Reportage: Sandra-Odette Kypriotaki, Sissy Papadogianni
The ‘revolution of the loom’ in the Municipality of Archanes – Asterousia
Mrs. Eva Linardaki is the ‘master mind’ behind the revival of the loom in the region of the Municipality Archanes – Asterousia. She is the woman who inspired others to dust the forgotten looms they hid in the attic and give them life again. Her actions started in 1999 and aimed at the promotion of intergenerational learning between grandmothers who were skilled in the old good weaving techniques and young women. Her first bet was to convince grandmothers to not throw away old handmade textiles (!) that were considered ‘old fashioned’ by organizing an exhibition in the village of Pyrgos, where she worked as a social worker.
Then came an official collaboration with the History Museum of Crete, and specifically with sociologist Angeliki Baltatzi and ethnographer Nelly Tsenoglou who recorded the know-how of weaving on the loom and designed an educational ‘weaving game’ for the museum to show children how the loom was traditionally used.
On May 2012, Mrs.Linardaki proceeded with another important action: the “Educational Program on Weaving Art”, inviting old and young women in Pyrgos to learn from each other. This action not only aimed at the preservation of folk art but also encouraged younger women to find new and creative professional paths. Old weavers worked on voluntary basis and started training young unemployed women in the region. Initially, the training center was in the village of Pyrgos but soon other neighboring villages entered the ‘dance of the shuttles’ with the help of the Municipality. The result: today there are about 150 new weavers in the region! “The revolution of the loom has succeeded”, Mrs. Linardaki exclaims.
The looms were resurrected, and instead of being thrown in the fireplace as fuel, their fate dramatically changed. They have become tools for young women to explore new uses for old techniques: handbags, pillows, blankets, car seat covers! Young weavers now regularly meet and work together in common spaces. You can meet them and see their creations in open markets (like the one in Houdetsi Festival, Sunday markets, ect) and exhibitions (ex. World Tourism Day). Even better, you can visit their workshops, which are open to the public. Ask them to tell you the secrets of the loom and –why not- experiment with the yarn and the heddles!
Let’s hear what the weavers themselves have to say about the future of the loom in Crete. Can it really revive as a profession and art, or is it mostly a nostalgic hobby without many prospects?
"It is a form of art that requires good coordination of hands-legs-eyes, as they have to work simultaneously! We love this art, and that’s why we want it to continue. It is also a great reason to get out of the house and meet each other” says Anna Papadaki from ‘Houdetsi Textiles’. The 13 women of the group weave with artistry, but their income is minimal. “It is a time-consuming process and rarely appreciated. But even choosing and cutting the appropriate pieces of fabric is a form of art”.
Some other women see a new and promishing professional path in weaving. That’s how the weaving company ‘Mitos’ was formed in the village of Houdetsi by Adamantia Anthoulaki, Eleni Yialitaki and Georgia Lampaki; and the social enterprise ‘Aretousa’ in the village of Archanes by Katerina Kanavaki and Maria Yeniataki-Korasani: “one of our main goals is to educate people. We want the art of weaving to become popular, to bring people who love the art of the loom together” they say.
One of our main questions was, how come this priceless heritage of our grandmothers, who produced countless works of art in the loom for the household or for dowry, lost its value? “One of the main reasons was that 15-20 years ago new and different textiles became fashionable, which were more….modern! Then, housewives threw away many handmade cloths and other handiworks” says Mrs. Papadaki from ‘Houdetsi Weaving’. Mrs. Kanavaki agrees and adds: “In Greece we are megalomaniacs: if our bag is not from a prestigious brand or if our carpet is not from that specific department store, we don’t want them. Only those who has some knowledge on handicrafts can appreciate the unique value of our products, the effort and time each piece required that also explains its higher price, compared to products of mass production.” That’s why ‘Aretousa’ constantly evolves, creating more designs and targeting the international market. “There is actually great demand from clients abroad; they admire our products!” The sad reality remains, however, that even if tourists wanted to buy original loom products in Crete, they cannot find them easily. “We visited all tourist shops in Heraklion and Hersonissos and they all had exactly the same products. All made in China and India. There is no much room left for traditional, handmade products. But we believe tourists are looking for something different, not just cheap and identical souvenirs”, says Mrs. Adamantia Anthoulaki from ‘Mitos’.
At the workshop of 'Houdetsi Weaving'. Photo: Yiannis Makrakis
Weaving Center of Pyrgou: Open on weekdays (morning-afternoon) except Wednesday afternoon. Weekends only by appointment.
Houdetsi Weaving Center: Open on weekdays from 9am to 12pm. Tel. +30 6909706114, +30 6936080600, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Weaving company “Mitos” (Houdetsi): only by appointment. Tel. +30 6980620760
Aretousa – Archanes Weaving Art: Open on shopping hours (9.30-14.30 and 17.30 to 20.00 and Saturday until 5pm. Monday and Wednesday afternoon closed. Ano Archanes. Tel. +30 6972215523, email: email@example.com
Kurelu in Pyrgos customizes traditional rugs for modern times!
Angeliki Yenitsaridou lives in the village of Pyrgos and was one of the students who learned the art of weaving from the “Educational Program on Weaving Art”. She has now passed from the experimentation phase with the loom to the difficult (for the economic situation of Greece today) phase of entrepreneurship, selling her loom products under the brand name “Kurelu” (which means rug in Greek)! “I am optimistic”, she says, “it takes time to get established in the market, I know it is not that simple, but I believe that if I promote my work properly, there is future for this business”.
Angeliki has introduced several innovations in the traditional weaving discipline. First of all, she buys primary materials from abroad. This allows her to choose from a variety of materials, designs and colors that are not easily found in Greece. This is important when you want your product to be compatible with modern times and houses. It also allows her to overcome boundaries and limits that restrict her imagination, or the imagination of her clients: “I can make a rug with colors and yarns chosen by the client to fit a specific space in the house or furniture”.
And this is her second innovation: interactivity! Angeliki visits her clients and proposes colors and designs according to their needs and desires. Even if the client lives far away, she knows how to take advantage of new technologies and applications (skype)! Her third innovation is the invention of a ‘patent’ that allows her to weave rugs 1,80 m. wide and as long as the client wants. In the past there was a limit on how much you can weave on the loom at once and if weavers wanted longer rugs, they had to make 2 (or more) rugs and then sew them together. This patent is unique in Greece and Angeliki feels very proud for inventing it. It has also allowed her to create many original designs.
Next step: the creation of a website and e-shop to present and sell her work! Until then, you can always reach her via telephone (+30 2893023094, +30 6979732924) and email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you happen to visit the village of Pyrgos you can also visit her workshop. She is there in the mornings and some afternoons, but we suggest you call first.
The awarded work of Eleni Kouides from Argyroupoli
Leaving the Municipality of Archanes-Asterousia behind, we head to the Prefecture of Rethymno and the village of Argyroypoli to visit the workshop of a talented new weaver, Mrs. Eleni Kouides. She has received the 1st prize in the “Handicraftour” competition for her creative work and business. Her creations are often sold out in etsy.com and soon there will be an online shop. You can also see her work in her facebook page LOOMhandmade.
How come you were interested in the loom? Was there a family tradition?
I am the first woman in the family that thought of using the loom professionally. In my family tradition the loom was viewed as a utilitarian tool to make basic household items, like table cloths, carpets and blankets. I am lucky that some of the textiles made by my grandmother were saved. Today I exhibit them in my workshop.
How did you decide to learn a ‘forgotten’ art?
I took the decision to become a weaver after a seminar I attended in 1995. My teacher, Katerina Korre, was a great inspiration for me. Her aesthetics, knowledge and skills set the ground for my further development. I was charmed by the whole weaving process, and a feeling of connectedness with women who worked on the loom for centuries, struggling with yarns, colors and the images they wanted to project on their art.
How did you manage to create modern and fashionable items (like handbags and carpets for modern houses) with the traditional technique of the loom?
Imagination is the key to develop a technique and adjust it to modern standards. I believe it was my imagination and need to create something accessible, both aesthetically and economically, from handbags, pillows, jewelry, rugs and more.
Is it difficult to find primary raw materials for the loom?
It is hard to find raw materials in our days. Spinning factories in Greece belong to the past. However, there are some efforts to revive this industry through European funded projects (like a group of stockmen in North Greece who created a new unit of wool spinning), because until now stockmen threw away the wool of their animals – what a shame! In my opinion, the state is responsible for this waste, since it has devalued livestock products to a great extent, a result of the non-existent agricultural policy.
How do you explain the revival of the loom, as we witness it during the past few years? Why are we going back to traditional techniques in the age of extreme technological revolution?
I think it is the need of modern man, in this critical period we live in, to seek refuge in the values of the past and revive forgotten arts and techniques. It is like a rescue board and even survival strategy for some people, in times of crisis.
How did the public (Greek and international) respond to your creations?
Our products are not appealing to the average tourist. However, we have received positive response and feedback that encourages us to continue our efforts. Our products are unique (each piece is different from the other) and carry the brand name ‘LOOM’. Some are available in the website www.etsy.com (search for ‘loommade’).
What are your plans for the future?
My future plans include the making of a website and e-shop and to further explore the international market, in search of new ideas for new products.
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The image of the grandmother sitting on the loom, weaving, today has become a nostalgic memory of the past. This is not to suggest “it was better in the old days”, but for sure it was a time when quality counted more than quantity. It was a time when people would repair what was broken and recycled textiles to make something brand new. Traditional lifestyle is based on skilled handicraft, nothing goes to waste. Today the myth that ‘industrial product means superior product’ has started to fade and people learn to appreciate handmade products more. In addition, we go through a ‘crisis’ that forces us to redefine our consumption behavior and needs.
In these times, the word ‘loom’ can finally exist in the same sentence with words like design, fashion, e-shop and social media. Exactly as a tablet can be stored in a lovely woven case.