As lives of many Greeks are turned up­side down, some are seek­ing cre­ative ways out of the cri­sis

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY LINA GIANNAROU

Gogo al­ways had a cre­ative prac­ti­cal streak. She was good at paint­ing, en­joyed hand­i­crafts, and ar­chi­tec­ture seemed like a nat­u­ral ca­reer choice for her. But when the cri­sis hit the coun­try and the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural sec­tor nearly hit rock bot­tom, she de­cided to take a proac­tive stance. She now makes a liv­ing selling hand­made cards and note­books she makes her­self us­ing re­cy­cled and re­cy­clable pa­per and wire un­der the Simeio X la­bel.

Zoe, on the other hand, al­ways loved pho­tog­ra­phy. A trained ar­chae­ol­o­gist with no ca­reer prospects, she de­cided to turn her hobby into a pro­fes­sion. Af­ter at­tend­ing a se­ries of spe­cial­ized sem­i­nars, she started tak­ing pho­to­graphs at wed­dings and chris­ten­ings and is now earn­ing a sat­is­fac­tory amount of money. Be­sides mak­ing ends meet, both Gogo and Zoe re­ally en­joy their new jobs.

A lot has hap­pened in the coun­try in the last five years, while many Greeks have seen their lives turn up­side down. For some peo­ple, how­ever, changes in the la­bor mar­ket have turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise given that they ended up find­ing their “true call­ing,” ac­cord­ing to ce­ramist Tina Pan­tazelou, who teaches her trade to chil­dren and adults. “I know a lot of peo­ple who, af­ter fac­ing se­ri­ous dif­fi­cul­ties at work, re­dis­cov­ered their cre­ative side while look­ing for new work op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is very pos­i­tive and they seem much hap­pier now. Clay also has ther­a­peu­tic qual­i­ties.”

At the Peri Gis (About Earth, pe­ work­shop in the neigh­bor­hood of Aghios Dim­itrios, south­ern Athens, Pan­tazelou’s stu­dents are an in­ter­est­ing mix: Con­stanti­nos, is a di­rec­tor who “al­ways wanted to learn to work with clay,” while Evridiki, who works for a multi­na­tional com­pany, was look­ing for an ac­tiv­ity which would al­low her to “de­com­press.” Two of the work­shop’s stu­dents turned to ce­ram­ics as a means of mak­ing some money. “I’ve al­ways painted,” says Irini, an un­em­ployed jour­nal­ist. “And I al­ways wanted to work with clay. I thought that mak­ing and selling ce­ram­ics could be a way out for me.”

The un­con­ven­tional work­shop al­lows for each stu­dent to work at their own pace. Irini is about to start mak­ing a vase, while Christos is sit­ting con­fi­dently at the pot­tery wheel. Did he have ex­pe­ri­ence in ce­ram­ics be­fore com­ing to the work­shop? “With the ex­cep­tion of ‘Ghost’ [the 1990 film with a fa­mous love scene be­tween Pa­trick Swayze and Demi Moore at the pot­tery wheel], none what­so­ever,” he says laugh­ing. Hav­ing mas­tered the craft, he is se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing turn­ing his hobby into a job.

Pieces by Pan­tazelou – who is con­sid­ered one of Greece’s top ce­ramists – and her stu­dents are scat­tered around the stu­dio. “The same thing hap­pened to me,” she notes. “I was on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ca­reer path when at one point I took some pot­tery lessons and sim­ply fell in love with clay.”

The same pos­i­tive energy is ev­i­dent at the En­nea cre­ative pho­tog­ra­phy cen­ter (cluben­, lo­cated on Thiseos Street in cen­tral Athens, where sem­i­nars and work­shops for both be­gin­ners and more ad­vanced stu­dents take place on a daily ba­sis. “While we mostly get peo­ple who are just look­ing for a means to ex­press them­selves, a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of our par­tic­i­pants would like to get in­volved in pho­tog­ra­phy pro­fes­sion­ally,” notes pho­tog­ra­pher Panay­otis Kasimis, one of the cen­ter’s founders. “Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the arts are on the rise, peo­ple are look­ing for ways to blow off some steam.”

Pho­tog­ra­phy sem­i­nars have be­come very pop­u­lar in the last few years. “Most peo­ple en­roll be­cause they want to feel part of some­thing, a group or a seminar cy­cle. But in or­der to truly learn about pho­tog­ra­phy – whether for pro­fes­sional use or just for fun – you must re­ally get to know the medium, to un­der­stand its na­ture, to de­velop a vis­ual per­cep­tion, to learn pho­tog­ra­phy’s ‘gram­mar’ as we say,” he adds.

Par­tic­i­pants who com­plete the cen­ter’s ba­sic, seven-month seminar cy­cle can work as pho­tog­ra­phers. “From a tech­ni­cal point of view at least they do not have queries and they un­der­stand that pho­tog­ra­phy is a cre­ative medium,” says Kasimis. “One of my stu­dents was work­ing in the tourism in­dus­try be­fore turn­ing to pho­tog­ra­phy, while another started work­ing in pho­to­jour­nal­ism. There was also a young woman who gave up her day job and is now a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher cov­er­ing var­i­ous so­cial, sports and chil­dren’s events.”

Ce­ramist Tina Pan­tazelou teaches her trade to chil­dren and adults. ‘I know a lot of peo­ple who, af­ter fac­ing se­ri­ous dif­fi­cul­ties at work, re­dis­cov­ered their cre­ative side while look­ing for new work op­por­tu­ni­ties.’

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