It is not known when pottery began on the island though it is mentioned by Theophrastus
in the third century B.C.. The oldest pottery found dates back to the eighth century B.C. and Pliny makes mention
of Sifnos ceramics in the first century B.C.
By the eighteenth century potters from Sifnos were traveling all over Greece selling
and their ceramics and in many cases moved away from the island to become potters in other towns and islands
such as Lesvos. There is even a colony of Sifnos potters in Amaroussi, a suburb of Athens.
Today there are still many who practice the art of ceramics, just as their fathers
and grandfathers have. The workshops are located in Vathy, Kamares, Platyialos, Cheronissos and Pharos, but there
are shops where the ceramics are sold all over the island.
|In Kamares I lived in a house owned by an old man named Markos who was a potter. He
had a kiln on the roof and a potters wheel in the house that he pumped with a pedal to turn. My sister was an apprentice
to him for a couple summers and through him developed a love for ceramics. Markos made pottery until his hands
became paralized and a few years later he died. His house is now a restaurant. Sadly this is the case with many
of the old potters and there are only a handful now creating, but they still use the traditional tools and except
for some embellishments, the art has not changed all that much in the last few thousand years. The clay is still
dug from the surrounding hills, the wheels are in most cases powered by foot and the kilns still fueled with wood.
A visit to Sifnos would not be complete without some local pottery. Be sure to visit
the shop of Andonis Kalogirou in Kamares, or the old potter Podotas behind the church (photo). In Vathy at the far end of the beach is the workshop
of one of Sifnos most traditional potters and visitors are welcome. Be sure to visit my photo essay on the works
of Kostas Depastas,
one of the last of the old timers who still makes pottery the simple traditional way. A visit to his workshop in
is like going back in time. Also the work of Georgos Atsonios in the shop called H Peristeriona in Kamares should not be missed as
it is the other end of the pottery spectrum but no less impressive. He is one of the most respected potters in Sifnos
and thus in Greece too. In the village of Artemona you can visit Sifnos Stoneware, where the Kalogirou family of potters, who ended up in the USA, returned to their island to continue a tradition that spanned five generations. The latest member of the family to take up pottery, Antonis attended school in Athens and went on to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nottingham
in England before coming back to Sifnos to be a potter. For those who can't get to Sifnos, their website allows you to order on-line. Julie Tzanni used to be a marketing manager in Athens. She returned to her family island and apprenticed with Antonis Atsonios in Vathi and has her own workshop/gallery
in Katavati, Appolonia. Largely self-taught, her work is totally different from the local ceramics and can be found at her shop/workshop and at the gift shop of the Museum of
the Cycladic Art in Athens.
For more info get a copy of Siphnos: The Potters
Island by George Moussa.
This book serves as an excellent Guidebook with a history of the island and
of Sifnos Pottery and can be found in the bookstore in Kamares
Traditional Sifnos Potters: