Back in early July, an e-mail came from the reporter of an Israeli design magazine called Nisha. It is a magazine for interiors and product design. She was writing an article about Greek Design and found my blog online, so decided to contact me and ask for information - which of course I immediately gave, providing links, names, websites. The article was published in early September, with lots of photos, and my blog was promptly mentioned! Of course it was in perfect Hebrew, so I tried to translate it with on-line translators, with great difficulty. Then an Israeli friend came to the rescue (Yoav you're the best!), so I can now proudly present it to you, along with photos from the magazine.
From classic to modernism
The beginning of the "production design" field at Greece is related to the ancient Greek's, who made ceramics for daily use. Most of the houses had plenty of pottery, which were designed to store food, wine and oil. The pottery used to be decorated with drawings or illustrations. Most of the Greeke pottery, which survived the old days, has been made for beverage, such as mixing wine and water bowls, water jugs, goblets and ash urns. All of them are decorated and coloured.
With the progress of the pottery technique and the beginning of the aesthetic doctrines, the geometric decorating was replaced by human images, which represent, most of the times, the gods or the mythology and historical Greek heroes.
Furthermore, the battles and the hunt scenes were very popular, especially the Centaur which was much admired by the ancient Greeks and appears in their scenes. The background behind the characters was usually bright and the characters were painted on it with black color. After a while , the background became black with red-like color. The ceramics preparation was considered as handicrafts, and the richly decorated pottery of ancient Greece, provides an abundance of information about the eating and drinking habits, war, games, sports and much more of the habits of the citizen at those times.
The ancient Greeks also left their own impression on the furniture field, at the fourth and the fifth century B.C. We have information on the first designs of the Greek furniture, from the paints which decorated their famous ceramics. One of the original and initial designs was a chair, which was called "klismos". It was a light-weight chair with a back rest. Also, the chair had four curved legs and the back rest was curved too, and appears in many drawings on the ancient ceramics. Together with the chairs they built little host tables with rectangular surface and three legs. Those were sometimes decorated with animal figures, and they remained light-weight which allowed for them to be transferred from place to place during symposiums.
More than that, the chest of drawers was also a popular product in ancient Greece. They were made in a multitude of sizes and with varied materials such as wood, bronze, ivory and were developed in time . Most of the consumer products in ancient Greece were produced by women or slaves in their own houses, but not in the workshops. Only cloth painting, metal work, pottery, and leather products, were produced by artists in specialty workshops, and always by men.
It is possible to say that ancient Greece was a powerful country. However, it seems that Greece has a difficulty to keep this degree at the modern period. The tension between tradition and modernism has played a big part in the Greek history. The international identity discussion and the intent to keep and represent classic Greece was a major theme between artists and designers in Greece. However, design and art critics believe that actually the will to keep the classic Greek design and turn it into an international identity symbol, is the one which made the design world stay in prescribed formal limits. The researcher of Greek culture, Artemis Yaggo, believes that Greece still hasn't decided what she wants to be when she grows up.
In every part of Greece's historical periods, together with the desire to stay on the same line with the other Western European countries, there is a side anxious to keep and lean on the ancient culture. According to Yaggo, the first marks of adoption of an international identity, in which there was a bond to design, appeared as early as the middle of the nineteenth century, when the young country was struggling to survive and to keep her place within the progress of the Western European countries.
This issue was highlighted especially in 1851, when Greece participated in the global exhibition of London. At that time Greece was considered a young country, only 20 years old, late with its industrial progress, with most of its population living in rural areas, and an economy based on agriculture. Historical memories in the nineteen century were supportive in the continuation of the ancient civilization of Greece. The tendency of relying on the past and continue the ancient Greek culture came to fruition in the educational programs, in the institutes and the wider public. Already at the end of the nineteenth century the French writer Théophile Gautier, who used to travel a lot in Greece, mentioned that the past is so alive in the classic areas so much that there was no place left for the present.
The latter half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were important in the penetration of capitalism to the country, during a systematic destruction of the conditional lifestyle. And it started again with a new beginning of art and design organizations, which called for a move back to the roots. The members of the organizations saw the industrial products as
of lesser quality against the ancient arts, and the gap between the Greek tradition and the Western European progress was very acute, especially among the intellectual and artistic classes.
According to this tendency, a new group was created in 1931 called "Company for protection of Greece products". Its president called the public to confiscate all the products which were not produced in Greece. Also, he announced that preferring the Greek products is a national act of the first degree. All of that took place while the Europe countries were dealing with developments in industrial design. That caused a process in which, even if the young country's aim was to take advantage of its resources and become a modern capitalist country, the attitude for the design field was still harking back to idealist pre- capitalists. These differences haunted the industrial development of Greece and in fact were the cause of essential distancing between the industry world and the worlds of art and culture.
Historical sources prove that despite the establishment of many industries and a great number of products taken into production, the design issue was left unresolved. The 50's and the 60's were years of rebuilding the country after the Second World War, and in those times the first Design Centre was established in Athens, but did not manage to stay alive for long. At the last decade of the 20th century, many efforts were made for strengthening the Greek industry and directing her again into design. Also, a new centre was established, which was called "the Hellenic Centre for Production Design", but the general orientation of the country was anti – industrial, which made it to be considered as the weakest country among its European counterparts on that aspect. All of that caused by the fact that these institutions couldn’t last and closed at the end.
Greece Is For Lovers
A new generation of young designers in Greece is still grappling with the identity question and trying to create their own paths, whether adopting classic symbols, but in a humorous way (at least initially), like "Greece is for Lovers" , who are using classic motives from ancient art and culture, and give them a new twist, or whether attempting to build a unique independent course, which tend to be accepted as equals between West European countries.
Above you can see the page of Nisha that mentions my blog (list of links on top left)