the traditional ones- but often represent the process of their production. Some Sifnian potters have evolved in recent years in clay sculpture, creating unique - mainly decorative - objects. Since 2001, with the establishment of the Sifnos Pottery Association, more systematic efforts have been made for the preservation and continuation of the art. In most houses of Sifnos, apart from utensils and cooking utensils, we see various clay decorations, pots and vases of various sizes. We see that many habits and activities of daily life are carried out using ceramic utensils and this is a reality that has been maintained throughout the centuries and will continue to exist as it has because it has been created in accordance with basic and natural needs, traditional aesthetics and experiential experiences.
DISCOVER THE NEWEST GREEK CERAMICS!
A unique experience awaits young and old at the Museum of Modern Ceramics.
Visitors come into contact with the traditional ceramics of modern times and the earthy material of clay.