Maria Zilakou Designs and her natural dyed fibers partner Lise Condis, alias TreLiz, were Supporters of our show project “Myths 2016” at Sieraad Amsterdam. It is not the first time the creative duo supports a Myths project, but this time visitors could take with them the beautiful post card we designed after their concept.
Thank You, Maria and Lise for your great support to Myths!
Maria Zilakou, a philologist and a former owner of a Foreign Language School in her native city Piraeus, gave Myths the following interview. The experienced crafter had to learn how to confront the sometimes tough reality of producing standard goods and innovative concepts for the very demanding international market. But she made it! Also her partner Lise of TreLiz has a success story to tell: She works as an independent producer of unique fiber collections she creates for international wholesale customers and global retail. Lise states: Color is my power! No more words are needed to describe the heavenly explosions of joy when you see her fibers!
Maria and Lise are role models for the crafters’ scene, for they followed their dream of turning their hobby into a creative business. They offer their clientele the high standards of fibers, colors and pattern sophistication that they were looking for before they decided that if they cannot find them, they have to make them!
Read the “juicy” interview on knitting, tradition, business plan and “marketing experts”. The latter should take, so Maria, “a crash course in crafts in order to understand that this is a whole new world for them to explore before they exploit it”.
1.What does knitting mean to you?
When I first took up knitting at the age of 12, it was in order to create original scarves, hats and other knits that only I would wear; they were unique in the sense that I got to choose the color, the yarn and the style; they didn’t come from a big store, nor were they massively produced. This was very important to the teenager that I was, in the sense that it was a kind of ID and yes, it still is just as important. What is extraordinary about knitting is that it’s a craft deeply-rooted in tradition (knit and purl have remained the fundamentals of the knitting process for hundreds of years) which offers countless opportunities to create original patterns – I find this very intriguing. As my knitting experience is growing through the years and I get to practice more intricate techniques and create freeform patterns, (I’ll use the cliché and say that) it’s my way to express thoughts and emotions that other creators can relate to; in other words, it’s a way to reach out to them. It’s also a way to wind down in times of stress. Finally, it’s a way for me to “belong” somewhere: there are millions of knitters around the world, so that makes me part of a huge community!!!
2. Where do you get your inspiration from?
That depends. There are times I just feel the urge to find use for some wonderful skein of yarn (I buy yarn compulsively, as most knitters do, so I am overwhelmingly attracted by the color and quality of the fiber). More often it’s the other way round: I choose the yarn in order to create a motif, usually inspired by the Greek traditional patterns used in embroidery and weaving. The knitting tradition in Greece doesn’t stand out as much as, say, crochet does, but socks, leg and hand warmers were the knitted parts of many a traditional Greek costume. However, there are so many amazing embroidery motifs waiting to find a new life through knitting! That’s what intrigues me: turning color work motifs into lace and openwork, which is my way to revisit tradition.
3. What makes TreLiz yarns stand out?
It is immensely important for me to work with the best yarn I can have. TreLiz, besides offering a wide range of fiber qualities to choose from -100% merino wool, cashmere, baby camel, silk blends, to name but a few- has a very distinctive approach to color, which “speaks” to my heart. It is vibrant, original, full of life – in short it is unique!
4. What would you say to someone new to knitting?
First, I would welcome them to this wonderful, creative journey. I would urge them to feel free to knit as many “awkward” scarves as they want before they go up a level or even “dive” into deep waters as soon as they feel like doing that. I do not believe in the “knitting police” who look out for mistakes and flaws in the work of others. I believe in three maxims: the joy you get from creating something out of a string of yarn, the knowledge that comes through learning from your mistakes and, last, but by no means the least, the emotions, ultimately your personality, that you put in this piece of knit. Of course, I would also urge them to go further and take classes and participate in workshops! Improvisation gives so much better results when it is based on knowledge…
5. What do you think about the Crafts market?
It seems that market strategists have developed a new-found love for crafts these days… and crafters (at least many of them) think they will get rich if they quit their day job and turn their hobby into a job. I think these marketing experts should take a crash course in crafts in order to understand that this is a whole new world for them to explore before they exploit it. Crafters should also take a look around them and remember that nothing worth having comes easily and this applies particularly to crafts. You must be willing to study a lot, make a business plan and stick to it, create an authentic brand with a consistent presence and, certainly put long hours of hard work into creating a finished item that reflects your personality. It is self-evident that you cannot get rich overnight – you should be happy if you are easily recognizable after the first 3 years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discourage anybody from taking a step into the crafts market; if you feel strongly about it, go ahead and take the plunge. But do not quit the day job that pays your bills until you have a really well-established business! And always remember: the harder you work, the luckier you get!