Before we left The States, when I was reading up on the main towns of Cappadocia, I got excited by the idea of the small city of Avanos. This town of roughly 11,000 people is situated on the “Red River” (Kizilirmak), a body of water yielding a lovely red clay perfect for creating earthenware. As a natural extension of this resource, the town has long been–since the time of the Hittites–a hub for potters. Once I read about that in the guide books, I became hopeful that we could tap into the abundance of ceramicists and take some red clay into our own hands.
Two weeks ago, we headed over to Avanos and spent some time walking around the shops and studios, trying to get a bead on the place. Those storefronts that had hawkers out on the street were an immediate turnoff, and, while we were amused by the old crone whose schtick consisted of holding a huge clay pot over her head and crashing it to the ground, to show that it was unbreakable, we didn’t necessarily feel repeat return visits were merited, particularly after her finale consisted of asking me to step on a vase and then presenting its amazingly-intact state to all onlookers with a flourish and a “See, if the elephant didn’t break it, nothing will!”
Eventually we happened into a quiet shop where the owner, clearly a man of commerce—but even moreso a man of pottery—asked us each if we’d like to take a turn at the wheel. He guided us through a few simple pinches and turns, ushering us towards a feeling of success. At the end, of course, we bought a few items from his shop. At the end, of course, we asked him if he ever gives private lessons.
He does. Today, we headed over to Ertas’ (pronounced “Air-tash”) shop for the first formal instruction; somehow, in our making arrangements, he had understood that we wanted lessons for the kids only. That actually is just fine, as, were he devoting an hour to the four of us, time at the wheel would be rushed and less fruitful. So we adults settled back and enjoyed the opportunity for our kids (which, as parents know, is pretty much the same as enjoying it for your own self).
Haakon was very excited, as he’s crazily tactile; fortunately, Ertas’ constant compliments of “Super!” and “Bravo!” didn’t diminish the lad’s enthusiasm. Initially, Allegra was less gung-ho, but by the end, she’d surprised herself with her progress and promise. For kids who have been largely without peer interaction or the activities they’re used to, today’s reality was better than any guide book’s abstraction.