In our latest instalment of Curated By, we sit with Greek-American artist and wine producer, Alexandra Manousakis.
Based in Crete, Alexandra sources inspiration from the Mediterranean vineyards and islands she lives amongst, showcasing them in her colourful designs. Paying homage to the ancient practice of ceramic art, she converses with designs from the past to create beautiful objects to suit modern lifestyles and tastes.
Here, we talk to her about design philosophy, her design heroes, and how she sources inspiration from travel.
How did you get into art?
I have been into art since the age of three. I always had an inclination towards drawing and painting and eventually majored in Fine Art and Hellenic Studies at NYU. I have always been drawn to colours and shapes of different kinds, the creation of them and mark making itself. Although I always painted, I decided to pursue art more professionally only a few years ago.
Who, what or where do you draw your biggest design inspiration from?
I get very inspired by materials themselves. Texture is a cornerstone of life for me, whether we are discussing art, landscape, food or décor. Depending on which material is being used, a sort of dialog develops between artist, artwork and material and – although it is all orchestrated by the artist – the dialog sort of takes on a form of its own and becomes an exchange of ideas between designer and artwork. There are many artists that inspire me including Dubuffet, Matisse, Krasner, Frankenthaler, Burle Marx, Picasso…
One of my biggest inspirations, however, is antiquity. The Minoans who lived on the island of Crete and by extension the ancient Egyptians (who were in communication with each other) have been on my mind since I was a little girl in school. I often think of how these great civilisations existed, the emphasis they put on décor and art in their daily lives, and what exactly is our connection to them today. I must add that nature serves as the backdrop to all this inspiration because it is the context of our lives.
What about the Cretan lifestyle captured you?
Originally, my plan was to move to Crete from New York for one year. I wanted to figure out what I would do with my life and eventually go back to New York to get my MFA. While in Crete however, I learned that I could combine all my passions and live in a place with a zest for life unlike any other I had ever seen. The incredible natural landscape and humanity in the lifestyle here touch my soul: two things that I believe are starting to be overlooked in other larger cities. I got to – and still get to – work with wine, art and food. What could be better? It’s hard to leave that.
What is your design philosophy?
My design philosophy is focused on bold shapes and colours. I like definite and striking forms that capture and hold attention. I love exploring deep and sometimes unpleasant themes, but doing so in a lighthearted manner, always adding some humour to the design and creations.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Edgy, bold, unapologetic.
What are some of your favourite projects to date?
H&M Greece asked for a piece of work inspired by the legendary Iris Apfel to celebrate its new collection with her for her 100th birthday. I made a ceramic and wood sculpture which was based on the beautiful (and many) bracelets she wears, and it turned out beautifully. In my art studio and brasserie, Maiami, here in Chania, I worked on my biggest sculpture to date which doubles as a fireplace in the main dining area. This piece inspired a lot of subsequent pieces… and, due to its height, also taught me that I’m afraid of heights! The current series I’m working on is called Galactic Boureko (a play on the famous Greek dessert called Galaktoboureko) and explores the theme of identity and feeling alien in your surroundings. I am very excited about this one.
How does travelling influence your designs and tastes?
Travelling is an instant eye-opener. It helps to get me out of my head and see beautiful new ideas and concepts. When I travel, I will always make sure to hit the best museums and galleries. I truly get inspired by all the places that I visit. Most recently, I was in London for Frieze, so I was surrounded by incredible art. Even the energies of the places I visit inspire me and I enjoy being engulfed in a totally different mindset. I go to Athens frequently and, seeing the Acropolis, for example, is just as incredible every time; it does not matter how many times you see it. The colours and textures of Marrakech also took my breath away.
Which hotels do exquisite interior design?
This is a difficult question because what’s so important in a hotel stay for me is the amenities offered, the comfort of the rooms as well as the welcome by the team working there. If these things aren’t working well, it will affect how I see the other aspects of the hotel. In terms of pure design, I enjoy many of the Soho House locations, as well as a number of smaller independent hotels. Riad Mena & Beyond in Marrakech is one of my favourite places. In Chania, Metohi Kindelis and Ammos Hotel are gorgeous.
Some of your favourite places to shop for or source interiors…
Admittedly I use a lot of my own pieces at home, but I also get to browse the web shops and buy from the companies I work with, such as Greeks Bearing Gifts. The type of objects they source are very in line with my aesthetic.
How can we bring a touch of Alexandra Manousakis into our homes?
My pieces are available through the wonderful Greeks Bearing Gifts web shop. They have a wonderful curation of homeware, lifestyle goods and fashion items.
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