We have long been predicting that museum stores will become next fashion destinations for trendsetters all over the globe. Every time we get a chance to discover a new artistic display at a museum it becomes a real challenge to leave the place empty-handed. In particular Museeum's love spreads over the fantastic selection of locally designed and inspired jewelry available in many museum stores. Our recent find is a Greek jewelry brand Katerina Makriyianni whose traditionally inspired pieces with a contemporary twist have won the hearts of fashion industry and even the online shopping mecca Net-a-Porter. We however have first encountered her designs at the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens which houses a notable collection of Cycladic art. Katerina, the founder and designer of the brand, passionately shared with us her thoughts on art, inspiration and heritage.

Katerina Makriyianni
Katerina Makriyianni

You come from a family with long traditions of jewelry making. Do you feel the influence of the Ancient Greek Art on your family’s and on your own practice?

My family and I are lovers of art in general. We grew up under the influence of ancient Greek art in our everyday life. It’s part of our tradition so I believe that our designs are always directly affected by Greek art.

How drawn were you to the arts and art spaces as a child? Can you think of artworks or museums that have served as an inspiration to you?

My parents believed that it is necessary for a child to be introduced to the art worlds. They used to take us to galleries, museums, art exhibitions, archeological and art sites in Greece and abroad. I still remember my first visit to the Goulandri museum in Athens, my first feelings of amazement when I visited Acropolis for the first time...and of course my acquaintance with the world of modern art at Tate Modern....and a lot more. I think I cannot decide which one affected my designs the most. As for the artworks, the first that comes to mind is The Winged Nike of Samothrace in Louvre. I just loved her grace and elegance, the amazing details on the marble. When you look at her you think she is ready to fly, an amazing feeling!! The same happened with “The birth of Venus” in Gallery Uffizi. I remember standing in front of the painting for an hour, just starring the amazing details which came out from such small lines and the combinations of color! Also, Gaudi’s buildings and especially Casa Batlo’ are pieces of art that I admire for the original use of colors, light and unusual shapes.

You have an academic background in theatre studies, which is probably a reason why your pieces are so expressive and capturing. I couldn’t help thinking of Leon Bakst and Erte looking at your jewelry. Tell us a bit more about your creative influence.

Thank you so much and yes, you are right! I love the art nouveau style, a lot of my designs were and will be inspired by that style. I love interlinked motifs, long curves, metalwork and natural elements that are interpreted in minimalistic and austere or more romantic designs, inspired by nature while not exactly replicating it. Besides these, my influence derives from everything that surrounds me. My career began designing jewelry for the customers of our family shop. Every day I used to design different jewelry for people of different styles. That experience taught me to be open to various styles of designs and to observe everything I see. Additionally most of my designs come out when I am working at my workbench because it’s a rule for me, ideas and technical difficulties give birth to more new ideas!

Can you recall your first visit to the Museum of Cycladic Art? What were your impressions?

Of course I can! It was during my first visit in Athens, in my primary school years. The first things that had sealed my childhood memory were the famous Cycladic idols because of their perfection and impressive modern lines. I couldn’t understand how such an amazingly modern art piece was made in such early years and with such basic tools. Also, I recall the fourth floor as a magical place that takes you back to ancient Greek times. I thought that the video wall that was narrating the most important traditions and everyday ancient route showing at the same time the findings of the tools and objects they used was breathtaking. Generally my first visit at such a modern museum which highlights perfectly the masterpieces of the ancient world was an amazing experience.

How was the idea of the collaboration with Museum of Cycladic Art shop born?

The collaboration was Tina's Daskalantonakis, one of the curators of the Cycladic art shop and Maria’s Kastanis, my agent, idea. Tina had seen my hand fan earrings made of wool from old kilims and she and Maria thought that they would fit perfectly in the museum shop. Additionally, Maria and I decided that it would be a great idea to design jewelry especially for the museum, so the pebble collection became reality. I think that it is a collection that fits perfectly with the minimal style and the simplicity of the Cycladic art. I am grateful about this collaboration that inspired me with such designs.

How do you feel about your jewelry being represented in museum shops in comparison to fashion boutiques?

It is so different! I am so glad and appreciative about the fact that I’m in boutiques amongst other great designers! That is my main goal as a jewelry designer. Also, as an art lover I am very excited that my creations are among such masterpieces of ancient Greek art and in such a great museum. It is an honor!

Is there a dream museum you would like to present your work in one day?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York! Even though I have never been in New York myself, yet, every year I am waiting for the amazing Met Gala. At that night the fashion celebrates. Amazing costumes, jewelry and accessories are presented on that red carpet. Beside this event I believe that if you are in MET you are in the heart of art. It’s a universal museum that presents the best of human creativity. I’m so happy that technology provides us easy access to a small part of the amazing world of the MET.

Are you a museum lover? Where do you usually go to get your dose of creative energy and inspiration?

I travel to Athens a lot for business and every time I visit both the Benaki museums and the Cycladic art museum because there I get exactly what you describe, creative energy and inspiration. Even if they only present their permanent exhibitions I am still visiting them.

Is there a museum shop you never leave empty-handed?

Cycladic museum, of course, has a great variety of clever objects, ornaments, jewelry, books etc. Every piece has its own signature and unique design. They are not just souvenirs but small pieces of art that worth spending money on and offer them as gifts.

If you could create a jewelry design for any artist, who would that be and what would it look like?

Since I decided becoming a jewelry designer, I’ve always dreamt of the time that one actress would wear one of my designs at the Oscar Awards. So I would definitely choose Cate Blanchett, an actress that matches the style of old Hollywood divas with an amazing talent! For Cate Blanchett I would choose an unknown, so far, design that is one of my favourites. A pair of chandelier earrings with amazing green jade stones, inspired by the art nouveau style which I believe they highlight her unique beauty and alabaster skin.