Posts Tagged ‘Greek art’

Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens. Each weekly challenge brings a unique theme and the juices start to flow.

20121215_31I am really concerned about that gingerbread man!  ; )

The ornaments on this little Christmas Tree fulfill the spirit of delicate. ~Ron

Nikon d5100, Nikkor 35mm, f1.8, hand held

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I have alway been mystified by amber, from the first time I held a small piece to the sky, and behold, a tiny insect came to light, trapped in the yellow resin for all eternity.  Worry beads first appeared in India. They were invented to help count prayers and consisted of a series of fruit pits, punctured and strung on a piece of string. Over time fruit pits were replaced by amber, ivory, coral, semi precious stones, or other precise stones and noble metals. A tassel and a “papas” (the bead that marks the beginning and end of its cycle) were eventually added. The people of India embellished worry beads in various ways and thus created a work of art. Worry beads evolved into a collectible jewel that soon became a symbol of wealth, prestige, power and culture. They were something between jewel and sceptre . Today, they are still used to count prayers.

The Greek word for worry beads is kompoloi (Greek: êïìðïëüé), often spelled koboloi, komboloi, or coboloi and was first introduced by the Turks.  Kombolois became popular among the common people as means for meditation and to calm the nerves.

During that period worry beads were  popular among religious Greek people.  The most common name for the religious worry beads is worry knots or komposkini (Greek: êïìðïóêïßíé), meaning a rope with knots, because the religious persons use  each knot to say a prayer.

You would be hard-pressed to not see a senior citizen Greek man sitting at a tavern or ouzo bar table without a komboloi in hand.  Twirling one is not that easy.  It took me many ouzos to learn the technique! In my right hand, the tassel is held between the middle and first finger second joint, with the tassel in the palm, lying down. A flick of my wrist in a counter clockwise motion, launches the beads over my hand and wrapping around my little finger, I then repeat the motion, releasing the Papas, shield, bead and tassel. My komboloi is silver beads on a silver rope chain with dark yellow amber beads disbursed throughout. It fits my palm size. I have owned plastic ones.  Ancient Persian komboloi can run at $1,000 for large hand hewn Baltic amber. Nice!

When tourism development in Greece occurred, komboloi, being an important element of Greek culture and tradition, became again popular but this time as a souvenir sold to tourists. Then and today, komboloi can be a trinket usually made of plastics, metals, or machine-made silver platted beads and had nothing to do with the jewel of superior aesthetics and a symbol of wealth, power, freedom and prestige that used to be in the past.

In our age, when  stress, shopping, drinking, smoking, depression and antidepressant drugs have become a matter of everyday life, kompoloi made a dynamic comeback and offer many solutions to the “vices” of contemporary life. My chain-smoking Greek shipping friend stopped cold turkey with one komboloi; twirling away the vice.

They are not exaggerating  when they say “show me your worry beads and I’ll show you who you are”.  Choices include the size, color, number of beads, shield, tassel and priest head (papas). In order for a komboloi to be functional as a twirling toy, it is said that they should consist of an odd number of beads, with a sum always equal to a modulus of four, plus one.  I was told they should have forty beads in the body: representing the 40 days of Jesus on earth before ascending to heaven.  The Plaka District in Athens purports a plethora of shops. Nafplion, Greece has a museum dedicated to the art. My favorite shop was on the rim of the volcano in Thera, Santorini, Greece.  Sadly, the old artisan closed the doors some years ago, though, I will keep my komboloi close at hand.

Komboloi of every size and style

Vitina Village Bead Shop in the Peloponnese Mountains with artisan.

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Greek doors sport color and style

Greek IslandsI get it.  If your decorating your Greek Island villa threshold, do it with a flair.  I have searched out the antiques of the colorful doorways on these Cycladic Islands and the thrill of finding a rare door-knocker is around every corner.  The weathered brass ones have character and personalities.  The woman’s delicate hand on the wooden door reaches out for your grip, has the warmth and smoothness that makes you linger before the strike of metal on metal.  But, expect a loud retort from her, when you apply a bit too much force.  The faces on the painted metal strikers give a sad expression. Their personalities warrant kindness toward the thankless job that they do.  I use them boldly and then pass on by, relishing the joy found on the other side and leaving them behind to face the emptiness of the narrow whitewashed lane. Photography abounds here.

Mykonos is a good start to find them. The Mykonian maze of paths and terraces enjoy this unique embellishment on many doors.  More treasures lie on the little island of Hydra, just an hour and a half away by Flying Dolphin ferry ride from Athens.  They, the residents, enjoy no motor vehicles, only donkeys and small fishing boats. True bliss!   Mule hooves on the cobblestone streets compete with the door-knockers.  A nice combination in the village on this great Greek Island.

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Good or Evil, they do the trick.

The black iris surrounded by the clearest bluest color of the crystal Aegean Sea is a required staple of Greek life.  I have several. Why not? One of these items on a keychain or on a rear view mirror will ward off those pesky evil spirits and bring me great luck.  Hanging a Blue Eye on the inside of my door at my residence assures a very peaceful existance.  Ask any vendor in the Athens Plaka or the Flea Market: Monastiraki, several block down the way.  These Blue Eyes come in every size.  They are attached to leather lariats, chains, mounted on earrings, and formed into ashtrays.  I have wonderered about the various factories that might manufacture these items. How many tons of glass are smelted?  Do little villages focus all resources to tie little cords on them?  How about a museum of these?

OK, the name is Mati, some may call it  “the evil eye”.  It is a Greek staple in life, as much as a strand of Komboloi beads or worry beads(Greek: êïìðï~ëüé).  Evil Eye Beads go back thousands of years.

It was believed that, this eye saw  all the wickedness in the world and  removed poverty and ignorance. When Horus opened its  eyes the world was enlightened, when he closed, it became dark. From Egypt, the eye talisman had spread to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Europe. The bead reflects the evil intent back to the onlooker. It somewhat resembles an eye and it is said the typical blue color is a factor in protecting the user.   I know the trick to ward off the evil.

At almost every stages of human history, man has looked for the assistance of magic objects called talismans to defy evil forces.  Accordingly the  first recorded by the Mesopotamians about 5,000 years ago in cuneiform on clay tablets, the Evil Eye may actually have originated as early as the Upper Paleolithic age.  That’s old.

So, “…the technique we use for nazar boncugu – evil eye bead making is primitive. It’s totally hand made. We use a thick and a thin iron rod. We roll the base of the nazar bead on the thick rod. This is the base. We add the white and the blue of the eyes with the thin rod. Just these two rods are our tools”, according to RASIM ALTMISKARA, beadmaster in Turkey, from a work on this subject by Kemal Güzelsin.

I’m sticking with mine and I suggest a keychain or two for you!  Or: maybe you have one now?

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Her art embodies the carefree life on the earth’s most infamous summer island.

If I could turn back the clock to the 1960’s and make my way on a Tramp Steamship to the Aegean isle of Mykonos, one colorful character would emerge as legendary: Caroline Wells.  Blessed with talent, this Boston born fine arts educated painter etches her mark in history. 

Mykonos is a curious location.  It seems that everyone wanted to control the land and wealth of this minute piece of heaven for millennia.  Even the Greek gods marked this as their turf on the adjoining speck called Delos.  The Barbary Pirates worked the harbors only 500 years back.  So much so, that the nibble residents built their port town streets into a maze to divide and conquer the marauding cut-throats.  These mazes of whitewashed paths remain today.  And today still, the throngs of visitors and cruisers overwhelm the port from April to October.

On her journey to Mykonos, Ms. Caroline Wells was christened Karolina, struck by the beauty of the Cycladic island and had settled in as a prominent citizen.   Her art is a primitive, almost child- like, depiction of the life and cubic architecture of the region.  Vibrant blues, two dimensional Greek sailor figures, whimsical pelicans and cobblestoned vistas in oil on canvas or board find world-wide homes.  Her paintings reflect a light-hearted glimpse into the career path of a strong willed woman and her vision of  liberation on a tiny Greek island.  Raising two children, now grown, and wintering in New York, while summering on Mykonos, she holds a special place in the hearts of the island locals.  Her paintings are owned by Armani, Valentino, Yehuni Menuhin, Gigli and others to include corporations and featured in well worn travel guides.

She can be seen sipping coffee in a taverna by afternoon and on the harbor of Mykonos on a balmy evening amongst strolling visitors.  The Greek fisherman’s cap is the give-a-way!  Several fresh painting can be seen propped next to the seawall.  My stroll though the narrow paths of Mykonos with her proved her identity to the path she has chosen.  And, unlike the Barbary Pirates of the past, she is not lost.  Look for Karolina.


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