The Ceramists of Silves

(The studio)

As I was walking up to the castle in Silves I passed a door with a sign saying… Cerimeca. Ceramics! Of course I had to go in.

(Aren’t they gorgeous?)

Inside the dark interior there was a lady painting tiles. I nodded, Bom Dia and went to look at some buttons. They had buttons!After I had chosen and was paying a voice from the back said, you have chosen my work, I made those. Deeper inside the shadows there was a man, a very happy man, working on glazing some more of his work. I asked for a photo. He was happy to oblige.

(Happy man)

He was not happy with my photo though, so I took another. The second one was better. This man knew what he liked, he also knew what he loved. It showed on his face and in the way he spoke, he loved making ceramics and fortunately he loved explaining his work to me.

(His glaze collection)

He reminded me of a story I once heard. Once upon a time there was a shoemaker living in a small village. Every day he created shoes from his own designs. And every day the people of the village brought their old shoes to him for mending. No one liked his shoes.

(Beads after first fire, before glaze)

After years of this he was completely discouraged. Now, there was a wise woman living in the village and one day she visited him. She said, People may not like what you make, it doesn’t matter if no one likes it but if you like it you have to make it. The shoemaker didn’t really like what he heard but he liked the wise woman so he continued to work away on his shoes.

(After glazing)

Then one day, a stranger came to town. The stranger had a hole in her shoe and she asked around the village for the way to the shoemaker. She was in pain when she arrived and she sat outside his shop to take her shoe off and to rub at the pain in her sole. That’s when she heard the shoemaker whistling. It cheered her up instantly and she rose up to go into his shop. That’s when she saw all the shoes in his window. The most unusual shoes she had ever seen. The colours. The mix of fabric and leather. The buttons (of course he used buttons.) The laces. The variety alone was mesmerizing.

(More work cooling in the kiln)

From inside the shop the shoemaker could hear the young stranger’s gasps and sighs and wows! He stopped working to find out what was wrong.

Wrong? Nothing’s wrong! These are the most beautiful shoes in the kingdom! Please say you have my size!

(His wife is also a ceramicist)

A teeny tiny smile played on the shoemaker’s lips, you like my shoes? She gawped at him. You made these? The smile spread across his face, yes I did would you like to try them on?

(Work in progress – the hopeful fish)

For the rest of the afternoon the shoemaker and the stranger talked shoes. She tried on all his shoes and had many questions which he answered happily, delighted to talk about his work. The stranger stayed for dinner and that night moved in with the wise woman (she had an AirBnB). Every day for a year they worked on building a website to find other people who loved the shoemaker’s shoes. Of course you know the ending… everyone lived happily ever after…. except for that time when the website crashed because it was so popular and the other time when they couldn’t sleep with the stress but mostly they were happy.

(The process)

If you like something that someone else has created you might be the only person in the whole world who likes it. So don’t miss the opportunity to tell them.

Go on be that person, tell them. Mairead.

(Silves: €6 per night, parking, WiFi and water. Hot shower, 50 cent. No toilets. Supermarket 5 minutes walk, castle 20 minutes walk. Park with cafe, toilets, swimming pool, playground, tourist office 10 minutes walk. Loads of restaurants and cafes in the town.)