OVER thirty years of visits to Greece I had given up on seeing and
finding any good pottery still being made. This year though was different,
for the first time, (why not sooner I just don't know) we at last
visited the Sporades Island of Skopelos. This beautiful unspoiled
island with it's pine clad interior and wonderful white painted churches,
125 in Skopelos Town alone, is a real gem and a delight.
It was by pure chance that I came across a book in a news agents/bookshop
"Gates of the Wind" by Michael Carroll. The book (recommended)
is about Skopelos in the 60's written by Carroll who sailed the Sporades
waters and found, after his maritime wanderings, a home in Panormos,
a deep natural anchorage on the south of the island.
In the book is a short piece about a potter Nikos Rodios who was making
fine pots and was highly regarded throughout Greece, this passage
intrigued me as I had walked past a shop the previous evening named
Rodios. I wondered if it could be one and the same Rodios as Carroll
had written about in his book set some 40 years earlier.
Next day I returned to the shop which is situated on the road out
of Skopelos Town, just a little way from the ferry landing section
of the harbour. The shop, or really more a gallery, had many black
burnished pots on display and looked promising. Upon asking the lady
in the shop about Rodios pottery I was pleasantly surprised to find
that she was in fact the wife of Niko Rodios, working potter and maker
of the wonderful pots that I was looking at. Even better fortune was
that his studio was just across the road.
Crossing the road to studio I found Niko burnishing a small bottle
with a agate pebble and In the corner was a traditional kick-wheel
which I later learned had been his father's. Niko is the third generation
of his family to make pots. Like his grandfather and father he uses
a local earthenware clay which he digs and refines. A fine slip is
made from the clay which produces the black finish under reduction.
This is pottery with deep roots, essentially following the same technique
as the Ancient Greek Potters of Athens and Corinth in the 4th-5th
The clay is thrown in quite a stiff condition with only the minimum
water needed for lubrication, note the absence of a slop tray. After
throwing, turning using a chuck is required to further refine and
finish the piece. The forms that Nikos makes are based on some of
the classical Ancient Greek forms, Kylix, (drinking cup) Lekythos
(cultic jar for oil) Alabastron (perfume jar). What I like about Niko's
work is that although he makes forms that are set firmly in the Ancient
Greek repertoire he has, like his father, developed and taken the
shapes further on. The vessel may be inspired by the aryballos
for an example, but it is no longer confined solely to copying.
The flask illustrated I think shows this very clearly.
After burnishing and slipping the pots are fired in a simple updraft
kiln to a maturing temperature of 800ºC. Nikos fires about ten
times a year.
The Rodios potters have been awarded many awards and medals for the
pottery that they have, and continue to make. The walls of the gallery
have many framed certificates from some of the great European Trade
Expositions of the 30's and 40's. If you are lucky enough to visit
Skopelos and are interested in seeing pottery of the highest quality
then go and visit Nikos Rodios 'Potter', Skopelos, Greece.