Unveiling “Tylissos”: Ancient Inspirations for Contemporary Ceramics

At the crossroads of art, architecture, and crafts, Georgiev Zabeta is a multidisciplinary studio with roots in Sofia, Paris, and Heraklion. Founded by Kiril Georgiev and Elina Zabeta, both architects by training, the studio embodies a unique blend of theoretical research, art, and hands-on experimentation. Their journey into architecture, interior design, and bespoke furniture creation reveals a dedication to merging traditional craftsmanship with contemporary ceramics.

The “Tylissos” series is a testament to Georgiev Zabeta’s philosophy of crafting spaces and objects that resonate deeply with human experiences while engaging in a dialogue with history and material culture. As an exploration of heritage, this collection is drawn from the ancient Minoan civilization and its reinterpretation for the modern era. Through the lens of their architectural background, Kiril and Elina navigate the challenges posed by traditional techniques, embracing them as opportunities to foster creativity and unique expression.

This article offers an intimate glimpse into the creation process behind the “Tylissos” series. It delves into how the architectural perspectives of its creators have influenced its design, the role of traditional craftsmanship in shaping the series, and the innovative methods employed in making these ceramic pieces. Special attention is given to the conceptual, experimental approach of manganese-saturated glazing, illustrating the studio’s pursuit of distinctiveness through material exploration.

Additionally, the narrative unfolds around the collaborative essence of Georgiev Zabeta, highlighting the complementary strengths Kiril and Elina bring to their projects. Their shared commitment to producing limited editions underscores a profound respect for the manual process and the irreplaceable value of the human touch in the creation of timeless designs.

How did your architectural backgrounds influence the design of the “Tylissos” series?

Spatial rituals, scale, and material embodiment have always been an important part of our approach to architecture.

What challenges and opportunities did traditional craftsmanship present in the development of the “Tylissos” series?

We worked on the “Tylissos” series in Crete, where part of Elina’s family is from. There we explored Ancient Minoan ceramics and objects, made for and by a society tuned with rituals around nature, Gods, and bigger forces. We have never been able to decipher the Minoan civilization and its written language. What we are left with, so clear, vivid, and tangible is its craft – softened by time, rendered ageless and so much more mystical and powerful. This language and the absence of thereof inspired our process.

Can you elaborate on the experimental techniques and importance of the manganese-saturated glazing?

Minoan ceramics and pottery like most ancient clay traditions carry the finish of the technical abilities of their time. Low and uneven firing leads to soft, porous surfaces. We tried to distance the appearance of our ceramic from Minoan pottery through hyper-technical, high-firing, and metal-like finishes. We searched for a new identity, through physical qualities that change in different light conditions. The changing appearance of our glazing can sometimes look dark brown or black, light brown, blueish, or transparent; exposing the grains of the stoneware underneath. It has this contradiction of a grainy but smooth character.

Can you share how observation and experimentation influenced a specific piece in the “Tylissos” series?

A private commission for jewelry exhibition boards came in, while we were immersed in studying Minoan culture. We didn’t want to make the banal and often lifeless exhibition boards, but objects that could exist on their own, even when no jewelry is exhibited on them. We then thought of vases. Vessels that could have a life on their own in many shapes and change all the time; with the seasons, adorned with necklaces, and different flower arrangements. We went through many iterations and tests to see what worked best with the jewelry.

How does producing limited editions affect your design and execution process, especially for ceramics?

When you make things entirely by hand, in the case of our ceramics, it affects everything; the shapes materialize by hands and feelings. You can try to rely more on machines to scale the process up, but as a result, the object and idea change, and your object becomes something completely different. This is the beautiful thing about human hands, they can only produce so many objects in their lifetime, they are one of the most valuable resources, really. It took the universe billions of years to develop them. (Nowadays getting completely neglected, most of the time holding devices or resting on desks next to more devices haha.)

How do you navigate the collaborative process, and what strengths do each of you bring to projects like “Tylissos”?

It starts from a very intimate conversation, often silent – which takes a journey through our bond but also our differences, our spoken languages, and our cultures. The Tylissos series is the fruit of all that. Elina’s ceramic training and heritage, this earthy, visceral connection to Crete island. Kiril’s fresh and experimental eye towards it.

Where do you see your practice heading, and what future projects might build upon or diverge from this series?

We don’t really know but we see ourselves exploring small and larger spatial, interior, and architectural dimensions. We believe that whatever projects we get involved in in the future, we should always pay attention to the human scale, touch, and feelings.

Discover the work of Georgiev Zabeta on Adorno

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