Pottery is not exactly unique to any one part of the world – many cultures on this planet have developed their own version of the art over the centuries. However, I find it interesting to explore how the art form differs between country, region, and even group of people. If you are a fan of pottery, when you visit Cappadocia, you will need to visit the town of Avanos which lies about 8km from Goreme. It is not only considered to be a centre of clay pottery for the area, but for the whole of Turkey itself. Avanos prides itself on the generations upon generations of men who have passed down their skills to their descendants.
The river that runs through Avanos is called Kizilirmak, which means Red River. Since the Hittite period (as far back as 2000BCE), people in the area have made good use of the red clay found along the river’s banks. Of course, the original use of pottery was for daily life things like wine holders, bowls, and plates. Today, though, the repertoire has expanded to satisfy the demand created by tourism. As such, many of the things for sale are decorative but one can still buy beautiful pieces that one can actually use.
In a visit to Avanos, you should not miss one of the many pottery workshop tours available. A great number of these workshops are still family run and if you’re lucky, you’ll find one that has its workshop in one of the ubiquitous caves that makes Cappadocia famous. A tour will generally include a demonstration on how a piece is made. The one I saw was a demo of a pitcher – incredibly enough, the man who did the demonstration only took about 5 minutes to make it! And not only did he make the pitcher, he did so the traditional way – by a foot-driven wheel. I can only imagine the leg muscle needed for this… I was exhausted just watching! Basically, the guy takes a lump of clay, places it on the wheel, kicks it to make it spin, and then molds the clay (using water) into whatever shape he wants. And to drive home the point how much skill and expertise is actually necessary, they will ask a tourist to try their hand at it. It can be quite amusing to watch people inadvertently come up with some rather…interesting…things. I saw one lady make something rather risqué which set everyone to giggling.
After the demonstration, you’ll be shown to the display room where you will probably spend quite a long time just wandering around admiring the beautiful works of art. The sheer number available is astonishing as are the intricate designs and the bright rainbow of colours displayed. Choosing a piece or two for your own may be quite the difficult task! I had visions of replacing my whole kitchen with Turkish pottery pieces but in the end, I restrained myself. I only bought small pieces (a few bowls). But if a large piece strikes your fancy and you decide to be less repressed than I am, workshops tend to have arrangements for shipping big things to your home. So you don’t have to hold back if you don’t want to, that’s for sure!
Did you find a fantastic piece of pottery in Avanos or generally in Turkey itself? Tell me about it!
Suggestion: You can combine your time in Avanos with an evening of Whirling Dervishes. About 3km from town, there is a 13th Seljuk caravanserai called Sarihan. This fantastic building is the home of whirling dervish ceremonies today. Well worth a look.