The workshop of Minas Milliarakis
Melodies of sheep and goat flocks’ clinking “sheep-bells“; the most representative feature of pastoral landscapes.
The sounds of sheep-bells allow herders to know whether an animal is grazing, drinking water, whether it is at risk or trying to get away from something or whether it has been panicked. Being well-versed in the behaviour of their flock, it’s easy for herders to interpret each and every single bell-sound, just like experienced musicians can read an easy orchestral score blindfolded. Sheep-bells help herders locate animals that have lost their bearings while they also help animals inside a flock identify one another. It is not mere coincidence that the biggest sheep-bell is worn by the leader of the flock, so that the leader can be easily traced and guide the flock by the characteristic sound of its clinking bell.
In the village of Ano Assites in Crete, we witnessed the making of hand-made sheep-bells in the workshop of Minas Milliarakis, one of the few bell-making workshops left in Greece.
“Sheep-bells sold in the market come from China; they are cheap bells and all cast in mould, which means that they all sound the same. The sound of a bell depends on its shape. When bells are hand-made, no bell sounds the same and that’s a fact. Now, here’s is how a bell is made: iron sheets are cut depending on the size of the bell we want to make. Then, on an anvil and using a concave mould sheets are formed by hammering. The suspension loop added is either brazed or soldered. For tinning, the bell is heated at 10000C. Then, a 20mm nail is introduced; once heated, the bell’s clapper is formed. There you go! The bell is ready! Once cleaned, it’s ready for its musical journeys!”
- AddressAno Assites, Crete