Thursday, October 27, 2022

Art Making in Lakkos

 Now that I am firmly into the residency here in Crete, I am beginning to look at the end next week..and lest you think I am just touring around and checking out the museums and ancient sites I thought I’d catch you up on some of the work I’ve been doing. And a bit more about the other artists…

But first let’s talk about food! I have been to a few Greek restaurants at home in Canada, usually have the “combo” platter or something and never realizing how amazing the real food can be…

Now that’s a shrimp!

First, its fresh….as in the “catch of the day” is brought around on a platter and you can choose the piece that gets cooked up for you. Or you see the little truck delivering the veggies from the farms…and I know that’s not uncommon in many countries, but less so at home where consumables are packaged and shipped across the continents or oceans…

Second, it’s healthy…lots of fresh, enormous salads with incredible variety of veggies. Last night (Greeks eat late so it was about 9pm) DH and I shared a salad which was probably the best I’ve ever had! Beetroot had been cooked gently so it was very tender, along with small carrots, roasted walnuts and some sautéed green spinach leaves and a light but sweet balsamic dressing and it was placed on a bed of Sumac Labneh, which is a strained Greek yoghurt to make it even thicker and powdered Sumac added….amazing!

Orange Pie! It looks like cake but made with phyllo…google it!

Third, its generous. Portions are larger than we are used to so we have learned to share dishes and apparently that’s a common thing to do here….order several appies and share it all.

Fourth, no one is in a rush…at home, we go out, we eat, we leave. Not here, take your time, food is not pushed quickly, no one is waiting for you to pay the bill and get out. Take your time, visit with your friends, eating together is a social event so enjoy!

The best potato salad with lemon and dill and lots of olive oil!

Lastly, if you don’t order dessert you always get a small plate of something at the end. Often it’s yogurt with Cretan honey (dark and thick) or some small pastries and a small bottle of raki with little glasses. Raki is a potent alcohol that is said to help with digestion…hhhmmm…it’s not my favourite but DH has my portion!

Baklava, like you’ve never experienced before! Tender phyllo with pistachio purée and honey drizzled over top…. 

So, have I convinced you to visit here?

Now, what have I been working on? I admit the first few days here were a bit of a struggle, trying bits and pieces, flitting between ideas and not really settling on anything. My subject area was too broad and not focused at all….

When I was at the residency in Iceland I worked out tons of samples, lots of small pieces that lead to larger ones at home…and that worked well, I had a whole month so I could afford to spend the time with a wider range.

But here I wanted to go deeper into a tighter focus…it took a while but working on a shape and then building the shape into a stencil gave me the subject I wanted to explore. I began with a simple vessel shape that I have seen in the residence courtyard, the shops, the museums …its sort of ubiquitous to the Mediterranean! And I tried different media, sizes and eventually developed it into a few different shapes.

This was the first ‘aha’ seeing the vessel shape appear and using the overlapping shadow

A small 6” x 8” collage with painted paper and fabric

This one is about 14” square and is just an arrangement of different elements of the vessel shapes. I will fine tune this a bit more and work into machine stitching at home.

Painted canvas background with more paper and fabric collage. Definitely like the  contrast of shapes!

In all of this exploring with the vessels…I’ve been thinking of the vessel as a female form, voluptuous, fertile, and then that brings me back to some images that DH took at the archeological museum:

And the vessels that contain, hold or store….back to the concept of the female as the receptacle of life. So much more to think about than just a nice vase!

Here are some more art making images, some just as fabrics and paper being painted, prior to being cut up and used…

Part of my practise here is keeping a daily journal, most times its just a couple pages, sometimes some thoughts or plans for the day or reflections on what Ive done the previous day. And it can also be “rejects” glued onto the page, maybe its just too nice to throw out but not good enough to use….

And finally a photo of my workspace…dusty walls and bits of plaster! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Week One is Done!

 It’s been just over one week at the residency and looking back it has been such a wonderful experience of colour, art, images to excite the eye and so much more…I admit that its been challenging to focus and go deep into any one component of my ideas that I began with! My plan in the last post will continue…that is creating small vignettes of an idea or concept…

But first some eye candy of our travels over the weekend. We hired a car, small but mighty, and rented a room in Matala - remember Joni Mitchel and her song “Carey”? Yup, that’s the place of hippie caves…

It is now quite touristy with lots of restaurants and small hotels but a good base for exploring further! 

Have you ever had a day that was just perfect in every aspect and around each corner was a new experience and a visual feast? Our day to the Agiofarango Gorge was totally amazing!

First a stop at the Odigitria Monastery which is still an active site for services and visitors, of course I need to find the embroideries…

But a short walk up the hill behind showed us another, newer, chapel where the inside was still being painted..bright clear colours which was probably how the insides of the other places were…many years ago!

Further along the bumpy, twisty road we parked and walked a couple kms. Along the dry river bed with the walls of the gorge rising up on either side. There was the clang, bong of goat bells around us and I was amazed at how high up the cliffs those little critters could climb…and a few people!

But wait! More surprises around the bend…people…up in the air…walking….

And yes, we went in swimming, and no, we hadn’t taken our swim suits…but beach attire seemed quite optional…(yeah, not me!)

Our reward at the end of the day:

 Yesterday afternoon we visited the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymno, a beautiful location with a long and troubling history.

From their website: Today, the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi observes the canonical rules of the Orthodox Church, both as a fully operating monastery and as a pilgrimage destination of religious tourism.

Seven monks live, work and serve the Church in the monastic cells of Christ the Savior, St. Constantine and his mother St. Helen.

While it appears that the site may have been founded as early as the 11th century, it is in more recent times that the site became a unifying symbol of Greek nationalism. (Keep in mind these words are from their website)

Yet, the most glorious event that elevated the fame of the historic Monastery is its resistance to the Ottoman conquerors. In 1866, at the start of the Cretan Revolution against the Ottoman imperialism, 964 fighters and people from the nearby villages found themselves enclosed inside the Monastery, in an effort to save themselves and fight against the tyranny they had suffered during the Ottoman occupation.

In the two-day siege, the Cretans rightly fought against the Ottomans, and despite their sacrifice in the monastic cells, the yard or even the powder keg that ended their life, that siege has been a loud awakening for the peoples of Europe regarding the trials that the conquerors subjected the Cretans to. It defined and determined the spirit and courage of the Greeks against injustice and forcible occupation of their land.

An artistic depiction installed in the powder keg (copy of a painting by Vryzakis, exhibited in the National Gallery) fully attributes the meaning and the ideals the captivated Cretans fought for in the Monastery of Arkadi. As Hegumen Gabriel gives his blessing for the start of the fight for their belief and their ideals, the besieged people around him are in agony, they suffer, they hope, they struggle, they sacrifice themselves and anticipate, after their sacrifice, their own Resurrection in eternity, laurel-crowned, brought by angels from the sky.

More information about the history (including embroidery) can be found here:

As I spend more time in Greece, I realize that the struggles (on both sides and in particular, their experiences in the last century) are still very much part of their emotions, art, music and much more - there are still people alive who remember the privations of WWII, families with connections to the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange (I admit being oblivious to this forcible relocation) and even the financial crisis of 2008 which had huge impacts on businesses and families. It serves us all to be knowledable about places we visit and understand the people, even a small amount.

Lest you think this is all a tourist trip…I have been working, sketching a bit each day although in a very rudimentary fashion…definitely  need to work harder on this!

And some small pieces are showing promise..I love the variety of shapes of the pottery vessels in so many different sizes and configurations…both modern and those in museums. So I cut a couple small stencils and plan to work more on these today..

A rough, primitive and somewhat childish collage of a building on our travels this weekend:

And the wall in my workroom, with falling plaster and dusty rocks…

Some painted and marked fabric to tear up and mess around with! 
Now, to work!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

At the Residency!

 Once we arrived in Crete last week we took the bus to Chania for three nights…a lovely seaside town with tons of history, another museum and sweet little alleys and corners. We’d definitely recommend a visit to this town if you get a chance.

At the Folklore Museum, small rooms recreated as they would have been years ago.

An evening glass of wine looking towards the lighthouse in the Venetian Harbour

Large tapestries made but the museum owner and done entirely my free motion stitch.

Another scene in the museum, small rooms with many activities!

Outside our little apartment in the evening.


We arrived on Saturday (its now Wednesday) and got settled in right away. The house is located in an older part of the city and might be best described as “under transition”! The house we are in is very old, with small rooms divided up with narrow staircases, across the lane are a couple modern style apartment buildings and a new cultural centre close by. A 100 yards away is the Venetian Wall which mostly surrounds the city. There are many small shops and restaurants close by and a very well equipped art store a short walk down the street….what more could one need?

The house inside has a central courtyard with potted plants and stairs up to the terrace above. I’ve not been to the terrace as its been cool and rainy since we arrived!

There is a family of small black feral cats that pop in an out of the courtyard. Mathew, the owner, told me that the government will pay to neuter 3 cats per year but that barely keeps up with the “population growth”

Lest you think its extremely exotic..the door is to the shared shower room!

My workspace is a large table in the living room, lots of room to spread out, my one complaint is poor lighting so I’ve moved a couple lamps close by.

I am creating some small samples of stitch and collage ad working towards some pieces to compile in a book that I’ll make…right now its two steps forward and one step back but I have been journaling each day with ideas, small sketches and a bit more thinking processes.

Today, I will assemble some of the collage bits and see what they might say…
I keep reminding myself that the purpose of a residency is exploration and experimentation…not to create finished pieces….

I painted some interlining that I bought in Athens. It took the paint beautifully and kept the stiffness.

some hand stitching with dyed threads, I wish I had brighter colours….

A little painting of the courtyard. I have neglected a drawing routine in the past few months and that is one focus that I want to work on during my residency…

I love the painted shutters in the house and painted some Khadi paper and then adding stitch.

Another scene with some quick stitching - its a great way to capture these little vignettes I see around me.

Many previous artists have added to the immediate area by creating murals on the walls…we walked around yesterday and I took some photos…there are dozens more in the neighbourhood!

More coming soon…thanks for stopping by!