Gogo always had a creative practical streak. She was good at painting, enjoyed handicrafts, and architecture seemed like a natural career choice for her. But when the crisis hit the country and the local architectural sector nearly hit rock bottom, she decided to take a proactive stance. She now makes a living selling handmade cards and notebooks she makes herself using recycled and recyclable paper and wire under the Simeio X label.
Zoe, on the other hand, always loved photography. A trained archaeologist with no career prospects, she decided to turn her hobby into a profession. After attending a series of specialized seminars, she started taking photographs at weddings and christenings and is now earning a satisfactory amount of money. Besides making ends meet, both Gogo and Zoe really enjoy their new jobs.
A lot has happened in the country in the last five years, while many Greeks have seen their lives turn upside down. For some people, however, changes in the labor market have turned out to be a blessing in disguise given that they ended up finding their “true calling,” according to ceramist Tina Pantazelou, who teaches her trade to children and adults. “I know a lot of people who, after facing serious difficulties at work, rediscovered their creative side while looking for new work opportunities. This is very positive and they seem much happier now. Clay also has therapeutic qualities.”
At the Peri Gis (About Earth, perigis.eu) workshop in the neighborhood of Aghios Dimitrios, southern Athens, Pantazelou’s students are an interesting mix: Constantinos, is a director who “always wanted to learn to work with clay,” while Evridiki, who works for a multinational company, was looking for an activity which would allow her to “decompress.” Two of the workshop’s students turned to ceramics as a means of making some money. “I’ve always painted,” says Irini, an unemployed journalist. “And I always wanted to work with clay. I thought that making and selling ceramics could be a way out for me.”
The unconventional workshop allows for each student to work at their own pace. Irini is about to start making a vase, while Christos is sitting confidently at the pottery wheel. Did he have experience in ceramics before coming to the workshop? “With the exception of ‘Ghost’ [the 1990 film with a famous love scene between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore at the pottery wheel], none whatsoever,” he says laughing. Having mastered the craft, he is seriously considering turning his hobby into a job.
Pieces by Pantazelou – who is considered one of Greece’s top ceramists – and her students are scattered around the studio. “The same thing happened to me,” she notes. “I was on a completely different career path when at one point I took some pottery lessons and simply fell in love with clay.”
The same positive energy is evident at the Ennea creative photography center (clubennea.gr), located on Thiseos Street in central Athens, where seminars and workshops for both beginners and more advanced students take place on a daily basis. “While we mostly get people who are just looking for a means to express themselves, a significant percentage of our participants would like to get involved in photography professionally,” notes photographer Panayotis Kasimis, one of the center’s founders. “Generally speaking, the arts are on the rise, people are looking for ways to blow off some steam.”
Photography seminars have become very popular in the last few years. “Most people enroll because they want to feel part of something, a group or a seminar cycle. But in order to truly learn about photography – whether for professional use or just for fun – you must really get to know the medium, to understand its nature, to develop a visual perception, to learn photography’s ‘grammar’ as we say,” he adds.
Participants who complete the center’s basic, seven-month seminar cycle can work as photographers. “From a technical point of view at least they do not have queries and they understand that photography is a creative medium,” says Kasimis. “One of my students was working in the tourism industry before turning to photography, while another started working in photojournalism. There was also a young woman who gave up her day job and is now a professional photographer covering various social, sports and children’s events.”