Christina Alexiou, When Old Feels Contemporary

(Credit: Christina Alexiou)

Christina Alexiou was born in Athens to a forward-thinking father and an emotional mother who grew up in Constantinople.

After a degree in psychology she branched out and got a Master’s degree in Art Direction at NYU. Living in New York in the 1980s led her to the next chapter of her adult life: nightclubs and fashion magazines. Upon her return to Greece, Christina and her then husband decided to open the first club in Athens. It was more of an artistic collaboration than a business, so it ended up being legendary. At the same time, she had her first daughter and was working as a fashion editor in the best Greek fashion magazines.

This chapter lasted for almost a decade when priorities started to change. Eager for a new start, she had twin girls and started flirting with jewelry; she bought many pieces, wore many, studied a lot, and admired even more, until one day she started making her own. Christina ultimately believes that the art of simplicity is very complicated; that has a huge impact on her aesthetics. Her love for her own cultural heritage made her delve into Greek traditional jewelry as a source of inspiration. The beauty of her jewelry lies in the subtle combination of all those different elements.

The National Herald: When did you first realize your love of jewelry?

Christina Alexiou: The first time I saw ethnic jewelry was when I was fourteen years old. My dad took my sister and me on a road trip to California. Our stay in Carmel and San Francisco will always remain deep in my heart. The hippies, highly concentrated in these cities, brought a wave of ethnic Indian jewelry to the States. I remember admiring them and their art. They wore long earrings, and I desperately wished I could have a pair of my own. I became fixated on the idea. I didn’t have my ears pierced at the time, so I figured the first step would be to take care of it. I decided to take matters into my own hands and then one day I skipped my algebra class. I took my pair of compasses, and a potato to use as a resistance point for the needle, and headed to the bathroom. When I came out, I finally had nice pierced ears. They definitely weren’t the most symmetrical piercings, but they were good enough for me.

(Credit: Christina Alexiou)

TNH: What triggered you to get involved in jewelry?

CA: I have always been interested in design as the materialization of creativity; always focusing and being attentive to detail, as the mark of not only an aesthetic vision, but also of craftsmanship. My interest in the relationship between the two bred my life-long love for jewelry. I have been designing and wearing my own jewelry for a long time, way before I ever considered jewelry-making a business. I always cherished the creative process from the conception of a piece of jewelry to its execution. The first piece I ever made was a pair of gypsy-inspired silver hoops, when I was sixteen years old.

TNH: What does creativity mean to you?

CA: Creativity is a crucial element of life. It’s part of any original process, and it is what makes a unique individual. Creativity is therefore a force that helps us shape ourselves and the world around us, giving us the power to invent and innovate and feel good.

TNH: What inspires you?

CA: I have always been fascinated by the harmony of ancient sculptures and temples. There is something very calculated and dynamic about them at the same time. This ancient attitude towards form is present still, as the city of Athens is built around ancient artifacts. As I walk by the ancient agora on my way to my studio every day, and witness the wisdom inherent in those structures, I am inspired to create pieces whose elements complement each other in a way that produces a sum that is greater than its parts: pieces of jewelry that have their own personality and tell a unique story.

(Credit: Christina Alexiou)

TNH: What would you say to someone who wants to follow your steps?

CA: Like any other form of art, jewelry making requires passion, dedication, and focus. It’s also important for a jewelry maker to be highly knowledgeable in different traditions of jewelry, craftsmanship, design, and aesthetics; visiting museums and galleries is not only a great source of knowledge but also a great source of inspiration that opens the designer’s mind to countless creative possibilities of expression

TNH: What were the obstacles you had to face?

CA: Being based in Athens, Greece, my production has been largely affected by the economic crisis. The heavy taxation on jewelry, as luxury goods, has unfortunately led multiple master goldsmiths to close down their studios, limiting the pool of resources and crafting techniques available. The crisis has also demolished the local jewelry market; amid the economic peril, people have no interest in buying jewelry.

TNH: How did the people around you react?

CA: The jewelry community is highly competitive, even more so in Greece, where the market is much smaller. This reality creates an antagonistic rather than a supportive relationship between designers when it comes to sharing resources and opportunities.

(Credit: Christina Alexiou)

TNH: Which are, for you, the fundamental principles in life?

CA: Empathy, generosity, creativity, mindfulness, and happiness. I believe that these qualities make you live a more meaningful and fulfilling life, which in turn allows you to engage more genuinely and passionately in everything you undertake.

My motto is respect towards the materials used, uncompromising commitment to the highest level of craftsmanship, and a connection to history and traditions. These are the indispensable elements of my intricate designs.

TNH: How would you correlate art and life?

CA: I believe aesthetics are connected to ethics. Aesthetics represent our perception of ourselves and our purpose. They represent human consciousness as it has evolved throughout history, offering us a lens through which to interpret our attitudes, thoughts, emotions and intentions.

TNH: How has your country, Greece, influenced your work?

CA: Greece has an ancient tradition in jewelry craftsmanship that has been refined and enriched over the course of more than 5000 years, through the Golden Age of Pericles and Byzantine times, to the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Greece has always been a crossroad of cultures, which have enriched not only Greek identity, but also the techniques and aesthetics of Greek jewelry making. These techniques have been passed down from generation to generation and are very much alive to this day.

TNH: And a final tip for us?

CA: I am a firm believer that young girls must first see what their interests are, fiercely follow their dreams, find their voice and then commit to family life and kids. As much as I believe in unconditional family love, on the other hand it needs consistent and tremendous hard work, and it most usually leads to women sacrificing their creativity.

FIND YOUR VOICE

Christina has had the need to find her voice and have it heard. She feels confident that self-expression leads to freedom of thought and independence. Being a mother of three girls, she would like this attitude to guide her daughters and granddaughters lives too.