Wednesday, 1 May 2019

A Panoply Interview with The Acropolis Gallery.

Antiquities belong in museums! (*Indiana Jones shouting*) So what do you do when you want to brighten up your home or classroom with a bit of classical pottery action? One answer of course is to turn to a replica maker. Today we're talking to the team at The Acropolis Gallery ( The Athens-based artists at Acropolis Gallery create replicas of ancient works on ancient shaped vessels and new designs based on ancient iconography. Replica-lovers will find a shop link and discount code at the end of the interview. In case you're wondering, Panoply and the Acropolis Gallery are not connected businesses, we're just mutual vase enthusiasts!

1) You have a pretty enjoyable line of work. Tell us a bit about how you got into it.
From my very first years I loved to paint. I just painted on everything...with all types of different oil paint, graphics and pencils. Everything started when I chose to live permanently in this wonderful place. I met people who love this type of ceramic and a potter who lives here in Athens. It was that step - he impressed me with his skills. It was magic, to go from a piece of clay to this amazing result with so much history of beauty from the past. Greece is a historic place full of art and colours; that motivated me to work in that direction. After all these years I know that everything around Greece (the climate, sea, sun, the blue of the sky) stole my heart. I choose to stay here to work and give to the world pieces of Greek art. So, in our store we not only sell Greek handmade ceramic souvenirs, we give the positive energy of this place to our customers.

Above, an Acropolis Gallery plate featuring the Minotaur.

2) Do you feel that it's important to keep this tradition alive in Greece?
Pottery was important to the ancient Greeks for storage. Everything from wheat to wine was stored in pottery. Pottery was made by shaping clay on a wheel, decorating the pot, and then heating the clay in a kiln... All these steps and that history come from the past. We have to continue it, to make people feel excited about them. I think that when you come to Greece you can see a lot of wonderful things. We can start with the history, the sea, food... the amazing places, hospitable people all of that... but if you want to take something back home it must be a Greek souvenir, something that you can keep in your house and feel all that positive energy from this historic place. Acropolis Gallery is all about that - you can discover the world of ancient Greek art with wonderful handmade ceramics.

Above, familiar Greek pottery motifs.

3) What are some of the challenges that you face when you are making replicas?
Greek pottery is one of the most fascinating and probably the oldest of the Greek minor arts. The first step is to make the same material from clay. I mean, to make one vessel is easy, but to create the same dimensions as those used in antiquity is hard! So we always have the details from museums to work with. Because fired clay pottery is highly durable we need to buy only good quality clay and it's so hard to find. Believe it or not, only a few potters in Athens have that high quality clay in their pieces. It costs a lot of time to create one piece, sometimes many days and you must be so careful with it... the final result is always something that can bring tears. I love it so much, that's why I continue to make it... I always think of that history of the faces I am painting. That makes me work with more passion to finish it to a high standard however hard it is.

Above, Acropolis Gallery's take on the familiar scene of Achilles and Ajax gaming - made famous by Exekias, imitated by a host of other pottery painters ancient and modern, and animated in Panoply's 'Clash of the Dicers' animation.

4) How do you navigate the balance between authenticity and innovation?
Sometimes I start to make an amphora design, for example, from nothing. I might change the faces a little, or the colours. I'm a free artist but I keep some authentic feeling and features and "connect" them with new colours or new techniques to make something that is the same yet different; ancient yet new.

5) Which do you feel are your most successful designs?
The one I find most lovely is a Corinthian style piece on which you can see lions, panthers, boars, goats, sirens and swans. I love the feeling of painting more "freely" on these can see nature in it all around. I also like Minoan period style which is inspired by the Aegean Sea and adorned with colourful dolphins (the symbol of Harmony), octopus, coral and fish. They make me feel good and having spoken to people about them I know that people enjoy having these designs around them in their homes. Maybe some of them made a beautiful Greek gift to a loved one. I'm happy with that...I enjoy it!

Above, an amphora in the Corinthian style.

6) Who's your favourite ancient Greek?
I can say that is Athena. The goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilisation, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. What more can I say?!! Back in history she helped all the people around, she gave the olive tree to them. I can tell you a short story about it... Athena, became Athens' patron goddess after a contest with Poseidon. The two gods competed for who would get the honour of becoming the patron god, and they offered gifts to the Athenians. Poseidon hit the ground with his trident and created a spring, showing that he would offer significant naval power. Athena, on the other hand, offered the olive tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace. The Athenians, led by King Cecrops, decided to take Athena's gift, making her their patron goddess. Here where I live, where everything started...

Thank-you for the chance to talk with you and all your fans. We invite you to visit Athens - that wonderful and historic place! For your fans we offer you a gift, a 20% off coupon to use in our store on ETSY (enter the code: PANOPLY20) Now you can decorate your house with lovely vases and feel the Greek culture around your place.

Above, some Athena appreciation from The Acropolis Gallery.

A massive thank-you to the Acropolis Gallery team for talking to us about their wonderful work. In other news, Panoply's very own Dr Sonya Nevin will be talking about vase animations and the 'Our Mythical Childhood' project at the University of Reading from 4pm on Thursday 8th May in the Edith Morley building – be there if you can!