Creativity and Cultural Icons| Enriching my work through travel and conversation
Learning about cultures through travel and conversation with local people has been a mainstay of my personal passions since I was old enough to jump on an airplane. I’ve dipped my toes into nearly every continent and had long term tour of duty in China, Hong Kong, and the Asia-Pacific. Of late, I have spent more time digging deeply into southern Europe where art as we know it has dominated the world scene since ancient times. Nothing more ancient than Greece, our most recent destination.
This journey into the center of the Peloponnese offered me a chance to meet many local artists and in particular, those taking forward the long tradition of jewelry making. (Note the Jewelry Museum in Athens is a wonderful place to visit). Private collections, such as that at the Benaki Museum showcase jewelry from the 4th to 15th centuries. Most looks like it could be worn today. Many of the Hellenic designs have been carried forward by jewelers of today and anyone could pick them out as typical “Greek Designs.”
What I found most interesting, however, was the more contemporary interpretations of ancient symbols and cultural icons. On one extreme, in Napflio, I learned about the art-form of “worry beads” which are having a renaissance and now have their own dedicated museum. The formal name is Komboloi, not for religious use as in many cultures. It is used for an aid in tranquility and meditation. Artistically speaking, they are taking new forms that can be “worn” every day and used when needed. On the higher end, I enjoyed the workstyle of Maria Kaprili whose work has evolved from the symbols and amulets such as those that ward off the evil eye, the Matiasma (Greek) and Cornicello (Italian). The correlation is subtle and the work elegant! I was lucky enough to take home the work of Victoria Andrahta which was more organic and builds on the long tradition of olive “leaves” in varying degrees of gold plate. I was awed by the Eleni Marneri Gallery show of (click for YouTube Video) 30 years of contemporary jewelry. Many pieces were on the edge of visual and wearable, but highly imaginative in their use of materials and execution.
So what does all this mean in the context of my creative juices? Already my work in highly influenced by Asian symbols – butterflies and fans and the occasional “fish” dance around my barrette and brooch collection. The Winter White collection was inspired by many snow-covered days here and in my hometown of Buffalo. But what of our local and national cultural symbols? We all have our own list and this is simply a reminder to keep that list alive. I am playing with some ideas that you can see in the upcoming Spring Cape Ann Artisans tour and brought out in the latest collection of Bottleneck Beauties. I hope that we can all find ways to keep our traditions and culture alive through modern interpretations of icons that speak across generations. And yes, while I was there, I did look for sea glass on the coast of Greece – but the pickins’ were slim!