Call it serendipity but Kiki Karayiannis never set out to design anything as pedestrian as a comprehensive jewellery collection. You can almost ‘hear’ the eye roll as she laughs down the phone from Athens. Nor did she intend on making the Greek capital her home but 2.5 years after she came to visit for a work project, this is where she finds herself.
“ Actually, my mother lived here and she always spoke of this other way of life, I’d been before and I’d just graduated (with a first from Goldsmith in Fine art and art history) and wanted to escape an Anglo centric way of life.”
She thinks it’s easy to have a very romanticised idea of Athens before you live here, even with the crisis : “ My daily walk to work takes in archeological ruins, the park near my house has the Marble Steps, a kind of ancient main road from the Port of Piraeus up to the Acropolis, it all becomes very normal.”
When she first arrived, she was overwhelmed by the craftsmen who gave their time so freely to teach her and with so much warmth. Kiki followed a two month internship at a classic revival jewellers called Lalaounis. “They make classical and Byzantine jewellery and have been doing so for years.”
“It was in at the deep end, waking up at 5am and taking a school bus with these old men, working all day and all night, it’s where I learnt all my Greek from, “ she laughs.
Kiki’s jewellery which was snapped up by LN-CC and Bureau 123 takes its inspiration from fluid, irregular forms. She likens it to creating a make believe transformation from wax to metal.
She plunders nature, especially its marine formations like kelp and seaweed where biomorphic abstraction is a sensuous stimulant to the imagination. She then fashion objects into a sort of baroque extravagance which pay homage to natural history.
ASHTRAY BY KIKI KARAYIANNIS - EXCLUSIVE TO CARAMEL
The gold ashtray dish was inspired by Mycenaen chairs, a three -legged style that archaeologists believed were for female deities.
“There’s a lot of Greek mythology in there too and I’m inspired by stories from modern literature, sci-fi or Kafka. She is moved by transformations- she cites Virgina Woolf’s Orlando. Making everything by hand is a given. She works with wax and allows the wax to give a shape and form to objects. “When I make something by hand, it has finger prints in it and there are drips, you can see the fluid, and then I ossify these metals. It’s very personal and artisanal and very much the opposite of mass produced.”