Let’s start off by admitting that I’m not a particularly artistic person so when I had the opportunity to review Mátzalo, the recently opened pottery studio in Sofia, I was a bit concerned that I would make a terrible job of it! Who would guess that instead, I would end up making a marvelous mess with the help from the Mátzalo team and here’s how I did it, and how you can too.
Inside Mátzalo studio you can choose from a treasure trove of ceramic designs: different sized and shaped plates, bowls, dishes and cups, or opt for less common products of candlesticks, picture frames, tiles, 3D shapes and even a lemon squeezer or bowls for your pets. Small children’s favourites of animal figurines or older kids’ more funky designs are also available to pick from and if you want a keepsake of your baby’s hands or feet, the Mátzalo team are on hand to help you create it.
My first task is to decide on one of these designs from the huge range displayed on the shelving. The studio is split into two sides so I take my time to go through them all and it proves to be a tough choice to make! The more carefully I look, the more my decision is made difficult. Luckily, help is on hand and Yoanna does a great job advising me with tips and suggestions so in the end I finally choose a large cooking spoon while Yoanna sets up my work area.
The creation of Mátzalo came about through husband and wife owners, Deian and Toni. Having spent time messing about with their children in similar studios in Vienna, they decided to bring the combined idea of fun and creative pottery to Sofia, knowing there’s nothing quite like it there. Once Toni had learnt the skills needed for painting, glazing and firing the pottery; hiring like-minded professionals from the Academy of Arts in Sofia who work as part of the Mátzalo team; and buying the all important equipment and ‘raw’ pottery, Mátzalo became a fully functioning reality.
Fast forward to the modern surroundings of the studio today and Mátzalo is firmly on the city’s map as a positive contribution to Sofia’s growing hub of contemporary venues that are emerging. They cater for a varied clientele including children, office parties, expat communities, team building groups and even hen parties. A brilliant example of how Mátzalo works is from a recent event they hosted for a bride’s and her ‘hens’ who chose, painted and then gave their artistic creations to the bride as presents.
With my creative space all ready, I need to choose my colours. Yoanna explains and shows me the colours, different types of brushes and techniques available to get started with. There are easy templates for children to use and some simple techniques for adults like me to use too! While I’m deciding on which colours I want, the end of the working day brings about a few customers. Some, like me, are just starting out while others have unfinished pieces so they drop in whenever they have the free time to complete them. The layout of the studio encourages people to be sociable rather than work alone so there’s great opportunity to meet locals and travellers for a chat in between brush strokes.
Not only can I start painting but another great idea by the Mátzalo team is to offer refreshments on site while you get going on your handiwork so I opt for a glass of quality red wine to help get my creativity flowing; the combination of wine, art, the sounds of jazz in the background and the scented candles on the table all add to a unique inspirational experience. After giving the spoon two coats of grey paint, I’m shown the ‘bubble’ technique whereby soap, paint and water is mixed together in a cup, then blowing the liquid with with a straw and spreading the bubbles along the piece you’ve chosen.
One of the best things about painting pottery with your own imagination is not just about creating designs but also bringing out the fun by trying and there’s nothing like blowing bubbles to bring out the child in you! Deian explains that the name Mátzalo, ‘should express that you don’t need to be an artist to have fun at the studio, you don’t need to know special painting techniques to “do your own thing” and that you can just and freely “matz” around with all there is and it always turns out great, since it is YOUR VERY OWN Mátzalo!’
On completing your Mátzalo, the team will glaze and bake it in their brand new kiln where the temperature reaches 1015 degrees. Although I’m not part of the next stages, neither are many visitors to Sofia so they will post your item to any country which saves you the bother of carrying it in your suitcase back home if you want. If you’re still in around 48 hours later, your creation will be ready for you to pick up as a memento or present of your time in Sofia. I’m amazed my finished piece looks so good!
One more additional thing about Mátzalo is that they’re available to suit any budget with prices starting at 5lv upwards and the paints are all inclusive of that price so next time you’re in Sofia, check out it out, have some fun and do your own thing!
What you Need to Know to Make Your Own Mátzalo