Visiting Egypt, we are blown away by the sheer quantity of architecture and creative insight. The country is an oasis of art and culture, with design inspiration lurking around every corner. In one small Egyptian village, pottery artist Evelyn Porret was so inspired by the local people and culture. Porret has put the village on the map, turning the area into a creative economy and tourism destination. Sadly, Porret passed away on June 1, 2021, but her spirit and memory live in the village. Here’s a look at the amazing work she has done, the inspiration for her work, and the fantastic impact on her community.
Inspired by the Creativity of Children
Fayoum lies a few hours southwest of the bustling city of Cairo. In the small village of Tunis that pottery artist, Evelyn Porret, lived and gained inspiration for her work. Although Swiss-born, she initially moved to Egypt over 50 years ago and fell in love with the country. Porret noticed children taking mud from the fields and shaping it into clay toys when living in the village. Immediately she saw an opportunity for children to secure a future away from working as farmers in the fields. They already had the creativity; they needed the guidance of a pottery artist to fuel their passion and imagination. And so, Porret made this her mission.
Establishing a Pottery & Ceramics School
Seeing the potential of the locals, Evelyn Porret set up a pottery-making school for children in the village. It was established in the 1980s and played a huge role in creating the village’s pottery culture. One of her earliest pupils was Rawya Abdel-Qader. Abdel-Qader set up her own pottery business following Porret’s lessons, and from her success story, Porret’s pottery school became hugely popular. Women, in particular, saw the potential for them to break traditional boundaries. It showed them that they could change their destiny and earn a living by expressing themselves creatively. Hundreds of students have since passed through Porret’s school. Many are now successful pottery artists, making the village a hub of creative talent.
Porret’s Memory & Spirit Lives On
Thanks to Porret, the region is now recognizable for its handmade Egyptian pottery and art galleries. Having visited Tunis, it is unbelievable how much of an impact she has had on the locals. Beautiful examples of ceramics are everywhere you turn. Each piece is unique and one-of-its-kind, with many makers having taken inspiration from the natural surroundings. The Fayoum region is popular for its soft dunes, oasis of water, and blooming desert foliage. As such, many of the pieces we came across on our travels feature animals and plants in traditional blue and green colors. With all pieces being handcrafted, the work is also a celebration of bold and contemporary Egyptian craftsmanship.
Although Evelyn Porret has passed away, her impact is profound and long-lasting. The creative spirit and skills of the people are a reflection of her hard work and dedication. She has shaped Tunis into what it is today and is a true pioneer in the creative community.