In the turmoil of the Greek economy, here's one island community that seeks a positive change for its locals... and you can help.
Aegean Designs ~ our story...
Help us make a difference…
There are few places in the world that conjure more dreams and mind-travel than Santorini. Of all the Greek islands (and there are hundreds of stunning islands in ), Santorini, more than any other, captures the imagination and spirit of people in so many unexplained ways. It is a mythical, mystical and spiritual place… that has mesmerised people for thousands of years.
Santorini is one of the world's most popular holiday destinations and arguably the most visited of all the Greek islands. People recognise the iconic... seemingly sugar-coated white houses perched high on the rugged cliff face, the blue church domes, and of course... the caldera. The ancient volcanic explosion has created arguably one of the most sublime visual landscapes on planet earth... one which captivates and intrigues. It is a sight that is romantic, spiritually uplifting and humbling all at the same time. More than a million visitors every year, including many thousands of beautiful young couples that come to get married, visit the island to bathe in the incrdible light and sheer beauty of what many still believe to be the site of lost Atlantis. For many…. it is a life changing experience.
Dare to dream
Our story started here more than 25 years ago... when our first summer visit resulted in a magnificent obsession.... to one day live and work on this island. A dream which is shared by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people around the world. After twenty years of mostly annual visits and dreaming, we finally packed our bags and moved to the picturesque permanently around five years ago. A huge life change... but an incredible adventure which continues to this day.
The motivation from the very start was contained in the phrase “find your passion…make it happen”. In my case… the passion was to establish a studio where I could create art that was inspired by the incredible beauty of the island. To use local materials (made in ) and create memories & gifts that people could take back for themselves and their loved ones. To produce art and craft that would be appreciated the world over. To establish a small cottage industry that can employ locals and provide an avenue for people that have traditional skills (sewing, basket-weaving, wood carving) but can not find employment on an island dominated by the hospitality industry. Most of these traditional skills are slowly but surely being lost…. and nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it.
It’s a daring dream…. but there is not much point in having “small dreams”… is there?
The studio was started in a tiny traditional (tholos = dome) house in the tiny . Everything inside and out was made by us (fittings, displays) using mostly driftwood we collected after heavy storms from the back beaches of Oia. It is NOT a typical island store, or souvenir shop. It is a small, quaint art studio that is open to the public…. offering them “original” works of art, produced on the premises. In an age where almost everything has a “made in china” sticker on the bottom… our pieces proudly say “handmade in Santorini”. Our sign outside reads quite simply:
“memories & gifts…
should NOT be mass produced”
This simple philosophy stems from the first point we wrote down when we were drafting the studio’s purpose, it's reason for being… it read something like this:
“What is the point… of coming to a Greek island, only to leave with souvenirs made in China/India/Bulgaria (substitute with any country utilising cheap labour) ? “
People have responded with such enthusiasm it is quite overwhelming. The demand for our unique lines of hand-painted textiles far outstrips the supply I am able to produce on my own. Regardless of the global economic downturn, Santorini is one of the few destinations that still attracts very large numbers of visitors… and they have become much more discerning. They want authentic, locally produced art & craft and they appreciate seeing art being created in front of them. The support has been fantastic, but has also resulted in a degree of frustration. The studio has created a much needed opportunity for the island… but the current economic climate has severely limited our options in trying to do anything about it.
Put in simple terms, on an island that is almost completely focused on hospitality, there are very few employment opportunities outside the hotel industry and it’s suppliers. To make things worse the “tourist” shops on the island seem to have adopted a “buy cheap-sell cheap” approach, which has almost completely destroyed any local industry that remained. Traditional skills that have been an important part of the fabric of local communities have all but disappeared. Young people are leaving the island in droves in search of employment opportunities and locals with skills such as seamstresses, weavers, woodcarvers and stonemasons can not find employment anywhere. It is a tragic scenario that threatens the local way of life and is the cause of very considerable stress to local communities. There is a prevailing feeling of helplessness for many locals… as if the whole situation is out of their hands and there is nothing they can do about it. Politicians are typically 'aware' but remain distant from what is considered an issue too difficult to solve. Banks... make it virtually impossible for anyone to create anything new.
Our aim: "Make a difference"
As Aegean Designs becomes better known there are many opportunities being generated. We are now being presented with opportunities to sell to a variety of places on other islands, mainland Greece and internationally. It is wonderful position to be in......one which we believe we can leverage to make a real difference on Santorini.
Clearly, in order expand, our options are to either mass produce our designs in or , which is against everything we stand for, or we invest in training and the employment of people within our own community. It’s really a no-brainer !
We want to employ local people and create a small facility that produces quality collections of hand printed fabrics, linens, silks and apparel. Beautiful, hand made home-ware and hand crafted gifts for visitors...all made here on Santorini. It is about training local people, using local products...sourced from Greek suppliers, as eco-friendly as we can find,...and creating a brand that can represent the island locally as well as internationally. It is about utilising local skills and setting an example for other local art and craft producers. It is about encouraging international artists to visit and participate in creating art inspired by this magical island. It is about trying to make a real difference... even if it starts in a small way!
Hence the campaign here on Indiegogo….
Our plan is to lease a small warehouse, away from the tourist areas, where we can put together a design studio and a small production facility. This will enable us to employ local people for printing, cutting and sawing fabric, as well as CAD design. It’s a small start but it can grow and employ more local talent, which would have a significant impact on the local community. We already have retailers and distributors from the and keen to represent us in their cities and countries. This can grow significantly as we increase production and establish a better international representation network, as well as vastly improve our online sales capability.
It’s not a hugely ambitious plan… some long work benches for hand-painting fabric, some basic equipment for silk screen printing, fabric cutting tools and a couple of professional (second hand) sewing machines, a computer and some CAD software. The space will be big enough to accommodate 4-6 staff to begin with, as well allow for painting classes during summer (something that has already proven popular with island visitors at our existing studio). With the help of some local staff, including a couple of young creative people, we can take this small design studio to a national and international level… setting an example for the island in the process. The demand is already there, but the current economic climate does not assist us in regards to financial support from local banks. Our planned online efforts will greatly increase our international profile and we have also been working on establishing partnerships with some of the largest cruise ship companies in the world.
How you can help…
Our aim is to raise $38,000…. which will cover everything we need for the leasing and renovation of the warehouse (we will do most if not all the work ourselves), purchase the equipment we need, set up our new online store and buy the supplies we will need to start production. This will also cover the costs of hiring, training & administration of the new staff.
You can help us in many different ways and every way will be greatly appreciated. We need your financial support sure… but we also want you to become part of our global outreach community. If you wish to… we would love to have you as an ambassador for Aegean Designs, as well as our beautiful island. It is your choice to decide your level of involvement and participation. Through our project blog we will ask you for your opinion, your advice, your selection and your thoughts & comments along every step of the way. You will also qualify for the various perks based on your contribution, as well as other prizes and giveaways. We want to give you an opportunity to participate as much or as little as you would like. From helping us paint the warehouse, to setting up the equipment, to being a volunteer at the studio during art classes, to being a distributor in your city or country. We want you to become part of the global Aegean Designs family and help our little studio provide employment and inspiration to the people of Santorini, as well as other creative people around the world… who are daring to dream.
thank you for taking the time to read & for your willingness to help !