In the same way that allotment gardens suddenly became all the rage again here in Cologne recently, pottery – having long since shaken off the stuffy image that has clung to it since the 1970s – is currently enjoying something of an unlikely resurgence among the city’s young, trendy crowd. While pottery courses used to be little more than an opportunity for bored housewives to get out of the house, they are now the hobby of choice for stressed-out city dwellers. By all accounts, after working a 60-hour week, even management consultants are preferring to relax at a potter’s wheel rather than cram into a crowded yoga studio.
Back in 2017, the New York Times had already heralded pottery as “the new Pilates” and the trend towards hands-on crafts is clearly also alive and well in Cologne. And as clay is a wholly natural product, pottery is currently leading the way in the arts and crafts movement too.
More and more budding potters are embracing this often overlooked and underappreciated craft. So much so, in fact, that it is difficult to find a free spot on any of the many pottery courses taking place in virtually every part of town. The popular Studioki pottery workshops for absolute beginners in the south of the city are often booked out months in advance. The pottery courses for adults that are regularly organised by Isabella Bilstein in her studio in Deutz are usually full as well.
The rustic ceramic look is very much on trend in bars and restaurants at the moment, with more and more fancy restaurants opting for handmade tableware. That’s not what’s on offer at Madeleine Degenhardt’s studio in Nippes though, but what you will find are imaginative plant pots and other eclectic creations, all lovingly crafted by hand. Under the name Uhlala, she fashions wonderfully quirky ceramic statues, all modelled and painted by hand, that playfully blur the lines between utility and art. An illustrator and graphic designer by trade, Degenhardt took her hobby to a professional level recently and is now selling her strictly limited pieces at design markets and via her own online shop.
If your tastes are more purist and functional, why not pay a visit to onomao in Ehrenfeld? The Cologne ceramic label, which was set up by brothers Felix and Arthur Wystrychowski in 2018, blends Portuguese craftsmanship with modern design. On entering the little shop, you will be instantly soothed by the gentle pastel shades of the items on display, which even conjure up something of a holiday atmosphere. This is all the handiwork of a family-run ceramics producer in northern Portugal, which the brothers – both passionate surfers – discovered during a trip to the Atlantic coast. Here, cups, bowls and plates are modelled, fired and glazed by hand, based on the Wystrychowskis’ own designs. The characteristic colour gradients make each piece unique in its own way. Sustainability and respect for the environment feature prominently in the pottery scene. Accordingly, the clay for onomao’s products comes from the local region in Portugal. And, quite rightly, the brothers use no plastic whatsoever in the packaging and dispatching of their wares.
Incidentally, the finest ceramics can be seen at art book publisher Taschen’s store at Neumarkt. Originally designed in the 1960s for an Italian tile producer, the ceramic tiled floor is one of the visual highlights of the flagship store, which reopened in 2017. And you will also find no end of inspiration for your next pottery course in the pages of the many design books on sale there. Time to get crafty!
Isabellenstr. 18a, 50678 Cologne, studioki.de
Keramikatelier Isabella Bilstein
Reischplatz 2, 50679 Cologne, isabellabilsteinceramics.com
Venloer Str. 501, 50825 Cologne, onomao.com
Neumarkt 3, 50667 Cologne, taschen.com
(by Katja Peglow )