Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting back to my roots

Its been two years since I hung my heart stitcheries in my little spot in cyberspace.  And for two years I have wanted to post again, I have wanted to stitch, but I just couldn't!  First it was crippling nausea that prevented me.  How to stitch and how to post when all you want to do is HURL?  Then there were small hands and feet making bubbles in my belly. Then poking and kicking and eventually wrestling until release last October when my baby was born.  And then and after that I still wanted to stitch but I still couldn't!  It turns out I'm not much of a multi-tasker.  It has taken every last inch of my creative energy to feed and tend to my small fry (now two) and I have been happy but oh so very tired!

I've been thinking a lot about my maternal grandmother recently.  She would have been 100 last year when the baby was born.  She died when I was four, so I never got to discuss her great passion for crafting with her.  She was a master with the loom, made fabric for all purposes plus stunning rugs and embroidered and knitted and crocheted.  And tended the veg & flower garden, milked the goat cooked cleaned the house and raised two children.  How did she manage so much activity?  I can barely find time to take a shower!  I am quite in awe of the women of my grandmother's generation, from the Greece before modern conveniences entered our lives and capitalism made everything available from the supermarket and the department store.

All four of my grandparents hail from villages of Mt Parnonas.  Each and every of these stone house settlements is magically positioned, enjoys crystal clear spring water and the shade of ancient trees.  But for the best part of the year (in the summer some enjoy a few weeks of tourism and summer house dwellers) they are inhabited mainly by ghosts.  Up until WW2 and the Greek Civil War  the villages of Parnonas were like human beehives scattered all over the mountain.  Stores and industry, looms and stitching circles, parties and bonfires and endless friendships tight as a clennched fist.  But the area was devastated by the wars and the villagers made wings for Athens, America, Australia, anywhere they could go to build a life. My dad was one of those people and the boat's destination was Australia.

My parents moved their family back to Greece in 1986 when I was 11.  It was August and I was taken straight to my grandmother's village of Tsintzina (you can see a photo in this post) where I made my first Greek friend.  She was a little girl called Lydia, with grandparents from the village, like me.  She too spent time there in the summer, and as we all still do when we can.

So when Lydia showed up at my house a few weeks ago with photos taken by her grandad out and about in the village in the 1920's, my stitcher's block was smashed open, releasing my multicoloured cotton snakes.  I usually don't use traditional patterns, but I was inspired by these women so I stitched this little guy in traditional dress in time to join the others for carnival this year.

And last but not least, may I urge you to take a look at Lydia's photographs taken in the woods of Tsintzina.  A photographer by trade and an artist besides, her dreamy images capture the age-old magic of the forest in contrast with items from our modern world.  You can view her photos here.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Happy New Year! Its still January so I'm guessing its still ok to say that...

Its been over a month since my last post.  I had meant to post before Christmas, let everyone know how my visit to Klimaka went, but on that particular wednesday that I had booked to go I was foiled by horrible horrible gastroenteritis, coupled with a 39C fever.  So as soon as I was well enough to stagger to the bank, I went and deposited the 450 Euros we raised from the owl bazaar.  Again, thankyou all so much who so generously helped out, bought and big thanks to those who gave more than the suggested amount.  I was really happy to learn that they received plenty of donations during this christmas period.  If anyone is interested in helping out the homeless or struggling families in athens and isn't sure how to go about it getting in touch with Klimaka is a very good way.  They take donations in the form of food, money, clothing and/or if you have time you could do volunteer work.  The situation is really severe.

'How shall my heart be unsealed unless it be broken?' -Kahlil Gibran

I felt like an anchor with a heart was fitting for part two of this beautiful Cypriot vintage linen find.  This one is again based on a design by Angelique Houtkamp.  The anchor is traditionally a symbol of hope, stability and strong foundation.  So broken and anchored, these are a pair, yin and yang.  I think we are all a bit broken hearted at the moment.  We have to look to ourselves to get to the next level.

Monday, December 12, 2011

making cents

 A while ago, I began considering maybe selling some of my stitched stuff.  Not such a big deal eh?  Every crafter alive seems to be doing it.  I was very confused about how to price.  And when I asked for advice I got so many different opinions!   'Don't undervalue your art, mark the prices up high!'  was one.  But I felt funny about asking for a lot of money.  Then again, each piece takes so many hours. Of love!  So what is the right price when the value is sentimental?  Puzzled by all this, I went ahead and looked into how you would go about declaring profit made from craft sales, and acquiring a book to cut receipts.

Oh.  Dear.  Me.  The things I learnt.  It turns out that to declare sales profit or cut anyone a receipt on a piece of handmade ANYTHING you must be on TEBE the freelancers insurance.  And that'll cost ya.  Over 300 Euro a month.  Otherwise you can sell illegally.  Or sell nothing.  This applies for all freelancers.  No matter what you are making, you better cough up the cash each month or your right to work will be taken from you.  In the past month, a guest house in my dad's village has closed its business as it cannot afford to pay TEBE.  An excellent graphic designer I know has had to close shop, and other friends in production and yoga teaching are struggling to make the payments just so that if some work does come up, they will be employable.  No wonder people with dual nationality are shutting down their personal businesses and finding ways to re-start them based in another country. With so many people being made redundant and the government making it so bloody difficult to sustain self-employment, no wonder homelessness in the streets of Athens has reached new dizzy heights.

So I have decided to sell my owl coin parliament.  And give all the money to Klimaka.  Klimaka is an NGO that provides shelter, food, counselling and medical assistance to the homeless people of Athens.  Everyone I have spoken to there is so nice, they work largely with volunteers and whatever money is donated is used directly to buy supplies.  They even let you know exactly what they have bought, if you like.  Of course the amount raised will be published.  I have arranged an appointment next Wednesday 21st December to visit the shelter and bring the owl bazaar proceeds.  If anyone would like to come with me please do!  I have posted detailed pics of the owls that are for sale here.  If you are interested in buying one please contact me on and I will give you the details. Or if you know me and its easier send me a personal message on facebook .  If you are not based in Greece but would like one please bear in mind that the post may not be able to fly them to you in time for Christmas, but I will pay for their travel expenses. XXX

Friday, November 25, 2011

heart transplant

 Heartbreak.  Humiliating, devastating, yet liberating.  I've discussed this before.  But what if the heartbreak doesn't come from some bastard lover, but from an old, beloved friend?

Our friends are part of who we are.  Their laughter is our medicine.  An old friend is there when you need them, won't judge you when you screw up.  Someone who loves you just the way you are.  But... 

Sometimes we pretend everything is fine whilst nursing resentment.  The outcome:  One moment you are nestling in a comfortable companionship and then suddenly you can't have a conversation that isn't riddled with tension.  And you keep finding yourself disappointed with them for failing to live up to your expectations.  Because of course it is all their fault.  But is it?

When someone has been your friend forever, you can get absorbed by your own view of them.  The person is that little girl who was your BFF in school.  Or your Maid of Honour.  Or your Kindred Spirit.  You behold your person, heavy with memories and glittery titles.  So what to do when the one who fit into your life so snugly becomes like a square block for a circle shaped hole?  And like a baby, you insist on pressing and pushing and hoping it somehow will just go through.

It takes real courage to 'fess up feelings of discontent.  To dig in there and prepare with thought, kindness, and ego management so as to find words that will not offend.  It is far easier not to bother.  And thats when you find yourself in the middle of a Communication Breakdown.  Its like God has pulled a Tower of Babel move on you and your friend.  So you have to go your separate ways.     

Deciding to press the pause or stop button on a friendship can be one of the most difficult ever.  But sometimes it is necessary breathing space.  It could be what is needed to help the friendship grow.  And for you to grow.  Learning to function without the constant familiarity of a dear buddy is like a painful coming of age.  Thankfully Time is a tender hearted mentor.  One that has taught me (with the help of Karma) that if you care, its worth it to make the effort to talk.  

So when I found some beautiful pieces of vintage linen in a xmas bazaar I knew that one of them was destined for heartbreak.  The transplant donor was an Angelique Houtkamp sugar skull, who gave the heart from his forehead.  The operation went smoothly, and I have almost completely recovered.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The return of the evil eye

Once upon a time in the nineties, I went to visit my brother who was studying in Boston.  One day he took me out of the Tufts campus for a tour of the city.  As we went around, he pointed out different features and details of interest.  One of these was a car. 'This' he declared 'is the stereotypical car of a Greek American.  As you can see, it is a BMW, and if you have a closer look, you will see that dangling from the rear view mirror is a cross and a protective eye.'  Wow.  Nineteen year old me was appalled at the uncoolness of it all.  I was particularly offended by the eye.  Why did they have to hang it there?  Were they afraid that everyone would be jealous of their fancy pants car?  I felt full of disdain and above it all.

So its been a few years since then.  And I seem to have developed a strange fascination with the eye or mati to use the greek.  It was one of the first things I tried to make as a newbie embroiderer.  I was not pleased with the outcome. I moved on.  And that was the end of my career as a mati maker.  No!  Here I am again.  But why?
There are two Australian blogs that I just love.  One is Discount.  The other is Swallow Glitter.  Their aesthetics make me catch my breath.  And with eyes peering out at you from the screen in all the colours of the rainbow, I couldn't help but give it one more try...

This time around I thought it would be a breeze.  But I struggled with the metallic and flouro thread.  And with my abilities.  How could I ever have judged somebody else's taste? This is rubbish.  I can't do this. I was casting the evil eye on my evil eye...

So it took ages to finish and a part of me didn't want to blog about this one.  But, having struggled with some demons in the stitching of this hamsa hand+eye I felt the need to discuss.  Embroidery is like yoga, an exercise in self-scrutiny.  Even if the outcome isn't so great, its all worth it for the things you learn.  I realised how much I appreciate all the amazing art we get to look at on the internet and how grateful I feel for it being there.  If you can, do spare the time to browse the links I have in this post and those on the right under stitchy blog love.  Each and every one of these blogs is a gem.  I dedicate my protective eye to all of them.

As for the finished product, Kimona loved it.  I want it in my room mummy!  he said as soon as I finished. Elias photographed it hanging in its place.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Parliament

After days of headache from watching our members of parliament squawking away into the night, I thought I'd take the matter into my own hands.  My parliament is ready.  In the making I was inspired by many things I love about Greece; our ancient heritage, the colours of the cycladic islands, the stars of summer nights. 

There they are sitting in the windows!

I hope they imbue our silly lot in there with some wisdom, cause we sure as hell are going to need it.

Monday, October 31, 2011


'When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window'.  Maria from The Sound of Music.

Please don't hate me for quoting The Sound of Music.  I know some of you may be utterly repulsed offended.  But I have a drama background and it came into my head and it fits!  Like a lot of us over here I've been feeling the pressure of limitation.  But I did this workshop that helped me appreciate one of the things I really love about Greece.  And that is the deliciously superior quality of the local vegetables.

The workshop was an intro to vegan raw food.  And it was an eye opener.  Firstly, I learnt that raw beets and raw mushrooms can be exquisite.  I had no idea that vegan cheese alternatives (the one we made was called macademia 'cream cheese') can be much, much tastier than any of the real dairy stuff.  And the chocolates we made were so good they made me feel sort of high. 

I made some of the dishes for my family this weekend.  My mum, who is the most unadventurous Greek tunnel vision person when it comes to food went completely nuts and started demanding I get her nutritional yeast immediately so she can make the cheese and ALWAYS have it in her fridge.  My little boy who won't touch boiled or baked beets wouldn't stop eating the raw ones.  Its really good.  If you live in Athens you can head over to Avocado on thursday night and see for yourselves as the lovely troo food liberation team will take over the kitchen to cook Vegan Mexican Thali Platters.  You can read more about the event on the facebook page.

And if any of you are wondering why the embroidered beet the answer is I saw work by Sarah Greaves who stitches anything from bananas to chocolate and my curiosity got the better of me.  Thankfully it was pretty easy and only a small portion of one veg was sacrificed.  Stitching it reminded me of Miranda and the talking hot dog in sex and the city, and in my book that can only be a good thing :)