Paphos re-born

 

Nicosia 1

Nicosia

I have just returned from another trip to Cyprus spreading the word and distributing copies of Androula’s Kitchen to some new outlets. It’s now on sale at a traditional bakery and cafe based in an old watermill near Polis, an arts and crafts centre called Exhibit @Polis in the centre of town and in a centre called ‘The Place’ in old Paphos where it will sit very comfortably among the arts and crafts on display. This centre was opened last year in an old converted warehouse, it now houses many examples of traditional wares and demonstrations with  some of the artisans working on site on certain days. There is a display of the shadow puppets with a small theatre for occasional performances as well as a weaver, a potter and various other activities on display along with goods for sale like glass art, pottery, wine and some foodstuffs. Altogether a very attractive place to visit.It is right in the heart of the old town which when I visited  was in the grip of an upgrade in true Cypriot style. The roads and pavements torn up and no clear signs as to how you can access the shops just a sign to say ROAD CLOSED which was pretty obvious. I fear the shops will have lost a great deal of business from the passing tourists.When it is finished the area will be pedestrianised and should be a pleasing place to stroll around.

Next year, 2017  Paphos will be the city of culture so it is all systems go to get it ship shape. When it was first announced there was quite a bit of astonishment as the poor old town had seen a severe decline over recent years. Many of the traditional eateries have disappeared and shops lay empty and dusty while along the main road near the market many tourist cafes have sprung up. Paphos has two Malls on the outskirts which have played their part in taking businesses out of the old town, these mainly house the chains and clothes stores. The town gave an appearance of a shambles approaching from certain directions, with a jungle of hoardings and signs and odd extensions attached to some buildings but with a fresh approach the Mayor has been getting illegal hoardings and extensions removed with most of the businesses co-operating. This should make the whole town look neater and more coherent. I had often wondered at Cypriot planning regulations regarding buildings and  indeed if there was any city & town planning, as there are so many ugly buildings erected that do nothing to blend in with original existing buildings or add anything to the area. When I heard of the work to upgrade Paphos my immediate thoughts were that the municipality would be knocking down any old buildings and making everything the same as everywhere else i.e knocking any character out of the place. But after hearing a friend tell me that she was allowed to view an area under restoration, we were quietly hopeful that this may turn out well.This area was being reconstructed using old plans of how it was, creating a small friendly place including a bakery and cafe and an open air theatre.

Graffitti art in Paphos

There are some parts of Paphos that  have  attractive old buildings and I have noticed one or two have been renovated , if this was made a policy so as to give cohesiveness as they have done in Nicosia on the Green line , it would make a huge difference. In Nicosia many of the owners of old and in some cases derelict properties,were given an incentive to renovate which has resulted in a transformation of what was only a few years ago a run down area.This has encouraged young designers and artisan back into the newly renovated spaces, giving a good lively buzz. I was impressed by the refurbishment of the old power station in the back streets of Paphos which now houses the Cultural Centre which bodes well.

One of the saddest things that has happened with Paphos becoming such a tourist area, extending to Polis and beyond is that where the cafes and restaurants catered for the Cypriot local workers and families who love to eat out, they have now just set their sights on the tourist. Just a few years ago I remember having a great choice of eateries in the Polis area that did good local food at very good prices, sadly these have one by one disappeared. In the back streets of Paphos there is an area of workshops whose occupants, in some cases have been working there for many years,some their whole working lives, I hope these have also been given consideration in the up grade and not forced to vacate the area, taking with them the working heart of Paphos. This is a common problem not just in Cyprus, often the areas that house workshops and artists’ studios are by their nature in the cheaper end of town in old buildings, if the area gets “smartened up” it usually means the rents go up and out go the occupants.It also means much of the character goes with them.

I feel there is a gap in the market for some local producers to step in, I don’t mean traditional  either, I mean artisan. A good delicatessen type shop would be great selling all the best of local Cyprus produce , great olives and olive oil:an artisan bakery selling some organic breads using the old strain of wheat. I miss the bread of Cyprus that used to taste so good like many of their foods. An artisan cheese maker producing not just halloumi, anari and feta but some soft goats cheese, a hard sheep’s cheese or maybe even a blue cheese. In other European countries there are so many varieties of cheese produced. I love kefalotiri which is produced in Greece, but there is no reason why it could not be also produced in Cyprus. The major cheese producers in Cyprus seem to be  focused on exporting huge quantities of halloumi across the globe but in Cyprus there could be outlets for the small individual and specialist dairies.There is a growing interest in authenticity and quality, there is a definite place for it in Cyprus and more farmers should look towards growing organic which is not only where good health lies but profitability. Slowly I have seen more interest grow in this area in Cyprus and there have been several regular Farmer’s markets popping up over the island where small organic producers can sell there produce. Another need is for some organic chicken producers as much of the chicken sold has no flavour and no provenance, not long ago pork and chicken in Cyprus had a superb flavour, how are the farmers rearing their animals now? There is a wealth of old recipes that are mostly forgotten that in some small quarters are being revived by young enthusiastic chefs, I am looking forward to a renaissance in local cooking and the rejection of those ubiquitous oven chips that are creeping in. Vive la chip!!!

 

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A Little Trip Out

I have been wanting to visit Bath again for a while now. Bath is a beautiful  Georgian city with many attractions but the main one  for me is The American Museum http://americanmuseum.org/  on the outskirts right next to the University.  I have visited the museum a couple of times before and I can’t remember how I first heard of it. It is the only museum of its kind outside America and houses a good deal of painted furniture dating  from  the time of the early American settlers, which of course is one of my main interest in the place. It is a charming museum with room sets of the period composed of original panelling and furniture. My memories were also  of a fabulous collection of patchwork bedspreads as well as beautiful grounds. When I checked online to see if there were any events taking place I was thrilled to see there was an exhibition of Kaffe Fassett’s work. It is not the nearest place for me to visit for a day trip (2½hrs on the train) or the cheapest but I was in need of a shot of creative and colourful adrenalin and Kaffe Fassett can be relied on to deliver both. The reason The American Museum was hosting this exhibition, apart from the fact that Kaffe is American by birth, is that it was 50 years ago this year that he arrived in the UK and to be more specific in Bath. The museum’s collection of colourful quilts  was one of the main influences in Mr Fassett’s change of direction in his art from working purely in pen and ink to  working in riotous colour, later moving more towards the crafts of needlepoint and knitting.   The exhibition certainly delivered on the colour front,  all the walls painted a deep pink were the backdrop to  knitting, quilts and needlepoint all displaying a wild  exuberance . Even the lamp-posts outside had been ‘crochet bombed’. The shuttle bus driver who took visitors from central Bath to the Museum, was a chattering vestibule of information which he generously imparted in a stream to us while we waited to depart. During those few minutes we learned of the museum’s history, the story behind the exhibition and where he goes when the season is over which it turned out was Vietnam. So then we learned a little of the history of that country.

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The visit will keep me topped up with inspiration for a while. Meanwhile I’m getting excited by the thought of my little adventure in Cyprus  which I’m taking next February and instead of a rushed three weeks I’m staying a whole 6 months ( well minus a few weeks) . I plan to get to know a few more crafts people and interview them for the blog, take a few videos, as well as visit anything that grabs my  interest to blog about. Of course my camera will be on hand to take as many photos as I can.If anyone has any suggestions of unusual places to visit I would be pleased to hear from you. I have installed a donate button on the site in case anyone fancies contributing to my trip, anyone donating £5.00 or over, gets a PDF copy of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate which is great viewed on an iPad. Thank you.

Friendship Through Art

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I had the great pleasure last week of meeting Sarah Zoutewella of Art Calling  for the first time.  She lives in Holland but was having a short break in the UK. We have got to know each other via our respective blogs, Sarah is an artist and among her many talents , paints soundboards on harpsichords, which is how I found her through the WordPress blog search. We met at Brighton station as she was staying in the Lewes area and had never visited Brighton before, she was very surprised at how large and sprawling a town it is. We meandered down the hill to the Museum, a favourite haunt of mine made all the more appealing because of the great little gallery cafe overlooking the furniture section below. We chatted amiably for an hour or so and got a bit more acquainted, it is a delight to meet someone with whom you know you have certain mutual interests. What an amazing tool the internet can be, to be able to chat to someone possibly on the other side of the world about stuff you like, and then meet them face to face.

Sarah was one of the very first people to buy my book when I first published and very generously wrote a great review which she posted on her blog, I was so touched by this thoughtfulness and when I met her I saw that this quiet contemplative energy shines out.

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Before we headed down to the seafront where Sarah wanted to enjoy the smell of the salty brine, we wandered into another cafe area in the Dome where she wanted to show me something. I was intrigued when the ‘something’ turned out to be some fabulous little crafted gifts. Sarah is an enthusiastic crafter, crocheting and making objects with her artistic skill. She carries these little hand-made gems with her on he travels to generously give to those she encounters who show helpfulness or kindness on her journey. I thought this was a wonderful idea and intend to adopt it as I think this small gesture can show the recipient how much you appreciate that kindness, it certainly made my day as I was the lucky recipient of three such gems which I will treasure. The little folding book I particularly like and I’m planning to dust off my batik wax pot  in the near future to make some abstract swirlings to cover some of my own little booklets. So it has served three purposes, a lovely reminder of our meeting, an inspiration for a  future  project as well as a spark of joy at receiving them. Thank you Sarah.

 

A More Crafty Year

At the end of last year I made a decision to get making this year, be it crochet, drawing batik or any other crafty activity, there are so many I want to get my hands on. I’ve started with a bit of crochet and I’m just about getting in my stride although I have to say my method is a bit erratic and the results are a little uneven.  I am endeavouring to get to grips with counting more and trying to be a bit more consistent……. not always my strong point. I haven’t really got a plan as yet and am trying out different things, it must be a good 30 years since I did any crochet and I’ve never done squares as you can see they aren’t exactly square shaped…yet but I am getting there.The good news is it’s speedy and you can see results in next to no time as well as being somewhat addictive!!! This is just one week’s worth in the evenings. No two are alike at the moment, gradually though I’m discovering which style I prefer. I’m rather fond of the lozenge shape, the idea with these was to break up the patterns.

I found this image online which appealed to me as it is also a bit  uneven and quirky, I don’t think there are any two squares that are the same. Doesn’t it look fun though and cosy? I haven’t a clue how some of these patterns are created, experiment is the key.

 

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I have another creative project on the go as I have a commission to paint a decorative frieze on a harpsichord imitating inlay. This has been in the pipeline for over a year and the instrument finally arrived from the maker on Friday. I’ve already done a sample board which has been approved so I’m making a start today. It’s going to be a busy January.

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I’d like to wish you all a Happy New and creative 2014.

The Cornaro Institute Talk

I am back in the UK now after my busy and varied trip to Cyprus promoting ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ culminating in my talk at the Cornaro Institute. It’s been quite a hectic trip one way or the other or so it felt like. I have met a good many people I would not have come across otherwise if I had not been promoting the book.

My last day was spent travelling across almost the whole length of the island from Polis to Larnaka for my final appointment at The Cornaro Institute before flying home. It had turned out to be a bit of a scorcher as the temperature rose from what had been a very pleasant 24 degrees to nearer 30. Luckily it was nice and cool inside the old town house which now serves as the College. After the initial disappointment of not being able to connect my slide show to the projector as it was only geared up for PCs and not my trusty Mac, I relaxed as the audience started to arrive. It was quite a nice turn out of about 20 or so people and more chairs had to be found as a few late-comers arrived. There were a couple of people I knew in the audience so that was reassuring. I told the story of how the book came into being and illustrated with my slides showing just on my small screen.

We ended up with quite a lively debate at the end of the talk as We discussed the crafts and how the craft of basket making was gradually dying out. An attendee stated that he thought it was unnecessary to preserve all the old things as we have no use for them now with many modern facilities and products making the traditional redundant. My book may be about all the old ways of doing things and traditional crafts however I agree that we don’t want to go back to how things were always done but also we don’t want to lose valuable skills and knowledge. Once gone it is gone.

Pottery has evolved and Cyprus has many talented contemporary ceramicists and potters. Cyprus also some young weavers that are using traditional techniques and patterns to produce exciting new textiles as well as a small movement afoot to get Fythkiotika more widely practised and taught in colleges. What is not being taught and is gradually getting harder to find is basket making. There may not be the need for many of the types of baskets that were once common place, like the basket used for transporting chickens to market but those skills could be used to produce different baskets for a modern market. In the UK we love baskets and they have come back in fashion particularly after a movement to reduce the use of plastic bags in supermarkets. In France  and Africa there is a strong basket producing tradition with beautifully coloured and patterned shopping baskets This is a movement that would be a good idea to introduce to Cyprus, as plastic bags are ubiquitous. Why not make a super shopping basket for repeated use, something attractive and practical or promote the use of the basket that once was used to transport potatoes  as a log basket?

 

The tsestos traditionally was the basket wear that was decorated with a wide variety of colourful patterns, today the choice of pattern is more limited than it used to be, these are made with straw or raffia. It would be a real joy to have the more elaborate patterns reintroduced as the smaller, deeper tsestos are extremely useful and attractive and  make very good storage baskets for, not just food, which is their traditional use but many household items. Tradition is dead long live tradition!!!

A Friday Tale

Troodos mountains offer a very modern infrastr...

Troodos mountains offer a very modern infrastructure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reading about the snow in Cyprus last week the snow has now also arrived in Tangmere today.  I found a nice little article here at On This Island  illustrating the extraordinary phenomenon that is Cyprus in winter, where you can go up to Troodos and ski in the morning then go down to the beach for a swim in the afternoon.

We don’t have quite enough snow here to ski although we do have a few hills where you can have fun sledding have you a mind to. If the snow is still around tomorrow and it looks as if it will be, I will be out with my camera and taking a few photos but not from a sled! I wanted to build a snowman earlier but when  I poked my nose outside the door this morning it was snowing a veritable blizzard, so I brought it back in sharpish and decided that making bread would be more of a suitable pastime.

I’ve also been browsing the web of course, perfect day for it, I was reading a recent post by Cypriot and Proud which was on a topic I relish: artisan/designers. This post  focuses on a young Cypriot weaver designer Joanna Louca who  studied ‘Textile constructed design’  and then gained a masters in ‘Textile in Art’ at Middlesex University London.  She now has a weaving studio in Cyprus where the textiles are produced and has collaborated with Italian designers to produce some wonderful bags. She also weaves her textiles to use  in all manner of creative ways, I love her colour combinations and her patterns echo the traditional patterns used in Cyprus for centuries.

I was thrilled to see this article as it is a fervent wish of mine to see the valuable traditional crafts like weaving and basket making, being used by young artists designers to produce contemporary and exciting designs, looks like Joanna is doing just that. I love it. She will be someone I would very much like to visit in person on a future visit, to see those beautiful textiles for myself.

Joanna Louca's work Photo courtesy of Cypriot and Proud

Joanna Louca’s work Photo courtesy of Cypriot and Proud

New Pottery and Ceramics Page

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Today I have added a pottery and ceramics sub-section to the Arts & Crafts page,continuing on from last week. By adding some permanent pages I want to highlight some of the subjects I have covered on this site in my blogs and make them easier to access. My visits to see George at Lemba pottery were a real treat for me and I think he deserves mentioning as often as possible as his pottery is truly beautiful. Times are hard going for many in these unusual times and craftsmen like George should be supported as much as possible as his craftsmanship and products are unique.

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http://www.lembapottery.com/

 

Lemba Pottery

My cousin Androula introduced me to Lemba Pottery. She has acquired quite a few fine pieces over the years from the gifted master potter George Georghiades who owns the pottery with his wife Sotiroula.

George’s father was a potter in the famous Lapithos region, the traditional home of pottery on the island before the Turkish invasion. George has studied both traditional and modern techniques and the shapes he utilises in his pottery reflect archaic forms of simple elegance. They have an ease and flow of line that I personally find very pleasing to the eye.

On my last visit to Cyprus I wanted to purchase some of his beautiful small bowls which I had seen on my first visit, a perfect size to use for soup. I found the colours very appealing as George uses colours that reflect the sea and the sky, so very appropriate for someone who lives a stones throw from one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Cyprus. Whenever I use this bowl I take great pleasure in the grace of its lines, this adds another dimension to the enjoyment of my meal.

Many years ago I used to attend a pottery evening class and one of the things that fascinated me  was the glazes. Most glazes use metallic oxides and these can be a real adventure to the inexperienced as the results after firing can range widely but that was the fun of it. George uses glazes to great effect producing a richness of colour that adds yet another element to entice the senses. I love the mug I bought on my last trip as this demonstrates the metallic tones that can result, this one a verdigris colour.

He also produces some very lovely jugs, these ones a reflection of a shape used in antiquity.

The one I had to buy though has a much more utilitarian shape but one I love for its pleasing rotundity. Every detail you can see reflects the attention to detail that each piece is given lifted by the creative use of the glaze.

Traditional potters in Cyprus would use the local earthenware clay which chips very easily,  George uses a stoneware clay from Europe which results in a much more durable article. Traditionally potters would use a low kick wheel, where you sit low on the ground and use your knees or feet to turn it. George uses a modern electric wheel and a huge gas kiln to fire his pots.

If you are in or near Lemba or plan to visit in future please pay George a visit, he is just around the corner from the fantastic Lemba Art College, more of which next time. Meanwhile enjoy the virtual tour of some of his wonderful pots here.

The Threads that Connect us

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I’ve just read the latest update on the Phitiotika Facebook page posting a link to the blog Threads that Connect Us. This is another project set up  with some European Commission funding connecting several European partners, including Cyprus, in a project to promote and encourage learning of the traditional textile skills to enable them to continue through the next generations. In many of the regions taking part these traditional skills are looked on as something of the past, anachronistic and not relevant to the society of today, therefore not of any interest to the younger generations and so the skills are not passed on as they once were.

In the village of Lefkara the skills of their particular kind of embroidery have been passed down from mother to daughter and in some families is still today.

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Textile skills such as: preparation of yarns, weaving, embroidery and so on are all activities that require patience as well as skill and necessitates the practitioners to have a certain mindset that is not generally encouraged by our fast paced living with the need for instant gratification. But the very fact that it requires sitting still  and focusing on something gives it a meditative quality which is surely something that could benefit us all from time to time. A place to rest the mind from the pressures of modern life. Maybe it should be prescribed as an antidote to burn out… now there’s a thought.

Silk in the 21st century

Yet another fantastic video from TED. Silk has been around for millennia and yet now the scientists are coming up with some mind blowing uses for this ancient material in the present day. It seems the uses are endless, throw away cups that are biodegradable, uses for storing information and drugs that can be placed in the body even for making screws that can be used to screw together fractures and then eventually disintegrate. How exciting that nature can provide scientists with imagination, materials that can be utilised in such a diverse way.

In Androula’s Kitchen I discuss the more well known uses of silk as a thread that is woven to produce a shimmering fabric. I live in hope that the once universal cultivation of silk worms, will once again become common in Cyprus to provide a new breed of silk weavers to join Rolandos. On my research trip to Cyprus last year I went to visit him in his studio in Lefkosia, Rolandos has studied the samples of old silk in the museum archives of Lefkosia and made a determined effort to learn the techniques which produced such fine examples. Cyprus was once renowned throughout Europe for its fine silks and the practice has gradually died out, the last time  silk was produced was in 1960’s. Rolandos alone at present is looking to revive this tradition and I look forward to viewing his new creations on my next visit.

Weavers Unite!- Cyprus on a Plate

Weavers at the Handicraft Centre weaving fythkiotika

I’m very excited …it doesn’t take much.

Today, while searching WordPress for other blogs relating to topics I cover in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’, I came across Phitiotika. It is a site set up by two British artists Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon, they both have connections with Cyprus and had a strong empathy with the weavers of Fyti who are struggling to keep their weaving traditions alive in a dwindling village. They, like myself, feel there should be a way to carry on the strong traditions and heritage of weaving in  Cyprus, through the younger generations by encouraging innovation and diversity.

Throughout the centuries Cyprus has had a reputation for fine weaving. Each region had their own specialities and styles. At one time their was an abundance of silk and silk weaving was commonplace. Each family would own a loom and the women of the household wove all the  linen needed for everyday life  including their clothing and bedding. Silk worms were cultivated, cotton grown and there were plenty of sheep to supply wool.  Silk is no longer cultivated and the weaving of silk has not been practised in Cyprus since the 1960s. Life has changed rapidly and people live different lives where there is no necessity to make everything themselves with mass production and cheap imports.

Fyti, in the Paphos region of Cyprus, has a very particular style of weaving which incorporates patterns of coloured wools. The patterns are mostly geometric and each weaver would make their own patterns usually telling a story. Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon are working together with The Laona Foundation to come up with a plan for conserving and recording the weaving practises of Fyti while setting in place  initiatives which will encourage Cypriot artists to embrace and improvise on this valuable heritage as well as academics, artists, textile collectors and weavers internationally, with the help of the internet. Sarah has experience of working on cultural and conservation projects in several countries. Their aim:

“The aim of this proposed project is to reinvigorate and recontextualise Phiti weaving, and to support Phiti weavers in their practice. We are setting out to catalyse a process of conserving and adapting tradition.”

You can find out more on their blog, the link is on the blogroll and join their Facebook page.

I wish them both every success in this endeavour as this issue is close to my heart.

WEAVERS UNITE!