Hands That Shape | Nōema Mykonos

A glimpse into a potter’s studio in the heart of Athens.
Working with clay can be liberating. You touch it, you smell it, you shape it, and you develop a relationship with nature through it. It’s a living organism, breathing until it comes out of the kiln.
Many believe clay to be the birthplace of all life on Earth. This idea can be found across disparate belief systems throughout history and is still intriguing scientists today. For the three philosopher-potters who founded Yfi Ceramics in Athens, it’s a material that provides limitless creative potential of a different sort: there’s a reason Yfi means texture in Greek.

“Improvising, feeling, following the material’s lead, you can transform clay into something beautiful. Beauty is something we aspire to as well as functionality. We are three different people, each with our own aesthetic preferences. We try to achieve something that marries all three points of view that will still turn out beautiful.”

– Nikolina Lentza –

Located a stone’s throw from Kerameikos, the potter’s quarter in ancient Athens and the etymological root of ceramics, the Yfi studio is both a step of continuity for the neighbourhood’s history and the first on a journey between friends brought together through a youthful curiosity about clay’s possibilities. Antigone Kaklidi and Nikolina Lentza met at the studio of mentor Sofia Trigoni, a figure who they both found hugely inspiring, while studying systems design engineering at university on the island of Syros.

The trio’s studio is a colourful exhibition of experiments, aesthetically opposed to factory lines and restaurants that prefer uniformity over the unique. “When you’re working with clay, you’re experimenting all the time,” explains Aimilia. “To create a specific colour, we have to experiment. So every time you open the kiln you are curious, because you might be surprised by what you see. Sometimes an unintended consequence can be even more beautiful than what you expected.”

A penchant for pottery has been baked into Greek culture since ancient times in which clay was abundant and affordable, making it the perfect raw material for everyday kitchen vessels.
Since then, pottery has proved an important vehicle for storytelling in Greek society.

In their versatile shapes and sizes, ceramics have been the canvas of choice for many of Greece’s storytellers over time: through painted scenes and mythologies on bowls, plates, vases, amphorae et cetera, many stories owe their longevity to clay. Each piece of tableware at Nōema tells the story of an artistic experiment, an “imperfect” collaboration between nature and human hand that serves as a prop on the stage of life. These objects are designed to last, dedicated to the timeless act of coming together around food.