In the heart of the old town of Nafplio, precious threads are woven, revealing stories full of truth, life and authenticity. Weavers Maria Gonidou and her daughter Nefeli reintroduce with their Agnithes the value of our cultural heritage, through their artistic weavings and personal expressions.
If, passing by the corner of Koletti and Vassileos Alexandrou streets, you caught a fleeting glimpse of Agnithes, thinking it's just another one of Nafplio's beautiful shops, I don't blame you. However, if you stood in front of the generously large windows, where unique handmade creations resemble a theatrical stage, then you surely understood that Agnithes hides precious treasures. If you noticed the word 'Agnithes' written in an archaic manner, with its subscript and circumflex accent, symbolically combined with the abstract loom in the logo, you might have felt that here, the past harmoniously converses with the present and the future.
I could tell you that Agnithes is a very unique handmade weaving shop and workshop. However, that would be too little and certainly inadequate, in the face of everything that Agnithes truly is. Before you continue reading this text, feel your soul opening and welcoming you to the world of weaving art, to the magical web woven by Maria and Nefeli.
Ode to the Harmony of Simplicity
The new place of theirs (formerly located on Athanassiou Siokou street), filled with positive energy, radiates the harmony of simplicity, eloquently expressing the philosophy of the two weavers and their love for natural materials. Walls adorned with stone, warm wood on the floor, wooden shelves displaying scarves, shawls, and ties in vibrant colors, tall open shelves and straw baskets brimming with Greek cotton, silk, wool and plant-based dyes, embraced by natural light like a mother's caress and melodies, that accompany the sounds of looms, engaging in a harmony, that seems to compete with the dialogue between mother and daughter, each with her own “tonal color”.
Scarves that speak to the soul
I gaze in admiration at the handmade scarves, their impressive colors, the uniqueness of each one. I single out one, delicately cradling it in my hands like a newborn baby, tenderly draping it over my shoulders, observing the shades, the shimmer of the threads in the light... How accustomed my gaze and touch have become to synthetic fabrics, cheap imitations of beauty, poor replicas of elegance – oh, the sorrow I feel realizing this... I examine the details, the way the materials have been combined, I listen for the technique, discovering my gaps in the spaces between the lines.
Can a scarf speak? Can it reveal your character or your emotional state at the moment you choose it? Or perhaps, is it the one that ultimately chooses you? Maria reveals to me that each scarf is “50% Maria and 50% the one who will take it”. An interactive, liberating, redemptive relationship that only handmade items can offer you.
The Weaver of Nafplio
Countless articles and dedications have been written about Maria Gonidou, and not without reason, as she is considered one of Greece's finest weavers. She has earned distinctions and exhibitions both within and outside the country. Furthermore, she possesses the unique authentic loom in Nafplio and is among the few remaining in Greece.
I ask her to unravel the tapestry of her memories, and we talk about her classical education, her love for essays, her thirst for learning and working. We talk about that tapestry that impressed her, becoming the catalyst for her engagement with weaving at the young age of 24. She embarked on lessons in weaving at the Museum of Folk Art 'Aggeliki Chatzimichali,' lessons in Greek kilim at the Weaving Department of CHAN, tapestry at EOMMEX, studies in Art History, painting classes, lessons on plant-based dyes from the tapestry artist Sophia Tata... a journey full, continuous, endless, as Maria, the weaver of Nafplio, always has something new to learn, something fresh to be taught.
In her works, bold colors take the lead, while her designs remain true to the simplicity of clean lines, based on the selection of quality materials, such as Greek cotton, linen, wool, and plant-based silk. She sits at the loom and I approach her almost reverently. I watch her as she weaves and feel her concentration and tranquility - the deposition of her soul... Weaving is taught, following norms and rules, yet at the same time, it's an art, a creation, a freedom.
She speaks to me about warps, bobbins, shuttles, looms, combs, reeds… words unfamiliar to me, from a world that (pre)invites me to discover it. With Maria, we talk, we talk a lot, we talk truly. You see, you can't come to Agnithes, quickly pick a piece, pay, and say goodbye. Like in any art space, time will flow with cosmic rhythm, you will connect in a mystical way, absorb energy, and give a bit of your own.
For a while now, Maria's wonderful daughter, Nefeli, has been pouring her own energy into Agnithes. We share our love for Greek tradition and handmade creations, but also our bitterness that arts like weaving are not tangibly supported and showcased as they should be.
A creature manifesting the vividness of youth, a spark of dreams in her gaze, and clearly marked with artistic significance, Nefeli studied 3D animation in Athens. She attended drawing classes at Ornerakis and weaving lessons with Sofia Tsourinaki. At the age of 24 (24 being a significant milestone for both mother and daughter), she went to Iceland, where she spent 2.5 years apprenticing alongside skilled weavers. There, she gained not only knowledge but also an invaluable life experience.
Returning to her place, she decided to live her dream by creating her own unique works of art on her loom: numbered pieces in scarves, crafted with high-quality materials, and splendid tapestries bearing the signature of this promising new-generation weaver. How does she feel on the journey of creation, one that begins and is never predetermined in where it will lead? 'I feel alive,' she answers me piercingly.
She speaks to me about Greek tradition, about the art of weaving that was kneaded with the everyday life of Greek mothers, grandmothers, daughters. She talks about the years when everything in homes was made on the loom, about precious dowries, traditional motifs, the catalyst for social interaction, in an era when women were confined by societal stereotypes.
In the present day, choosing to embrace the art of handmade weaving in Greece, Nefeli knows from within the challenges, the deficiencies, the irregularities, but I am certain that her passion, love, talent, and serene strength constitute a small personal revolution. Nothing is enough to hinder her dreams, which she shares with me while seated at her loom. She wants her designs to carry the identity of Nafplio, which is why she conducts her research in painted representations and patterns from the famous mansions of Nafplio. She envisions her own mini production of silk, a material precious but unfortunately now rare.
How sweetly time passes within this bright cocoon of creation, art and beauty! 'Beauty,' the author says, 'will save this world.' I bid farewell to Maria and Nefeli with an embrace and I think that, yes, beauty will save this world! I thank them wholeheartedly.
Did you know that?
The 'agnithes' are stones, that were used in ancient weaving. The ancient loom was vertical with two vertical beams and a horizontal one, to which the warp threads were attached, stretched with the stone weights, the 'agnithes.'
The art of tapestry was included in the Catalogue of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 2009.
"Agnithes" shop is recommended by top tourist guides and it is additionally recognized by the “Homo Faber” international guide by the Michelangelo Foundation.
In "Agnythes" you will find not only handmade women's scarves, but also bags adorned with unique patterns, men's scarves and ties, as well as selected handmade jewelry by Greek artisans.
All year round
October - April: Shops' operating hours
May - September: 09:30-23:00