Artisans from Crete’s rich traditions offer glimpses into the island’s cultural identity through timeless, transcendental creations.
Ancient arts, painstakingly crafted. Hands that speak to you, bridging yesterday to today, today to tomorrow. They have much to tell you about the brilliance of metal, the rhythm of the loom, the proud steps of Stivania (traditional Cretan boots), the art of wood, and the tastes of tradition. All eternal.
“Instruments are born with the deposition of soul and the passion of craftsmen, following the rhythm of the revellers’ hearts,” said the renowned instrument maker and reformer of the Cretan lyre, Manolis Stagakis. Today, his grandson (named after his grandfather) faithfully continues this profound legacy of craftsmanship, skillfully crafting lyres for world-famous musicians.
Alexandra Theochari’s engagement with the loom resulted from an inner desire to honour her grandmother’s art. The sound and movement as she works transports you into a kind of meditation, while her creations showcase the cultural richness of Crete to the rest of the world through Klothó, her brand.
Stivania (derived from Stivale, Italian for boot) are remnants from the long period of Venetian rule in Chania (1204-1669). Cretan boots –durable, waterproof, and crafted by skilled cobblers– kept the feet of locals protected in the rugged and challenging mountains they traversed. Manolis Siganos learned the art of bootmaking from his grandfather. Their shared love for their homeland inspired him to open his shop to keep the tradition alive.
For Cretans, the knife is a work of art, a symbol of honour, and a heartfelt gift. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a fourth-generation knifesmith who learned the craft from his father-in-law, Michalis Pachtikos (also known as O Armenis), continues the centuries-old art of bladesmithing in his shop in the neighbourhood of Machairadika, named so because of all the knife shops in the area. Mantinades (poetic Cretan verses) are etched into the steel.
THE PRODUCER OF HANDMADE PHYLLO:
In a traditional workshop within the confines of an impressive Venetian mansion, the Hatziparaschos family moves with impeccable coordination, love and dedication, spreading out sheets of phyllo dough that will become treats. Here, you feel like a child with sweets in hand and syrupy lips.
Silver Foukaria (traditional Cretan knife scabbards) are meticulously crafted by a select few. Among these artisans, Manos Tserkakis stands out: a craftsman who independently advanced the art, surpassing his predecessors in skill. His distinctive creations encapsulate the unique mastery of the Cretan silversmithing tradition.
TEXT & PHOTOS : STEFANOS GOGOS and MARIA PASSARIVAKI