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Greek design: Take a piece of Greece with you

A few years ago, if you googled Greek design, you’d most likely get t-shirts from “Greek” fraternities and sororities in US universities. In a country full of art, colors, light, tradition, craftsmanship, where did Greek design disappear? Luckily, in the past three years or so, despite the crisis, things have changed, for the better. Contemporary Greek design has gradually yet steadily emerged and it’s claiming its spot in the global design industry. When people think of Greek design, they often think of local materials, like clay, marble and wood, traditional motifs like the Greek key, or even of the statue replicas one sees in a lot of souvenir shops all over the country. Still, there’s a different side. What I love the most about contemporary Greek design is how it actually draws from the past but clearly sees into the future. Local materials are used unconventionally and traditional forms are being revisited. Take marble for example: It’s a glorious material that symbolizes Greece’s ancient past, used in some of the world’s most stunning statues and temples. Still, you never thought that marble could help cool your laptop, did you? Costas Bissas has designed a marble laptop stand (http://www.xombli.com/en/home/office/alkioni), acting as a cooler. Made of Dionysus marble, quarried in the foothills of Mount Penteli and designed and produced in Athens, it holds up to 17'' laptops and is proven to silently drop operating temperatures more than 10 degrees Celsius depending on computer, use and room temperature, taking advantage of the marble’s thermal properties. Acclaimed jewelry designer Elena Votsi, has used marble in a different way: Inspired by love, the ancient Greek eros, being a strong life force but also symbolizing the love for reading, she created an arrow pointing to both directions on her geometrical bookstands that can also hold photo albums with dear moments or love letters hidden between book pages. Clay, a humble material used in Greece throughout the centuries has been rediscovered by Greek designers. Design studio WeDesign partnered with Antonis Atsonios, owner of one of the oldest original ceramic houses on the island of Sifnos in the Cyclades to create modern objects inspired by traditional forms, like this “kanati,” a funnel-inspired pitcher. Inspired by traditional Cycladic architecture, Giannis Mamoutzis has designed See, a handmade white clay lamp, whereas Vast Design created a circular carafe as a modern interpretation of a traditional matrimonial Greek carafe from the island of Mytilini, used in ceremonies to symbolize union and the circle of life. Designer Alexandros Papadopoulos combines a traditional form, that of the ancient Greek pillar with an unconventional material, cardboard, to create a sturdy yet eco-friendly stool. And then there’s a new generation of designers with a tongue-in-cheek approach towards Greek tradition; the result being both playful and functional. Take Jazzt Design for example: Inspired by the craft of hand knitted doilies practiced by their Greek grandmothers, they designed a waterproof, heat resistant, non-toxic silicone trivet, in several colors and sizes. Also paying tribute to Greek grandmothers are Nikoletta Ververidou’s Yiayia Shelves: Yiayia is the Greek word for grandmother and this is the modern, shiny and bright interpretation of the lace-covered shelf found in many traditional Greek households. So, the next time you visit Greece, or the next time you daydream about Greece while in front of your computer, remember that there’s something you can take with you back home: Greek design is as unique as Greece itself. Article by Nicholas Yatromanolakis xombli