Etsy is an international community of designers, creators, artists and entrepreneurs that grows every day. In this series, we’re spinning the globe to take a closer look at country-specific maker scenes around the world. Check out our other posts on the Etsy community in Israel, Latvia, and Japan.
It’s no surprise that the birthplace of Western philosophy, theater, poetry, and art (not to mention amazing strappy sandals) should have a vibrant creative scene still today. From Athens to Lefkis, Etsy sellers draw inspiration from Greece’s history, culture, and natural surroundings as they produce fresh and compelling work in jewelry, textiles, ceramics, and more.
Read on for insight into the modern makers of this ancient locale.
Ingenuity lies in Greece’s soul, and it’s a spirit carried on by today’s makers. “Greece has a long history of creativity. In ancient Greece, people considered creators to be artists — and artists were thought of not as inventors, but as discoverers,” says Angela Topalidou, who, after learning the art of leatherwork from her father, is carrying on the age-old tradition by making simple, chic handbags for the modern gal, available in her shop Laroll. “A lot of creators strive to make things that have archaic elements, and that is what makes the handmade culture in Greece specifically Grecian — the fact that we are trying to combine the ancient culture with the current one,” she says.
The current culture in Greece, however, is one that has been hit hard economically. But the news isn’t all bad. “Prompted by the economic crisis, a lot of people turned from being passive consumers to becoming makers themselves,” says Olga Fylaktou, the artist behind minimalist jewelry line Floti. As the DIY trend gained momentum, Fylaktou saw an opportunity to carve out a new creative path in addition to her work as a graphic designer and art director, and opened her own Etsy shop just over a year ago.
Vasiliki Gkagki of Plexida, whose knit and crocheted items include chunky, turban-inspired headbands and open-backed sweaters, agrees: “Greeks have always been creative, but the latest recession pushed them to create more things on their own and gave them a greater appreciation for the process of creating, as well as for the finished product.”
“Many people are now taking workshops like jewelry making, mosaic making and sewing, or getting reacquainted with knitting or crocheting,” says Claire Losekoot, whose shop Thalassa Jewelry features her handmade gold and silver goods, which range from dainty heart studs to beaded charm bracelets to teardrop earrings adorned with amber (a stone whose origins were attributed in ancient Greek myth to the tears of grieving nymphs). “Others are making their own marmalade, salsa, cupcakes, and other edible goods. And the Etsy community here is very active with workshops, gatherings, and bazaars,” Losekoot says. It’s the Etsy community that has had the greatest affect on Losekoot’s business. In 2010, when Greece’s debt crisis was escalating, Losekoot closed her brick-and-mortar store to focus on her Etsy shop; the online sales are what have kept her endeavor afloat.
In the end, what really defines the creative community in Greece, Losekoot says, is a lust for life. That’s something Eleni Spe of Objects Ceramics believes has a lot to do with the country’s rich history in the arts, but also its innate beauty. “Greeks are imaginative and artistic with a deep-seated need to express themselves and create things. We like clear, bright colors and forms with a lot of character and a strong presence. We are blessed with the brightest blue sky under which all colors and forms come alive. So, this becomes obvious in our work,” she says. Spe, whose studio is on a hill outside one of the oldest villages in Paros, incorporates elements of Greece, like fish, boats, birds, flowers, and olive leaves, into the designs of her clay creations.
“Joy of life is one of the things that distinguishes us,” Spe says, “and we transmit it with all the things that we create.” Fortunately, even visitors to Spe’s shop — or the shops of any of the other Greece-based makers featured here — can absorb a little of that joy of life for themselves.
Shop the Scene
Here’s a selection of items proudly made in Greece.