Celebrate the learning of the craftsman

Pottery  such as this in the Archaeological Museum of Paphos from the  8th century B.C. has been produced in Cyprus for Millennia. The tradition of hand built pottery continues to this day.

Pottery such as this in the Archaeological Museum of Paphos from the 8th century B.C. has been produced in Cyprus for Millennia. The tradition of hand built pottery continues to this day.

George Georgiades is a potter living by his craft in the village of Lemba in Cyprus. His father was also a potter working his studio in Kyrenia before the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 that led to the ultimate partition of that beautiful island. Like so many Greek families from the north and Turkish families from the south of Cyprus, George moved away from his home and since 1988 has been established in his current studio amongst a community of artists in a village high above the Mediterranean Sea.

Half an hour of conversation with George, who delights in having an audience willing to discuss the finer points of stoneware and the mixing of oxides to create new glazes, is time well spent.  His passion for his work and his knowledge of the characteristics of the raw materials that he lovingly crafts, into a range of beautiful utility ware of outstanding aesthetic quality, provides the visitor to his studio with an experience both enriching and educative.  George Georgiades through the production of individual hand built pottery is not only providing a service to his customers, but is also maintaining a tradition that has existed on Cyprus for Millennia.

When I asked him about his training as a potter George described how he had learned his craft from his father and how he has similarly passed on many of his skills to his son. He has no piece of paper to accredit his undoubted mastery of his art, though his creativity and aptitude is self-evident to all who view his work. His artistry and innovation has been recognised with exhibitions of his work in many galleries in countries including Belgium, Malta and Greece.

Jug by George Georgiades purchased from his studio in Lemba

Jug by George Georgiades purchased from his studio in Lemba

A few days ago and before our visit to George Georgiades’ studio Sara and I were marvelling at the intricacy of pottery produced on the island of Cyprus more than three thousand years ago. The archaeological museum in Paphos houses many fine examples of utility ware, much with fine scrafitto or simple glazed design that provides evidence of craftsmanship similar to that exhibited in George Georgiades’ work today. Three thousand years of continued learning shared and no doubt often passed from father to son, or maybe daughter, down through countless generations.

We can of course today purchase mass produced jugs, cups, plates and other ware much cheaper than if we seek out the hand built pots of today’s studio potters. But each piece produced by George Georgiades, as with others that today are highly prized from the studios of artists such as Bernard Leach, Michael Cardew, Ray Finch or Shōji Hamada is unique, affording no perfect match. These are products wrought by individual genius that provide the user with a direct link to their creators.

The skills passed through the generations are maintained by teaching that requires an understanding not only of the pedagogical processes of transmitting knowledge, but also through a profound relationship with materials and a passion for long held traditions. This fine heritage will continue for just so long as we appreciate that the education of the craftsman, even when largely unaccredited, is of equal value to that  provided through more formal settings.

Some of the work of George Georgiades and his family can be viewed at:-

http://www.lembapottery.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=115:welcome-lemba-pottery&catid=41:hometop

 

 

2 thoughts on “Celebrate the learning of the craftsman

  1. Hi Richard. Recent discussions with Pacific Islanders made me think along these lines. In the west we push our model of school-based education with literacy and numeracy at the core. It can be a fine way to learn, of course (I said can!), but what about the kid who does not attend school and instead learns to fish from his father? Does this limit opportunities or increase them by providing access to a traditional means of living? Some would look at this ‘out of school’ situation as being something that needs to be remedied. I’m no longer so sure.

  2. Hi Tim,
    Part of the problem here is the ways in which we communicate to children and their families those things which we have come to value in education. Sadly, and not only here in England, parents are driven to seek schools that demonstrate high levels of performance in academic subjects whilst other skills and creativity are ignored. I feel sure that these days if a school in England was renowned for its art and pottery rather than for science and maths many parents would look elsewhere for their children. If we look at higher education it is becoming increasingly narrow in its focus. Young people here are discouraged from attending art colleges because it is seen as unlikely to provide them with a secure and lucrative career. The skills of a Cypriot pottery are such that the majority of us could never achieve what he has done, yet this goes largely unrecognised. I feel that “educated” people such as ourselves need to draw attention more to the immense contribution that such individuals make to our societies.

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