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Interview with Cypriot ceramist Panikos Nestoras

Interview with Cypriot ceramist Panikos Nestoras

Video by Artemis Evlogimenou

Earlier this year, we visited Panikos, the artist who makes Sister's ceramics, at his workshop in the village of Mouttayiaka. He shared with us how he creates his signature lace-impressed plates and wheel-thrown pomegranates.

In addition to his talents, Panikos is well-known on the island for his warmth and generosity. Get to know Panikos, a person full of positive and infectious energy, and you'll soon realise that his work is purely a labour of love. When he is not creating, Panikos dedicates his time to children and adults with disabilities, opening up his workshop and teaching them how to bring their own clay creations to life. 

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Read our interview with Panikos below:

Tell us about your journey to becoming a ceramist. You mentioned you studied Economics?

Yes, I studied Economics and lived in Greece, working at a company exporting electrical wires. When my father became sick, I packed up all my things and came back to Cyprus. I wanted to keep myself busy by learning new things so I decided I wanted to learn woodwork.

At the woodwork class registration, I bumped into a professor I knew and he was surprised at my choice to enrol. I told him I was determined - I loved wood, especially the smell of it. So he handed me the application form and told me to fill it out. On that form was also the option for pottery and, in that moment, I changed my mind and went for that instead. [he chuckles]

Back then, they only utilised the red clay that was used to create plant pots and no one used colours. I wanted to try other things so I researched how to import materials from abroad. I started small and started experimenting. I bought a kiln to able to be able to fire my own pieces. It became a costly hobby so after a few years I decided to start selling my pieces to maintain it. 

Tell us a little bit about the materials and colours that you use.

Although my favourite part is working with wet clay, colours have a certain charm about them. They’re magical. That’s why I’ve been striving for 20 years to create these vibrant colours and why I have around 40 glazes. At high temperatures, colours like these are hard to achieve. I was so happy that I managed to create these reds, yellows, greens and loulaki (indigo). Loulaki was used in Lefkara and other villages to paint walls since, apart from being beautiful, it is said that it repels mosquitos.

Speaking of colours, how are your glazes made?

Most of the time, you create a base and then mix in minerals.. For blue, you use Cobalt. For olive green, you use Iron Oxide. For white, Titanium.  

Where did the inspiration for the lace-impressed designs come from?

Lace is something that was ingrained in me as a child. My father owned a shop in Varosi where we sold lace and embroidery made by ladies from Lefkara. So I grew up surrounded by them. Some of the pieces I use today are from back then. Others I acquired when I moved here to Mouttayiaka. In the mid 80s, I got to know some women in the village, that would sit on their balcony and embroider, the majority of whom were widows. 

I would greet and invite them over to the workshop, where we would spend time together, chatting, them crocheting, cooking and eating together. In fact, one of the ladies remembered me as a child in Varosi at our family shop. Many of the pieces I use to this day were made and gifted to me by these women. 

Tell us a little bit about your work with children with disabilities. 

Back in the 80s, organisations that worked with children and adults with disabilities didn’t have access to specialist therapists. I started visited them, under the scope of occupational therapy. Clay is a great medium for this. Something as simple as a piece of clay in their hand can bring a smile to their face. Even if it’s just a squeeze, the clay begins to take form and makes them happy.

As time went by, I began picking them up and driving them to the workshop with the 12 seat bus I owned at the time. We would all come here to the workshop to work with clay. You would quickly see the progress that normally would have taken years. I remember there was one person in a wheelchair with limited mobility, who managed within three years to use a rolling pin to roll out the clay and to slowly form it into a vase or a bowl. Being able to witness that is pure joy. 

See all of Paniko's Ceramics here.