Postfolk is a digital handicraft, a digital embroidery, inspired by the design potential of folk art motifs. Maria Olga Vlachou is the designer of the digitally handcrafted brand, re-collecting memories from greek folk culture. The collection includes textiles, homeware and limited edition art prints.
| interview by Anna Baniora | MA, Fashion Business Management |
Your work is based on the deconstruction and redefinition of the motifs and symbols of the Greek folk art . Why are they so important to you?
When we talk about folk art, we usually mean utilitarian or decorative art. It is an art created by common people in rural areas usually reflecting their traditional culture. These objects, usually for everyday use or festive times, reflect the traditional values of a society and carry the morals, the customs and the stories of each culture. I am intrigued by the fact that these handcrafted objects have a lot of motifs and designs that are rich in meaning and symbolism. I believe today more than ever it is important to connect with the past and each culture’s heritage to avoid the cultural insularity of the globalization.
Which symbols did you use in your current collection SS’16?
Three are the main symbols that carry the variety of positive effects to be used in Postfolk‘s current collection.
- an Ionian tapestry motif, which is said to bring fertility, vigor, luck, balance, prosperity and playfulness, showers its owner with luck and protects him from the wild world.
- the motif of a couple of Peacocks, which is part of a wider depiction, originated from the Aegean island of Karpathos from the mount Olympous area. The peacock as a symbol in tradition has a powerful positive energy transforming the ‘bad’ and the ‘dark’ into ‘light’, as it symbolizes duality, royalty and togetherness. I used it for my suite collection particularly for hospitality in the decoration of bathrobes and towels. It protects its owner from negativity and enforces immortality and rebirth.
- the third motif design which I used for the beach and bath collection is ideal for summer mood because it brings joy, luck, abundance and enhances playfulness and flirtation.
How do you combine elements of traditional heritage with technology in the modern era?
What is the process and technique that you use?
My work is a homage to needlework through digital. I believe in today’s era of globalization that advanced technological innovations occur rapidly, and that place and time are being diminished, the need to embrace the traditional, the ‘old’ and to connect with the roots is more fundamental than ever.
However, my main goal is not to highlight the nostalgia of traditional artifacts, but rather to harmonically place them after careful elaboration in the modern era. And the process of doing so has various detailed steps.
You must carefully go back to the past, take care of the elements you want to deconstruct and give them a fresh point of view. It is a very creative process, starting with the traditional motif that inspires me, which maybe belongs to a broader design and I isolate it from the scheme. Then isolated from its initial placement, I work on the recreation of the motif digitally pixel by pixel like needlework and the final phase is the addiction of a twist on these motifs with colour. This is my favorite phase as I experiment with the combinations for the perfect color block. Vivid and bright colours impact on the freshness look I wish to achieve on these motifs.
What was the inspirational force for the birth of Postfolk?
When I was a little girl my ‘yiayia’, grandmother in Greek, was knitting every day late in the afternoon in our house in Athens. This time was dedicated to herself, it was her ‘own’ time like meditation in her everyday routine providing calmness and well being. I remember helping her with the yarns and assisted in the creation of fabulous items, woven pieces of art.
She is my role model, a powerful and talented woman who originated from the Aegean island of Samos and I still have a rich heritage of remarkable white handwoven homeward items. I may have not inherited her talent in knitting, but I have a keen enthusiasm regarding the idea of digitally transformation this art, I call it ‘digital embroidery’.
I worked in many inspirational museums around Greece, but it was not until I was given the project to rebrand the Historical and Folklife Museum of Orestiada in northern Greece that I was amazed by the wealth and scope of our folk cultural heritage. I used to look at the flamboyant greek traditional costumes and think how we can reform all these components and details. After days of thoughtful consideration on how to mix tradition with modernity the magical moment came one night when I was designing on my computer and that was when I started.
A lot of research and study followed on cultural and folk symbols and motifs and with the assistance of various academics and museologists I interestingly found that folk elements worldwide are interconnected in a common language of semiotics. We can talk about international folk with a wider perspective and interestingly notice the similarities and the antithesis of each cultures folk. This mixing of different symbols from different cultures is one of the fields, I would like to further experiment in the future through Postfolk.
You have recently participated in an exhibition in Milan and also created exclusive designs for the Greek TRIA ETC brand in Greece. Talk to us about these collaborations.
I have had a very refreshing and inspirational feeling for my recent participation in a trade exhibition in Milan resulted in an fruitful collaboration with the Italian homewear and textile shop, Delflorio. Delflorio has managed to present Postfolk in a very professional, artistic and modern way. They created a special music combining modern and folk elements and a video art installation that made me realize that they successfully implemented the DNA of Postfolk in their presentation.
Last month I also had a fantastic collaboration with the TRIA ETC brand in Athens, a great initiative that supports Greek artisans and promote their products through the world. I created an exclusive series of pillows with the evil eye as a decorative motif for the brand. TRIA ETC produces handcrafted items composed with elements from the rich Greek folklore heritage; a similar concept with Postfolk.
on the sofa
What is your vision for Postfolk?
The idea of Postfolk can apply to numerous levels and sectors, we could say that is a multifaceted concept. It started with a series of artprints exposed at the Marneri gallery and then focused in homeware collection, the sector where traditionally folk art had been created for, to decor the home.
My vision for Postfolk is to successfully expand in all the areas and product lines that I, initially, captured – from the designing sector in architecture (hotels, restaurants) and decoration (homeware, furnishing, lighting and pottery ) to the textile, fashion and product designing. As a form of art it could be applied in art prints, video art and public installations.
digitally handcrafted textiles
Maria Olga Vlachou is the designer of the digitally handcrafted brand Postfolk, graduated from the Doxiadis School of Art with a BA in Graphic Design and a BA in Interior Design.