CYPRUS - Jewellery Inspiration

I had the pleasure of attending a week long course in Cyprus this Summer, created by ARCH, funded by the Erasmus+ programme, and hosted by the Kato Drys Municipality in North East Cyprus. The purpose of this course was to learn more about the traditional skills and crafts in Cyprus and their sustainability and longevity. Midweek we visited the capital Nicosia, and crossed the Green Line into the Turkish side of Cyprus. We had lunch in the old fort Büyük Han, before venturing upstairs to wander around the individual shops.

In one of those shops I met Münüse Agãgil, an inspiring young woman who was working and running her Grandmother’s shop selling both old fashioned embroidered pictures, and a sample of her own contemporary jewellery. See below.

Münüse has studied fashion in London and upon graduation came back to Cyprus. Her grandmother produces very intricate and beautiful pieces which are somewhat dated and traditional, but still sought after in Cyprus. She uses the silkworm cocoon to embroider with, a traditional technique that has been passed down for generations. Typically these pieces of art would be used to house photographs of a special occasion such as a wedding, and would be given as gifts or passed down. Münüse also creates beautiful stunning headdresses for weddings with the silk cocoons - worth checking out her Instagram page.

In addition to running her Grandmothers shop full-time, and creating wedding and occasion dresses and headdresses, Münüse has been working on her own line of silk cocoon jewellery, with a contemporary twist. She uses the silk cocoons in their entirety and even dyes them to create spectacular and striking statement pieces. Her influence has even inspired her grandmother to start using colours in her traditional work.

One thing that struck me about my conversation with Münüse and my time in Cyprus is that there aren’t that many younger people taking up traditional skills and crafts, preferring to learn white collar jobs instead. Münüse feels pretty isolated, in her part of the world, and to make matters worse there is this physical divide in her country between the North and the South. It’s disheartening to hear that there isn’t a wealth of inspirational, creative and pioneering artists for Münüse to interact with on a daily basis in her home town. Nevertheless she has a lot of energy, and enthusiasm and passion for the job she does, and the work she creates, and it was lovely to witness that. Her work is a shining example of how a new generation can take a traditional skill and technique and re-imagine it’s application into a tangible, twenty first century product that people may want to purchase.

I’m an avid fan of using technology to enhance your life not control it, and I usually encourage people to share their products via the internet, particularly if you have an online store, or etsy shop etc. Unfortunately in Münüse’s case, the postal service in Northern Cyprus is not very efficient and would cost a lot to send to other countries as Turkey is not part of the European Union. She could cross the border and post from the South but it’s a lot of additional time, effort and money to do so. It would be great if someone in the UK (or another country) could stock some of her jewellery!

Maybe we can create a Scottish/Cyprus connection that transcends borders and invites creativity.

This statement embodies the ethos of ARCH and Grampus who took us out there, they are constantly promoting the traditional skills and crafts in not only Cyprus, but Romania, Slovakia, Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Slovenia, Latvia and Bulgaria to name but a few. Their funding will continue until 2020, but who knows what the future holds for Scottish participants once Great Britain leaves the European Union. Perhaps we will find ourselves in a similar position to Münüse in the not too distant future. We need to hold on to our traditions, skills and heritage and ensure they are promoted, interpreted and integrated into our society to ensure their longevity.

If you get a chance, go follow Münüse and her colourful creations. You won’t be disappointed!

ARCHITECTURE & FEMININITY

feminism.jpg

With the recent success of the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards last month,  the outrage over the 21 all male speakers at the RIAS Convention this month and stumbling upon Parlour archiparlour.org – it made me remember and revisit it. Hope you enjoy my insight into how I’ve found femininity in the architecture profession.

The more I learn about architecture the more I realise and accept that my designs are actually quite feminine.

In my five years of studying and working I have been pretty cautious and somewhat scared of designing what I like - organic shapes, curves, ornamentation, soft colours, delicate designs, subtle and elegant details. I’ve tried to train my brain to think and design along the lines of my co-workers and fellow students. Tutors always claiming the concept isn’t bold enough. It’s taken time, and trust in my self and my own opinion to understand that what I like and naturally aspire to design isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Near the beginning of this term in a lecture about Adolf Loos I realised that being a modernist (of which we are all victim to, given our time) is to degrade ornamentation and reject nature. He was responsible for training generations of budding designers into thinking that clean and simple was the answer. Nature represents femininity. Nature is delicate, pretty, organic and subtle. It could be argued that abolishing ornamentation is to get rid of the feminine.

Without ornamentation, buildings wouldn’t have personalities, would they? Even Adolf Loos created a fairly ornamental bedroom for his wife despite being the man that proclaimed that ‘ornamentation = crime’. Is this because ornamentation is a feminine attribute or is it because architecture should be free from ornamentation, in order that personality can be injected into it by each of the individual occupiers?

My analogy is this : I have never dressed prettily, flowery, girly or frilly. I like my staple clean cut items, my mono block colours, my simple pallet. But I always always brighten this up, funk it up, or punk it up for whatever the occasion requires or my mood takes me with jewellery and accessories. I inject my personality and ornamentation into the outfit.

As a society, generally speaking we no longer express our wealth and status through our fashion. Sure, clothes can still be more expensive and of a higher quality, but there are no longer detailed, delicate folk dresses. Men no longer wear inner coats, outer coats, jackets, belts, suspenders, waistcoats and a pocket watch. We have modernised our fashion, throwing out the ornamentation to some extent.

This is a similar situation within architecture. We no longer spend extortionate amounts of money on a gold leaf and intricately carved marble lobby. It’s simply constructed and then interior furnishings are purchased to ‘jazz the place up’.

So do I have a right to criticise modernism, blame it for the lack of feminine ornamentation and suggest that the industry is more masculine when I myself walk around wearing examples of modernist design and the effect of de-ornamentation?