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Urban Motifs Lab

One of our most interesting experiences to date, the Urban Motifs Lab explored the interrelation between design, art, folklore and anthropology, bringing together “microgeographies” (a project by the architect Hariklia Hari), Panagiotis Lybereas’ “textile & clothing lab” and our own creative practice. The Lab ran from 2018 to 2019 under the auspices of the Municipality of Athens and within the framework of the ΠΟΛΗ² [y1] programme that was organized by the Municipality’s This Is Athens Agency. More specifically, the programme pertained to the revamping and upcycling of defunct stores in Theatrou Square, downtown Athens. These were subsequently used by groups of designers and other creatives, tapping into the significant symbolic value of the area and breathing new life into it.

The Lab space at 5A, Diplari Str. served as an experimental hub for promoting and selling newly made cultural artifacts but also as a place for people to and for ideas to be exchanged between scholars, artists, designers, students, artisans and anyone else who wished to contribute to the discussion. Throughout the Lab’s run, we organized workshops, talks, projections and exhibitions, which hopefully left a small but nonetheless significant mark in the urban landscape.

Scroll down to read just a few of the events that the Urban Motifs Lab put together. These events encouraged research on folk art embroideries, designs, and traditional techniques, as well as paving the way for collaborations and synergies among an open network of people from various areas of expertise.

Traditional and Contemporary DIY printing techniques

The Urban Motifs Lab organized events that aimed to investigate both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Athens’ historic center and, in doing so, to bring about an ecosystem of collaborators and synergies, made up of local businesses and artisans whose work could complement that of the Lab’s main core (carpenters, metal workers, typographers, dyers, textile designers, fashion designers etc.).

With this in mind, on 22 December 2018, we organized a meeting with print dyer Nikos Birlirakis and architect, designer and head of SWOP laser cutting lab, Tasos Spyridonos. In collaboration with the audience, the two of them presented the traditional art of print-dyeing (printing with wooden stamps), using both old and contemporary methods. Messrs. Birlirakis and Spyridonos spoke of various techniques of printing and engraving, traditionally stamped scarves, as well as the importance of establishing a synergy between an artisan and a designer.

Traditional, contemporary and DIY printing techniques
Silk-screen printing as a DIY method.

In December 2018, the Urban Motifs Lab organized a presentation on the art of silk-screen printing as a DIY technique. Our aim was for the public to become acquainted with this ageless printing method. Thanks to the invaluable help of designer Antonia Melianou, we set up an impromptu printing shop inside the Urban Motifs Lab space and printed M2P’s patterns on t-shirts, cardboards and tote bags. We also spoke of the technique itself and its various implementations. Our visitors also got to print tote bags combining our patterns and the This Is Athens logo as part of their becoming familiar with the silk-screen process.

The colorful microcosm of Greek embroideries
A speech by Xenia Politou, curator at the Benaki Museum Modern Greek Culture Collection

Deer, mermaids and hoopoes pay a visit to the Urban Motifs Lab.
On Friday 29 March 2018, our Lab was proud to host a speech by Xenia Politou. One of the most famed connoisseurs in her field, Xenia welcomed us all into the vivacious world of Greek embroideries, a magical world that is a constant source of fascination and inspiration for our own work as M2P. Drawing on the vast collection of Greek embroideries belonging to the Benaki Museum, Xenia Politou gave us an imaginary tour of the Greek islands and Epirus, following on the footsteps of the first collectors and scholars of such artifacts – people initially hailing from Britain, with their Greek counterparts eventually contributing to the process tool. In her speech, she traced both Oriental and Occidental influences and explained to the audience the role that technique and iconography played in creating the repertories of images and illustrations that each specific area boasted. Finally, drawing on the great richness and diversity of these 17th and 18th century artifacts, she attempted to decipher their secret codes and, more importantly, to point out their role in the culture and everyday life of the societies that created them.

City Prints Project by Ira Spagadorou

Pakal and Alessia De Pasquale

The wager for our team at 5A Diplari Str. was to forge elective affinities: meaningful relationships of coexistence and interaction with the neighbors as well as the people who just happened to be passing by. Two in the latter category were the London-based artists Pakal and Alessia De Pasquale, who happened upon our store during one of their saunters around downtown Athens. Their entrance into the Lab space fired off a joyous, creative dialogue that led into a fruitful collaboration. Interacting with us and the space, these two artists examine the components that are closest to their interests and their aesthetic and propose to us an installation made up of two in situ artworks: an alternative space for prayer and a carpet consisting of pieces of old embroideries, wefts, and parts of traditional Greek clothes, drawn from the Urban Motifs Lab’s own collection.

Patchwork/Alessia De Pasquale:
The wall-mounted patchwork is made up of fragments of hand-embroidered cloths, deriving from Greek folk art. These cloths were once part of the women’s everyday outfit and have been crafted in a masterly, gorgeous way which renders them functional and ornamental at the same time. Hung up there, all of them together in one work, they create this tapestry, depicting a woman’s life. The work aims to pay tribute to these rare weaving traditions.
The fragments that make up the artwork have been donated to us by Ms. Eucharis.

Shrine of the Nomadic Voyage/Pakal
An alternative space for praying, which ritualistically brings together various cultures of both the East and the West.