Thursday, October 16, 2008

261 Al Sudan Street

Off the main Al Sudan street, through a nondescript entrance lies the access to clay, colour and fire! Two fierce, large peacocks guard the wooden entrance to Aladdin’s earthy treasure! Welcome to The Pottery Workshop alias the Mud Factory!

261 AL Sudan street in Mohandasein is home to Cairo’s well known potter – Samir Gindi. He does traditional pottery and the workshop is full of vases, dinner plates, tea sets, lanterns, figurines etc of all shapes, hues and sizes. The smell and feel of clay pervades the place, and, when you pick up a piece, you gather all the dust around it as well.

The lady in charge took us upstairs to a room to watch the artisans at work. I wish I could have taken a video, but it did not strike me then. As I watched, a ball of clay was moulded into a small hunched man in galabeyya. Then the man moved to another artisan who in front of our eyes, gave him an aged look with fine wrinkles, a lovely beard, and, loose flowing robes! The speed and deftness with which he worked was amazing!

At another table, an artisan was preparing moulds for lanterns, which were then moved to another table where another artisan, very deftly and without stencils or any instrument other than a sharp knife, cut out the most intricate pattern on the mould.

There was yet another who was busy embellishing a vase with Arabic calligraphy. It was quite an experience watching them at work.

It is worth a visit just to see the artisans at work but you will also find a lot of stuff to buy.

Hunting through piled table ware, I found a beautiful bowl that was glazed lime green on the inside and matt black on the outside. There was another large bowl fired in green, with a traditional Egyptian camel motif running all through. You also have the option of choosing your own colours and designs and asking him to make those for you. They regularly exhibit at the Cairo American College when the school celebrates an Egyptian day. In fact, you can see their pottery at CAC from November 9th I think.

If you are a potter, and, go there looking for something unique, you may be disappointed. He does regular pottery, meant for daily use and is not for eclectic, shapes, designs, glazes or firing styles. But some of the stuff is really lovely, and, I did pick up a tea set, and, 2 bowls.

He had a very nice vase which I asked to be glazed differently and made into a lamp. I hope it turns out well!

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