Potters of Margarites Village

One says that the gods do not burn pots. Our newspaper the New Crete (NC) found out who is responsible for this creative and at time-consuming process on Crete. It turned out to be craftsmen from the old Cretan pottery village Margarites. One of them is Georgios Dalambelos, a Master with a capital M.

After a special education in Athens, he continued to gain experience in Italy, working with local craftsmen and learning their secrets. Returning to his native village, he has opened his workshop “Ceramion”, where there were later organized training programs for students not only from Greece but also from other countries. Georgios collaborates with educational television channels and programs in Greece, takes an active part in exhibitions and pottery festivals not only in his native country but also in foreign countries.

Using the oldest pottery technology, he seeks to preserve and introduce us to the ancient forms and pottery decorating techniques. There are always a lot of visitors in Georgios shop and workshop, but he finds time for everyone and is happy answering all questions.

NC: When did you start working with ceramics? How many generations in your family have been involved in pottery?

GD: I started working with pottery at the age of 18, and now I am 47 years old. In my family I represent the third generation of potters.

NC: Why did exactly Margarites become such a famous pottery village in Crete?

GD: The fact is that in our region, around the village, there are lands with good raw materials for the production of clay, suitable for the manufacture of high-quality ceramics.

NC: Please tell us about the clay production process.

GD: The most important thing is that we are trying to preserve the ancient method of production, using exactly the same material as in previous times… First, I collect raw materials for clay and lay them out in the open air in the yard for drying. Then I put it in water for a day. The next day, I filter the raw materials, sifting out small stones, impurities and debris; and leave it to stand a day more. After the washed raw materials settle and the removing water separates well, I leave the raw materials in the fresh air under the sun for one week to dry. Then I lay them in plastic bags, hermetically pack and leave for one year. This way I get a very soft and plastic material, high quality, such as was used by our ancestors.

NC: Are there any differences between the modern production of pottery in your workshop and the ancient way of it?

GD: The only difference is that I use an electric potter’s wheel. Otherwise the process is exactly the same as in ancient times. (Author’s note: Unlike other potters who use electric stoves today, Georgios burns his products in a wood-burning stove, just as his ancestors did it thousands of years ago).

NC: Where do you get ideas for your ceramics?

GD: Mostly I am inspired by the ideas of the ancient Greek pottery.

NC: Wat products do tourists prefer to buy?

GD: Tourists come to Crete by air, so basically they choose easy transportation products.

NC: Do you have children? Do they help you in your work, and do they want to continue the family business?

GD: I have three daughters. They all help to the best of their ability, but it’s too early to say whether they will continue the tradition or choose a different kind of activity.

NC: Is pottery durable? Is it good for cooking, storing food, and putting on an open fire?

GD: All ceramics produced in our workshop are designed for daily use in the kitchen. For open fire and gas, we also have special clay pans.

NC: You have such a creative work… Are there some exhibitions of modern ceramics where you participated?

GD: Of course, I took part many times in such exhibitions in Greece and in Europe, and even in Korea: at a festival of modern ceramics.

NC: Do you, the craftsmen of Margarites village, hold any festivals?

GD: Four years, from 2005 to 2008, we held international pottery art festivals, where potters from all over the world came to exchange experiences, but then stopped… Margarites is one of the largest pottery villages not only in Crete, but also in Greece. Visitors to the village can see more than 20 different shops and workshops, which feature works in unique styles. Most shops are located on the main street of the village, some on the nearby streets. A visit to the village is already a great and unusual adventure for tourists in the field of exploring modern and traditional pottery.

NC: When tourists come to your shop, do they have an opportunity to learn something about ceramics? Can they try to do something themselves under your control?

GD: Visitors to my shop and workshop will learn about all stages of the pottery production in our local traditional way, about modern, and old ways of decorating dishes. If someone wants to get a lesson in pottery and do something with his own hands, he only needs to agree on this in advance. Information on lessons and contacts is on our website www.keramion.gr

NC: Do you conduct group lessons and master classes? Are there any secrets of the profession that you do not reveal?

GD: We constantly conduct training for students from around the world, and we do not keep secrets, but rather strive to teach our students a professional approach to pottery.

NC: Have you ever regretted becoming a potter?

GD: No, never.

Olga Morozova.