On the second floor of the building in central Athens that once housed the offices of the now-defunct Greek magazine Romantso, somewhere among the throws and other handwoven textiles, wool and bobbins, you’ll find Alexandra. She creates a world on her loom that links her grandmother, a weaver from Metsovo in Epirus, to the Chelsea College of Arts in London, where she studied textile design with a special focus on weaving.
Alexandra has already completed and presented a personal collection of scarves, bags, pillowcases and pochettes and, little by little, is helping the loom rise to its rightful place in the world of contemporary artistic creation. Important fashion houses have already expressed interest in her fabrics for their collections.
Alexandra’s creations can be found in the shop of the Benaki Museum.
ZOE XEMANTILOTOU, NESO STUDIO
Sculptor, jewelry designer
You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of artists in Greece who immerse themselves in the difficult and time-consuming art of micro-sculpture. Zoe does; she’s also the youngest of the lot. Her jewelry creations are made of gilded silver using unique wax patterns and feature precious or semi-precious stones that look unprocessed. Every piece has an organic quality, with fluid shapes, and no two are exactly alike.
Neso, the brand name that Zoe has chosen, was one of the Nereids of myth, protectresses of the deep; her name has also been given to an irregularly shaped moon of the planet Neptune. The inspiration for Zoe’s work includes: the sea and the creatures of the deep (after all, her family comes from the Aegean island of Aghios Efstratios); her studies in theater costume at the University of Athens’ School of Philosophy; her career experience, both as a costume designer and a creative director in the world of fashion; and her passion for stones and their energies.
Her jewelry creations have been featured in British Vogue, in Vanity Fair and in Four Seasons Magazine, stirring up interest among New York galleries. Watching her at work is truly a singular experience.
MANOLIS ANGELAKIS, TIND
Silkscreen printer extraordinaire
Just when you thought you’d finally managed to draw a line between the artistic and the mass-produced, you stumble upon Manolis Angelakis’ work and are thrown into confusion again. Silkscreen printing is a timeless technique that can be traced back to the indigenous peoples of Indonesia, the ancient Greeks and ancient Egyptians. It’s also the focus of activity at the Tind workshop, a place whose fame has traveled beyond Athens.
The possible applications of silkscreen printing are endless: we all know that it can be used on shirts and posters, but who ever thought of using it to print on the human body using hypoallergenic inks, or on pancakes using chocolate syrup?
“There is no material that we cannot print on,” says Manolis, who learned the art from his father, a seasoned silkscreen printer. He and his team like to discover new challenges and always seem to find a way to make things work. Manolis has even been able to print on skin – probably the first person to do so. He has also helped bring this art form back to the fore through posters for various cultural events and music concerts, as well as packaging for well-known brands.
Though he champions the craft when talking about what he and his team have created and achieved, at the same time he keeps things grounded, puncturing any inflated sense of self-importance with humor, as is evidenced by the name Tind, an acronym for “This Is Not Designed.”
LOULA LEVEDI, A TOTEM FUR ELITA
Visual artist, scarf designer
Visual artist Loula Levedi weaves unexpected tales. In her case, however, scarves made from exceptional Soufli silk are the canvasses. Mixing elements from ancient myths and civilizations, pop culture and history, and adding in a lot of color and loads of humor, she created a brand with a unique identity. The result is that she makes the Parisian scarves we commonly see seem dull and boring.
Her creative process starts off with some research, then shifts to improvisation and, in the end, produces startling results. As for the color palette, it is, she explains, unconsciously shaped according to visual perception, memory and instinct. In her latest collection, she talks about Greek history in a surrealist manner through digital designs rendered in needlepoint.
Her scarves include images of pearls which, according to the artist, symbolize timeless elegance and bestow brilliance; of naphthalene, which battles the ravages of time; and of aspirin, which assuages the human pain that every story hides. Be prepared to answer questions that you’ll be asked about your scarf!
Two-and-a-half millennia may have passed since pottery first flourished in ancient Greece, but the deal remains the same: dirt and water are the only ingredients. When you’re a kid, you can use any kind of mud to let your imagination run wild; if you’re an artisan, then it’s clay you need. And if you grew up in Marousi – the Athenian suburb with a rich pottery-making tradition – it wouldn’t be too surprising if you ended up becoming a ceramicist, as in the case of Giannis Mamoutzis, a contemporary artist with a childlike enthusiasm and contagious passion for his art.
Both his workshop and his website are filled with his decorative and functional creations. In terms of design, his light fixtures and vessels can be simple or more elaborate, glossy or matte, white or colorful, and their shapes easy to understand or incomprehensible. His workshop is a world unto itself that must be visited; there, you can acquire his creations, see him at work, make your very own creation under his guidance, or even attend a series of lessons.
MARIA-OLGA VLACHOU, POSTFOLK
Visual artist, brand expert, designer
Maria, also known as Postfolk, has made a name for herself by digging out magical motifs from moldy closets and successfully reviving artistic designs that had fallen by the wayside for decades; patterns which had fallen out of favor in a Greece that had turned its back on traditional aesthetics.
Postfolk’s motifs are masterly presented in a series of everyday products such as beach towels, bathrobes, bags, pillowcases, art prints and upholstery fabrics, as well as other items ranging from yoga mats to kitchen aprons. A chance pivotal encounter with some old chests in a folk museum led the artist to the bowels of the Benaki Museum, from where she “lifted” simple designs (but with complex meanings, such as the peacock, or the tree of life).
In doing so, she proved that the power of these designs will defeat any attempts to leave them behind for the sake of “modernization.” Beautiful colors and tasteful patterns complement timeless motifs, transforming her creations into trendy, sophisticated accessories. We’ll be ordering online whatever doesn’t fit in our suitcases!