Pottery art in Sifnos island is a tradition lasting many centuries. Now days there are still 16 workshops fully operating in production of Sifnos ceramics. Island’s potters use the exceptional Sifnos clay with enviable virtuosity in the “wheel” to create useful cooking utensils and many decorative objects, all pieces of real artwork.
In Sifnos you will find many shops selling handmade art pieces of pottery. If you wish to see how ceramics are made, you are always welcome to visit one of the traditional workshops.
SIFNOS POTTERY HISTORY
Sifnos tsikalaria or tsikaladika (local names for pottery workshops) were specialized in manufacturing TSIKALI called as the Sifnians utensils for preparing food. Pottery art, lost in the mists of time and appearing to the Early Cycladic Period, flourished in the 18th century.
Fearful of Aegean Pirates attacks, Sifnos pottery workshops were located inland until the mid 19th century. Trading , however, required loading of ceramics to the boats in order Sifnos pottery products to travel in Cyclades , Dodecanese, Crete , Turkey , Alexandria , Malta, Syria and Palestine . For this reason later workshops were transferred to coastal settlements which were situated in leeward bays of the island.
The argillaceous rocks of the island provided the raw material for TSIKALI, pitchers, jugs and lainia (for water) while the sun and the air of the Cyclades helped to ” dry ” ceramics after formatting the wheel before and baked in ” ovens ” of traditional kilns being lit with wood . The Sifnians potters who used TSIKALI for cooking, creating local specialties such as stepper and chickpea soup, had the opportunity to improve the quality of the ceramics which gained a good reputation for their durability .
The revolution brought by the use of aluminum in the manufacture of cookware was the reason for sharp drop in pottery demand during 30s and 40s . Many potters left Sifnos for Maroussi of Attica where they managed to survive with pottery and also to carry their love for ceramics in the capital.
With the development of the tourism Sifnians potters found in tourists new shoppers for their ceramic ware distinguished longer as utilitarian, for cooking or serving, and decorative . Nowdays, competition from cheap Chinese ceramics is very large and Sifnians potters are obliged to keep prices at competitive levels although their creations are having a high quality level.