Festive Season’s Athenian Art Trek

For those of you who will be in Athens over the holidays, a roundup of artsy goings-on from a favorite blog, Art Scene Athens. Can always be relied upon to scout out what’s worth seeing.

Art Scene Athens

THERE ARE so many interesting art shows on in Athens at the moment that you can enjoy during the Xmas break. Here is a selection of just some of them (you will find more in ‘November’s Art Trek‘ which are also still running):

fotopoulos Work by Dimitris Mytaras

‘Themselves and Others’
The National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Foundation (MIET), will be inaugurating the show ‘Themselves and Others’ at the Eynard Mansion on Tuesday, December 12, (8pm), comprising 400 works from the collection of acclaimed set designer/stage director and artist, Dionysis Fotopoulos. (Runs till March 3).
Participating artists: Th. Apartis, D.Diamantopoulos, F. Kontoglou, Y.Bouzianis, Y. Moralis, Y. Tsarouchis, L. de Nobili, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Y. Lappas, T. Mantzavinos, Y. Mavroidis, Y. Bitsakis, Ch. Botsoglou, D. Mytaras, Th. Papagiannis, E. Sakayian, N. Stephanou, F. Fotopoulos, Y. Psychopedis.
• The National Bank of Greece’s Cultural Foundation (Eynard Mansion), is on 20 Ag. Konstantinou…

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New Q&A – the craftswoman

For a while now, I’ve been following the Instagram feed of Pelagie de Paris, because I love her photographs and her quirky sense of humor. Also her joie de vivre and her general take on life. Pelagie, contrary to appearances, is not from Paris at all, but from the delightful city of Thessaloniki, in the north of Greece, whose more obscure and quaint corners she loves to photograph. She also sews, draws, blogs (about sewing) and likes to treasure hunt in antique shops. But see for yourselves.

 

 

​​Tell us a little about yourself

​I was born in Thessaloniki, but grew up in a village 30 km away, up until I was 19. Then I moved to the city to study chemical engineering, and later on I got an MBA degree as well.​ ​I worked as ​an engineer for two years, and then utilized my MBA to work in the banking sector for 9 years. I quit my job 3 years ago, to follow my dream to be a self-employed creative entrepreneur.
I always liked doing stuff with my hands. I dealt with various kinds of crafts and arts through the years (mostly during university exams, when I should be studying instead, as expected) making jewelry, bags, belts, paintings, learning photography and foreign languages etc, until one day, almost out of the blue, I decided to get a sewing machine and take up sewing. That was seven years ago. I didn’t have a clue about sewing, nor did I have anyone close to teach me, so I inevitably turned to good old internet (YouTube, I love ya!) I got hooked, as you could imagine, and started making my clothes and my whole wardrobe. I still sew most of my clothes and wear lots of me-made skirts and dresses; sewing gives you the freedom to make and wear almost whatever you imagine!
Somewhere in between, I started blogging about sewing in Greek, which I had found to be a whole new (niche) market, since nobody (at least in my knowledge) until then had a sewing blog written in Greek. I wanted to give back to the (Greek) internet some of the knowledge I acquired from foreign sites! (Greek speakers can read her blog here.)
I also like writing, and lately lettering (brush lettering and modern calligraphy as well). I think the one thing that characterizes me is that a have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning. My motto is “Semper Curiosus” (that’s two words I put together on my own, I’m not even sure that’s correct Latin, so don’t shoot please). You can easily imagine I spend lots of hours online, learning and getting inspired (hallo, Instagram and Pinterest)!
I ‘ve been living with my beau for almost ten years now, and would very much like to have a dog someday.

Thessaloniki street at night

 

What were the major difficulties you’ve faced in the last five years?

​Well, the one thing that most frustrates me and makes my life rather difficult and my mood a little heavy is this sense of uncertainty and instability that has set upon us here in Greece for these last few years. All the other difficulties come from within (me), and I’m doing my best to get over them: things like ​low tolerance to rudeness and to not caring about others around you. I’m working on them, by trying to be a kind and just human being. It’s an ongoing battle, I tell you!

Did anyone in particular inspire you or help you?

​Nope. I’m one of those people that never had an idol or someone to look up to. I do believe though that I am learning something from every single person I interact with​, whether it’s a positive interaction or a negative one.
Lately however, come to think of it, I realised that I get inspired by people that are very target-oriented and, more importantly, self-motivated. Being a major procrastinator myself, I need this kind of people to be around, to inspire me and push me forward. Of course, they also have to be kind and not in the least amoralistic, otherwise they don’t fit the bill. Sadly, such people are hard to find, as one imagines. But they exist; I’ve found a couple of them throughout the years!

 

 

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I’m afraid to say I don’t make plans. At all.​ ​Only very short-term ones (aspiring things like “I’ll go to the supermarket tomorrow”). I would very much like to be one of those doers and goal-getters, who set up a goal and make detailed plans and courses of action to accomplish it. But I’m not. I mostly go with the flow, and am known to adapt fairly well to different situations.
As far as hopes are concerned, I’ve had quite a revelation ​a couple of years ago, having heard somewhere that one must kill hope in order to progress and stand on their own. That was a real hit-me-in-the-face moment, ’cause I grew up with the notion that hope was somewhat of a sacred and necessary asset to “own”. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with hope, sometimes it’s the last resort in desperate situations, a real life saver. I lean towards the belief that hope kind of makes us passive and maybe pathetic in a way. I believe that taking action is the way to go (even though as I mentioned I’m not much of a doer). And also, standing on one’s own two feet. The inquiring reader might rightfully doubt that, and ask how will one find the strength to stand on their own feet through rough times, if not resorting to hope. And maybe he would be right. I don’t have the absolute answer to that. Maybe hope is in reality nothing more than our own strength deep within. Maybe. (I state a lot of “maybe’s”, I know, and that’s because I find certainty rather stupid).
Ironically, my name in Greek means just that: Hope (-enter high-raised-brow-and-grinning-emoji-).
Having said all that, in my very short future (come early December) I have my online shop (www.pelagie.gr) opening, that will stock various, personally and carefully curated crafty and artsy things, like haberdashery and stationery, things that I feel really passionate and enthusiastic about (shameless self promotion, #sorrynotsorry).

 

 

What are your hopes for Greece? What changes do you hope to see happen?

​Oh, man, again with the hopes thing! Jk.
If you asked me that same question 5 years ago, I’d have answered that I’d wish something good would eventually come out of all this crisis bitch, both on an individual and on a social level. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of that happening any time soon. Maybe it’s too early to know, or I’m too in the middle of all of this to see clearly. Maybe in the future. Just maybe.

Have you considered leaving? If so, where would you like to go, and why?

​Yes, of course! Lots of times during the past seven or eight years! Who hasn’t?
I still do, as a matter of fact. And, of course, Paris would be the perfect place for me to live in, bien sûr. However, any French city, big or small (Provence, I’m calling out to you, can you hear me?) would do just fine, please and thank you. I think I wouldn’t have much trouble adjusting, say, to the weather and way of living (which seem to be the two biggest struggles for Greeks moving abroad) -I’m not much of a summer person anyway (shocker, I know).

 

 

If you have already decided to leave what would make you stay?

​Two things would hold me back: my family, of course, and​ ​then the fact that I wouldn’t be able to speak my mother language. I feel that our language is our software; words are feelings and intentions and memories and essential parts of who we are, so losing them, a big part of us gets lost too, and is never replaced (if you’re older than eight).

Are you actively doing anything to help with the situation? Is there something you would like to do?

​I am a strong and utter believer in the power of the individual as a bearer of bigger change. One of my favorite quotes lately is “I wanna change the world: I’ll change myself”.
Everybody wants change, but nobody wants to change oneself, I wish that everybody could realise that.

 

Pelagie in Paris

 

How do you see Greece in 5, 10 years?

​Hahahahah, that’s a good one. Sorry, I am not in the least able to make any predictions, and, frankly, I don’t want to.​ ​I have no clue whatsoever. ​​Totally clueless. Come what may. ​

​What are the positive sides of living in Greece? Have you had any good experiences lately?

​I fear I can’t answer this question ​accurately, because I do not have anything to compare living in Greece with anywhere else in the world. I really wish I had.
Also, as I mentioned above, I’m not much of a summer person or a party person at that (calling out to fellow introverts). The sea all around us and the clear blue skies seem to be good assets, though.
A recent good experience does not pop to mind right now. That’s strange and kind of sad, right? But neither does a bad one. So, we’re even, hehe.
Finally, I believe that good experiences can happen anywhere, Greece or not.

How do you cope with obstacles and frustrations in your everyday life?

​I try to be calm and cool. I do not “try” per se to “see the bright side​” and such new age stuff-actually, that kind of comes to me naturally and, thankfully, on its own; I do try though to not take it out on others, and try as best as I can to avoid nagging and whining. I really, REALLY hate that. Hate-hate-hate that.
I wish to some day come to the point of reacting like the old farmer in that zen story (just google “old farmer zen story” and hit the first result that comes up): Maybe, just maybe.

 

Yes, I sew my own clothes. Yes, I can hem your pants/take in your skirt/make your curtains. But. I. DON’T. WANT. TO. Thank you.

From Camp to Campus

Last year, at a ‘creative marathon’ called Hack the Camp, aimed at finding solutions to the challenges faced by refugees in Greece, a young woman spoke passionately of her desire to continue her university education. She had been a student of Economics at a university in Damascus, but her studies had been abandoned as she fled the war. Her emotional plea was the inspiration for the program “Education Unites: From Camp to Campus”, that will provide higher education scholarships to 100 eligible refugees in Athens and 100 in Thessaloniki.

The program is a collaboration between the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Anatolia College (The American College of Thessaloniki), Deree (The American College of Greece) and Perrotis College (American Farm School).

 

 

Lucy Kanatsoulis,  Dean of Enrollment and International Students at Deree – The American College of Greece, declared: “I can think of no better title for the recently launched scholarship program organized by the U.S. EMBASSY in Athens in collaboration with the American College of Thessaloniki – Anatolia College, Deree – The American College of Greece and Perrotis College – American Farm School.

Once refugees and asylum seekers enter the classroom, they become students – like all their classmates from Greece and other parts of the world – with hope for a future filled with opportunities…Education unites all students in their quest for knowledge to achieve their goals in life. And just like that their differences fade and they are all students first.

The refugee crisis in Greece has become one of integration: Providing them with knowledge and skills which they can use either in Greece or in any other country they move to in the future to help them get out of the camps and start working, thus becoming a contributing member of society. There is hope for this program to form a blueprint to be used across many countries who are committed to offering a permanent solution to the refugee crisis, making the campus the vehicle for humanity.

As a young Syrian wrote in his application: “… the thought that I will have the opportunity to study, and do what I do best, has already put a smile on my face.”

After reviewing over 400 applications and interviewing dozens of refugees and asylum seekers, the three U.S. affiliated colleges have selected the first group of students, who have now begun their academic studies.

 

 

Classes have started for the young Afghan man who dreams of becoming a pilot; the young lady from Pakistan who wants to become an electrical engineer; the Syrian law student from Aleppo who left her studies unfinished, and the Syrian man who wants to pursue economic and entrepreneurship studies – as well as dozens of other young students who can now aspire to a professional career, a better future, and the possibility of making an essential contribution to any community where they settle.

During the first week of October, seventy eight young refugees started their academic studies at Deree, and in November they celebrated at their college with an emotional Thanksgiving party.

 

 

 

Note: You’ve already met Lucy – she did the Monthly Interview in August 2016.

Scent of geraniums

I wanted to share this delightful short film, Scent of Geraniums, which is about being a homesick student in a foreign land. A lot of Greeks will identify with this, since the situation in Greek education forces many of them to study abroad – sometimes starting with very limited knowledge of the language they will have to deal with. And people of other nationalities, of course.

The film was made by Naghmeh Farzaneh, an independent Iranian filmmaker and animator based in Chicago. It has won multiple awards.

 

 

Nagmeh’s work is reminiscent of another Iranian artist, Marjane Satrapi, and her wonderful graphic novel, Persepolis, which has been made into an animated full length movie. I urge you all to check it out, even if you a not a comics fan. It’s original and very special.  Just read the reviews.

 

 

I discovered Scent of Geraniums on the blog The Slippery Edge, it is not unfortunately a WordPress site so I hadn’t the faintest idea how to repost it. Take a look at the blog, however, it has lots of interesting stuff and, on this post, there is more information about the film and its maker.

 

Naghmeh Farzaneh. Source:Google

Shameless Promotion

The holidays are nearly upon us. I confess I’m running late with gift ideas, and very busy finishing some commissions. I make a lot of my own presents, but I also buy from online friends.

I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but what could be a nicer gift than original art? It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, either.

 

I’m a terrible photographer, I know…

 

Just as a heads up, I’ve updated my Etsy shop, AthensLettersArt, with some small collages. If you’re stuck with ideas for a present for that new baby in the family, or a visiting auntie, take a look. There’s still time for them to arrive before the holidays! I can do gift wrapping, and even framing, if wanted.

 

 

Etsy anyway is a good place for handmade gifts 🎁

Happy shopping!

 

Santa’s workshop 🎄