Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspired by the Aegean: AEOLIA - Between the Saltwater and the Seastrand...

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

The blue Aegean, with its magical sun-kissed islands, is an endless source of inspiration to many artists... And I love seeing my beloved Aegean Sea and the Islands through their eyes and their inspiration.
Today I have the pleasure to make you meet one of them... Sandra lives on the beautiful island of Lesvos, in the Northern Aegean. Her art, her inspiration, her personal life story speak of a deep love for the Aegean, its light, its nature, its sea, its sky, its people, its animals, its soul. Her shop Aeolia is a tribute to all the things she loves.

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

"I live with my husband Giannis and our canine/feline kids Nora and Petimezi in a small village nestled in the mountains of Lesvos island. Giannis and I became friends through an online music-sharing program and met and married seven years later. Giannis is a native Lesvian and I'm from Alaska. Nora and Petimezi are Lesvians.
We live on a peninsula bounded on three sides by the Aegean Sea and Kolpos Geras (the Sacred Bay). The island has a splendid climate and a very rich natural diversity which allows us to live simply, mostly through gardening and foraging. We have inherited the family's old olive grove where we pick wild herbs and tend to our rain-fed olive trees. Our winters are spent scrambling in the mountains harvesting olives and packing them down on horseback to the village press. Our summers are spent subsistence farming in Lesvos or doing archaeological fieldwork in Alaska.

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

I have been creating all my life and love the stimulation of working in a variety of media such as watercolor, oils, beeswax, clay, stones, wood, dirt, metal, fibers, seashells, or a combination thereof. I'm moved by many different things and pulled in a multitude of directions. I swoop among them and circle back for further investigation when one is particularly intriguing. The early morning hours tend to be most fertile because I wake up with ideas that need realizing.

Sandy studied art at the University of Alaska and Matanuska-Susitna College while raising three precious and precocious children. Sandy says: "The highlight of my college career was sweeping the juried student art show by taking first prize in painting, drawing, metalsmithing, and ceramics". Art runs in Sandy's family -- her Grandma  made jewelry with stones she found and polished, her family had a ceramics workshop in their basement, her mom is a painter, her brothers and sisters are artistically talented too, and her kids and grandchildren are all bright, creative, and musically talented too.


She got her love for sea treasures from her time in Alaska: "My family had a big blue trunk loaded with seashells from our forays around Ketchikan Alaska. It was an extra special treat when we could open it to pick out our favorites and transform them into strange creatures. Living on Lesvos Island, I have rediscovered the joy of seeking and working with seasculpted objects. I find that every little seastrand has its own oddities and that many times the very pieces I need will have washed up together on the same beach. They call to me to collect them. Sometimes they wake me up with their shouting.

I like finding and grinding natural mineral pigments, digging and processing local clay, and firing our homemade wood-burning kiln. I love working with natural objects that have been altered by time and the elements. I am fascinated with indigenous architecture, alternative technology, holistic farming, natural history, botany, geology, cultural history, and Greek art, literature and music, old and new. I am usually being followed by at least one animal, be it goat, chicken, dog, and/or cat.

I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in art and anthropology. Giannis studied electronics and electrical engineering in Athens. We provide technical support to our fellow villagers and occassionally host karaoke shows at a seaside cafe/bar. We have an intensive permaculture garden in our village and a small farm where we try out things like heating with compost and building earthworks to capture rainwater. We also love cooking creatively with copious amounts of our own olive oil and whatever's in season from the garden or the mountains.

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

We have a fantastic time roaming in wild places and collecting odd and/or useful things. We make use out of whatever comes our way and reuse our resources in endless ways, both out of joy and out of necessity. Whether sculpting mountainsides, nurturing seedlings, making wild greens pies, or poking about in seawrack, every day is a strange and wonderful adventure. 

About her and her husband Giannis' life and work she says: "We're an olive farmer/artist couple producing paintings, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, and botanicals using things we gather, grow, find, or recycle. All of our artwork is created with affection, humor, and abundant curiousity". 

We live a rich yet simple life of semi-voluntary peasantry in a small village on the Greek island of Lesvos, also known as Mytilini. The island is abounding with natural treasures and we love collecting them, working with them, and sharing them. Our favorite materials are seasculpted stones, shells, and wood, beeswax, natural fibers, metals, wire, local clays and mineral pigments; we follow them into uncharted territory and let them lead us where they will. 

A bit about our place in the world: Aeolia is an ancient name for the northwestern Anatolian coastline and its islands. Our village, Loutra, is on the southeastern tip of Lesvos Island astride a peninsula bounded by the Aegean Sea and Kolpos Geras, an almost enclosed bay. 

The island, only five nautical miles from the west coast of Turkey, is teeming with an astonishing variety of plants and animals. The Lesvian mountains are redolent with the smells of wild herbs, edible greens, wildflowers, and 59 species of orchids. The island's proximity to Europe, Asia, and Africa and its varied volcanic terrain and pristine habitat make it a sanctuary for migrating birds. There are more species of wild birds here than any other place in Europe. 

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

There are over 11 million olive trees on Lesvos; they have traditionally fueled the island's economy and are deeply infused into its cultural identity. "Bays" of olive trees blanket the eastern half of the island. Most families in our village own at least one craggy olive grove with a vegetable garden, a couple of goats, and some chickens. Lesvian olives inlcude rare varieties grown only here in the Adramyttian Gulf region; their oil is known worldwide for its exceptional quality and flavor.

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

This gentle, magical island has a strong tradition of art and poetry. Legend says that here the head of Orpheus, still singing, was swept ashore and ever since the birds sing more sweetly than anywhere else. Here too roamed Sappho, the 6th century BC lyric poet who was celebrated in the ancient world as the tenth muse. Her style of poetry - writtten in first-person, deeply emotional and full of passion - was completely unprecedented. A few fragments of her surviving poetry hint at her erotic love for women and so our island gave its name to that pursuasion. 

Photo Sandra Triantafyllou

In recent years Lesvos has produced a great many literary figures, a Nobel-prize winning poet named Odysseus Elytis, and a poor painter named Theofilos whose works, inspired by mythology, history, and the colors of the island, have become internationally renowned as being the quintessential embodiment of the Greek spirit. Lesvian folk art, language, culinary, and musical traditions also contribute to the rich cultural fabric of the island. 

Οur lives, our work, our thoughts and our creations are permeated by the fertile springs of inspiration on this mythical isle "where burning Sappho loved and sung." (Byron) 

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