Leaving Plato’s cave for his studio (3)

What happens when a ceramic analyst of prehistoric excavations cultivates her own ceramic craftsmanship? When, in addition to returning, an an archeologist, to an ancient source, she is making her own start by sourcing something new?


Dr. Despina Margomenou is a highly sophisticated anthropologist who has been working on ceramics as one of her non-professional creative projects. She makes intriguing small batch or one-of-a-kind cups, mugs, platter, candle holders, vases and other practical or decorative items, which she often gives away as gifts. Artfully arranged, they invite reflection on parameters such as material (clay), means (wheel), process (hand), form (design), place (studios), and use (function). They do not claim any originality or authenticity. They actualize molds, not models. They are elementary without being austere, artisanal without being artistic. Their baked affects are clay-philic, not eco-friendly.


They are conscious of being hand made. Theirs is not the hand of an artist or villager but of a craftsperson: its does not perfect or assert, it just shows how it’s done right. It combines a ceramist and a scholar in the generative gesture of the anthropologist who is embedded in a pottery workshop.


Margomenou’s work has a destination: it shapes its own destiny. In the process the maker’s hand is extended: as it is creating something, it is already offering it to you. The object is not given but offered, and when you receive it, you feel it was meant for you all along, and you want to have it around and show it off proudly – “Look here what I was offered!”


Margomenou’s splendid creations are vessels of signification: they are not made to hold but to be held, that is what makes them unique gifts. When you receive them, you fill them with your acceptance. This is also the case with their elliptical Greekness: it resides not in what they are but in how you hold them. Like the ancient containers which she studies in her interdisciplinary research, the hollow receptacles Margomenou makes move from an economy of settlement, storage, and surplus to a semiotic economy of thinging materiality.


This multi-faceted body of work comes from a very different Platonic space, one which is not a cave’s machinery of shadows and illusions but a studio’s oven for firing pottery that people can hold and gift. It does not provide a false reality but a grand furnace to create new realities by making visual repositories where images are not imitated but repositioned and repossessed.

August 28, 2015

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