My Cyprus Adventures Continued – Day One

As I finally find time to sit and write, only because I woke up so early and am enjoying the peace and quiet before everyone else wakes, I hope to be able to add to my blogging diary!  This week has been so full on, yet truly inspiring for me, that there has been little free time, beyond later in the evening with a glass of wine… blogging lapsed from the first day!  and  now it is the last…

Our hosts, Martin and Panayiota are such lovely hosts.  Martin is larger than life, so knowledgeable, about the local flora and fauna, birds, neolithic sites… you name it, he has knowledge, and he collects branded coffee cups, brightly coloured vintage clothes and zoomorphic branded roof tiles.   Panayiota, whose name derives from the Greek epithet of Panagia or Panayia (“All-Holy”) for the Virgin Mary, and she is an absolute delight.  Married to a Greek Scotsman, she lived in Glasgow for many years and has that keen sense of humour.  She is also very talented in the traditional Lefkara lace, and seems to be related to so many people.

Martin and Panayiota
Martin and Panayiota

We started off the week with a tour of the village by Panayiota, who explained a lot of the idiosyncrasies of the architecture, that they are generally constructed around a courtyard to keep the house cool in the summer… with a big front door.  Of the ones that we saw open, they look so inviting and a the perfect place for a party! And we visited a few smaller churches, to look at the icons, and where she told us about some of their traditions – such as when it is their child’s names saints day, they would bake a special bread and share it with the congregation after the service.

A couple of things that, at first, look a bit weird, but then with explanation, you understand, there were wax heads and bodies by the altars, and in one small church dedicated to a saint whose “thing” was eyes, there was a collection of silver eyes.  All of these were offerings or tokens were for someone who was ill or needed divine intervention.

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After lunch we headed to Martin’s house, which is his place of teaching as well as his home. With curios and items on every wall, it is quite a fascinating place… especially his collection of cups with cafe/coffee/logos on (more about that later). And we got going on the adobe brick making.

This involved stomping about in a pit of clay / soil / liquid / straw until all the bits of whatever were broken up until it became a sludge.  This was then filled into the metal brick-making moulds (mostly by our hands), the mould pulled away and the bricks left to air dry. The moulds are made by tin-smiths in the Turkish side of Cyprus.

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stomping in the mix in size 11s
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the adobe brick oven base

these are existing ovens in Martin’s garden

 

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Study Trip to Kato Drys Municipality in Cyprus

Watch out for some serious bloggin’ coming up this week as I have just flown out to Cyprus on a study trip, and my plan is to record my activities via this blog, as it will feature mosaics, more mosaics and other crafts along the way.

This visit to Cyprus has been funded by Erasmus+, with ARCH Network as the promoter and Kato Drys Community Council as our hosts.  We have been welcomed by Martin Clark, a resident of the town, who is also a partner in Arch Network, and is a Director of Grampus Heritage and training.  Martin has introduced me to concept of the Four Pillars of Sustainability; environmental, cultural, social and economic ~ it is worth watching his passionate short film about it here.

Traditional crafts and skills are alive and well in the Cyprus community of Lefkara and Kato Drys, where they make traditional local products for sale which have real integrity and a true sense of place, using crafts and skills that go back centuries! The week ahead looks at these traditional skills and products and considers why they have importance in our contemporary society. And I will reflect on how I can interpret my experiences into my mosaic practise, my role at Remake Scotland, my links with Comrie Croft and my own ethics and life plan!

So first of all, to introduce you to the participants ~ we are a mixed bunch ~

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Kirsty Cassels ~ owner and director of Creative Cassels , an architectural designer and builder alongside being a creative soul who designs jewellery and has a passion for bricks!

Ian Ross Wallace ~ a mature Masters in archaeology student and a volunteer archaeologist for the National Trust for Scotland

Lucy Cunningham ~ the Education, Families and Youth officer at the RSPB, who is also musical, and another dance lover (bring on the moves!)

Judith Nott ~ lives and works in the Cairngorm National Park, as a wildlife guide and a volunteer ranger. As part of her work, she facilitates an altzeimers group.  Maybe I can get some tips for my mum!

Jenny Schwarz ~ Grants Fundraising Manager for Scottish Wildlife Trust, who is keen to learn about the interaction between the environment and local livelihoods

Keith Roberts ~ Reserves Project Officer for Scottish Wildlife Trust, he is super-excited to do the brick making and lime mortar, which is relevant to his work

Esther Hutchinson ~ works in the Learning and Access team in Glasgow Museums, mostly based at St Mungos, developing workshops for schools and community groups. She has an arts background, and may well be my partner in crime on the mosaic front.

 

My reading of choice on the flight here was “Creative Spaces, Contemporary use of Stone in Urban Spaces”, a recent report written by Perth based artist David F Wilson.

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In the report, David reflects on the traditional approach inherent in the UK to drystone walling (harking back to the Enclosure Act) and to how stone carving focuses on heritage and conservation, and goes on to say

Now is when those concerned with the continuation of the skills should be exploring new methods of working better to the opportunities and challenges of the twenty-first Century” (page 9, David’s website is here)

I think the above quote will form a lot of the discussion of the week ahead, how the traditional Cypriot skills can be re-imagined so that they can have “a market”, how can the young adults be enthused to learn an old skill and make it their own, in their own style.

“every generation has the right to add culture, but neither should we completely divorce ourselves from the past and from our roots” Martin Clark

And for me, how can I learn the more traditional way of making a mosaic, the cutting, the placing of tesserae and even the chosen representation of an image, and then return to rural Perthshire and create my own metaphorical mosaic path?