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!

CYPRUS - Silversmithing

this excursion was funded by erasmus+ organised by arch and hosted by the kato drys municipality as part of a week long course on traditional skills and crafts in cyprus.

this excursion was funded by erasmus+ organised by arch and hosted by the kato drys municipality as part of a week long course on traditional skills and crafts in cyprus.

I had such a wonderful experience at a local silversmiths in the town of Lefkara in Cyprus. These two brothers, George and Panagiotes run this workshop and have done so for the last fifty years!

Unfortunately, their sons and daughters don’t want to take over the craft, preferring to train to be accountants or Lawyers… I said I’d swap them for the life of an Architect!

It’s an amazing place, they produce many interesting designs, and were even kind enough to shine up my pieces that I’ve been working on that I had taken with me.

We witnessed the silver casting process - video below - where they take their wax pieces, cast them, then blast with water, boil in hydrochloric acid before breaking off the individual pieces to be polished and finished.

It was a fantastic experience, and great to see how traditional silversmithing techniques can be used to create such an array of designs. I hope to be able to take some of the techniques I learned and apply them to my own jewellery design.

If they need an apprentice then I’ll make sure and book my flights!


A short video of a typical silver casting at the workshop of George and Panagiotes in Lefkara, Cyprus. Thanks to Erasmus+ & ARCH network for the opportunity. Music by bensounds.com.

STORIES OF SHELTER - Final Models

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Clydebank Womens Aid funded by Women’s Fund for Scotland. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in the last two weeks of workshops we made our final models:

‘The final two sessions focused on participants using all they have learned in the previous sessions to build their final models. As we worked we talked about the traditional story Rapunzel and together we told the versions we knew and discussed the themes in it, particularly, how imprisonment can sometimes be mistaken as shelter, or shelter can be corrupted and manipulated into something else.’

Huge thank you to Iona, who stepped in on the penultimate week when I was out of the country. They spent the first half of the session finishing designs and even creating some quick new ones. And spent the second have admiring the work they had made and discussing the future.

Final session, we created a celebratory atmosphere with party food, music and  good vibes. In an exhibition format, we laid out our visual plans and all of the work we had moved through from the first session. It was an impressive collaborative body of work. Great session, very moving and a huge highlight of the whole project came when one lady, who had been unable to contribute to the making in the penultimate week due to arthritis in her hands, came with a highly detailed shelter, evoking a woodland tower. 

Participants children came to see the work we had made, it was very sweet and they were extremely complimentary. We sent the children off with packs of materials to make their own models which they accepted enthusiastically.

This has been a really successful series of workshops. We explored Shelter and the different meanings and connotations it can have to each individual, and the importance of Shelter, particularly for women. We hope to be able to continue our work with the Womens Fund for Scotland in realising a build structure that allows us to teach women basic constructions skills and collaborate design.

For more information on the work that the Women’s Refuge do, please visit their website.

STORIES OF SHELTER - Sketch Models

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Clydebank Womens Aid funded by Women’s Fund for Scotland. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in this weeks workshop we made some sketch models:

“This week The ladies were asked to make five sketch models in 25 minutes, with whatever materials they felt like using. They were encouraged to make, to not over think, and to combine the last three workshops into producing shapes, and shelters, and sculptures that were subconsciously reflecting all that they had learnt in the first three workshops, about scale and massing, light and shadow, and spatial planning and architectural sections.”

This is the result - a wonderful collection of sketch models, that will be drawn on to produce a more refined shelter design in next weeks workshop.