Ioanna Lalaounis: When You Love Your Job, You Achieve More

Queen Sophia of Spain at the ILJMuseum. (Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

Ioanna Lalaounis, heir to her family’s tradition along with her three sisters, decided to work with the Elias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum (ICIL) after studying Art History, Museology, and Marketing. In July 2014, the non-profit organization The American Friends of the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum (AFILJM) was established to strengthen the links between the ICIL and its American public. The main goals of AFILJM are: To promote partnerships between museums and not-for-profit organizations in the United States and supporting the mission of the Elias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum; to promote educational initiatives that examine the history of ancient Greek art through contemporary jewelry, through the development of cultural activities in the United States, such as educational programs, scholarships, and exchanges, to participate in the funding of Museum programs, scholarships, and educational programs, and to maintain and renovate the collections both in the United States and in Greece.

At a recent event of the AFILJM, Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Antonis Diamataris, and Editor in Chief of Town and Country, Stellene Volandes, were honored.

Ioanna with US students during the Hephaistos Summer Program 2016. (Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

The National Herald: Tell us about your enlightened father.

Ioanna Lalaounis: My father, Elias Lalaounis, was born in 1920 in the St. Catherine’s section of Plaka. He lived at the bottom of the hill of Acropolis, in the building that houses the Elias Lalaouni Jewelry Museum today.

He came from Delphi and was a distinguished third-generation goldsmith, jeweler, and jewelry designer. He is the only jeweler to be elected a member of the Institute de France de l ‘Academie des Beaux-Arts.

His activity expanded from the beginning of World War II until 2010, and he became the world’s most productive jeweller, with exclusive designs of his own.

The company initially opened branches in cities in Greece and quickly expanded to Europe, the United States, and Asian capitals.

TNH: Do you feel the burden of your name’s legacy? 

IL: Heritage can only provide security and pride.

TNH: Who encouraged you to work with jewelry?

IL: My drive was the family business and the gratifying experience I had during my childhood with my father.

TNH: Did need or genes drive you to your line of work?

IL: Neither need nor genes drove me, but my passion for art history

TNH: What are the most critical points in your career?

IL: The times and places when I gained experience.

Ioanna with three sisters, Demetra, Aikaterini and Maria Lalaouni. (Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

TNH: What does creativity mean to you? 

IL: Creation, for me, is about society responding to the needs of everyday life, in addition to the creativity found in the decorative and applied arts, works created according to the desires and the needs of society.

TNH: What would you say to a young person who would like to take up your profession? 

IL: The profession of museologist or art historian is about people who are interested in preserving values ​​and traditions but at the same time conveying stories through objects made at different times in different societies. Also, this profession in Greece concerns those who want to develop tourism and modern production as well as the professional training of young people.

TNH: Let’s speak about jewelry – to whom is it addressed, and who can appreciate it?

IL: To everyone who has an open mind.

TNH: And tell us about coquetry – is it found in a gold necklace? 

IL: It’s not just there.

TNH: What is the motivation for buying a piece of jewelry?

IL: The motivation is the feeling, and the basis is logic.

TNH: What are your personal goals?

IL: My goal from the outset was to continue the tradition of 6,000 years of art in our country, to commemorate Elias Lalaounis’ vision and success, and to present a new cultural education for Greeks and foreign visitors.

2001 Ilias & Ioanna Lalaounis.(Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

TNH: What are the obstacles you have faced so far?

IL: Everyone faces difficulties in their work that usually involve external factors, unforeseen factors, or even unfair competition. All three have been obstacles to my work in the museum, but never they were never overwhelming. I believe that proper organization, positive thinking, and a good attitude can lead everyone to overcome daily and long-term difficulties.

TNH: Authenticity, what does it mean to you? 

IL: It is the success of delivering original and feasible solutions.

TNH: What parallels do you find between art and life?

IL: Life and art are directly linked, and there are dozens of parallels. Both are directly, endlessly, and dynamically connected.

TNH: What brings you the most happiness in your work?

IL: Seeing visitors seeking new knowledge in a pleasant experience, and, of course, the recognition of my hard work.

TNH: If you went back in time, what would you change?

IL: I wouldn’t change anything.

TNH: What makes you the proudest?

IL: The happiness and the progress of my children.

Ioanna with Helen Drutt, Director AFILJM in the Acropolis Museum. Helen is the most influential collector and educator on studio jewelry today.(Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

TNH: What are your strong points? 

IL: My strong points are my organizational skills and my insight that enables me to understand my interlocutor.

TNH: What is the most constructive advice you would give to someone at the beginning of their career?

IL: To get involved with something they love, and that makes them forget everything else, including sad thoughts they may have.

TNH: Can you imagine what your life would be like today if you hadn’t made that career choice?

IL: I could imagine a different professional career, such as coordinating a United States museum’s relations with cultural organizations.

TNH: What was the most significant value your parents gave you?

IL: Honesty.

TNH: Is there anything you learned early on and helped you a lot in your life?

IL: I learned to be persistent in every problematic beginning.

TNH: For what does our society not show enough respect?

IL: The very respect for our fellow man.

TNH: What is the phrase that best describes you today?

IL: I’m looking forward to the next day.

TNH: What constitutes an indelible seal on you?

IL: My last name.

TNH: What are your thoughts on foreign investment interest in Greece?

IL: I haven’t found any foreign investment interest in the museums.

TNH: Many young people, mainly in science and technology, have migrated to other countries because of the crisis in Greece. What are your thoughts about that?

IL: That is precisely why we need to create jobs in all areas – including in my workplace – to give them the motive to come back. We see today that many young people in the field of culture, tourism, art, creativity, are working very successfully abroad.

TNH: Do you believe in the individual or the group, and why? 

IL: I believe in both the individual and the group. But cooperation must be bilateral and continuous.

Demetra and Ioanna Lalaounis at the Lalaounis Boutique, New York. (Photo: Courtesy of Ioanna Lalaounis)

TNH: What bores you? 

IL: I am bored with chatter, but also with people with no interests.

TNH: What was the most powerful moment of your life? 

IL: The birth of my children.

TNH: What do you remember as the most beautiful time in your life? 

IL: They are many. My student years, my equestrian championships, and later, of course, the growth of my children. Every period in our lives can be the most beautiful as long as we spotlight its happy moments.

TNH: What is the best trip you have ever taken? 

IL: Always the last one.

TNH: Why do you think people afraid to breach boundaries? 

IL: We are afraid because we don’t know how to manage the unknown.

TNH: Do you ever have premonitions?

IL: Always and about everything.

TNH: What is your goal in life?

IL: My goal is the pursuit of total happiness and success in creating new unique programs in the world.

TNH: Where do you draw your energy from?

IL: From the rock of the Acropolis, from my father’s ideas, and from the love of my children.