Good morning to all of you!
Needless to say, how thrilled I am to be here today representing all Board members and all Greek quilters! Please allow me to tell you a few things about our Guild.
Quilting is still not very well known in Greece. I think the reason for this is that Weaving, which was very favourite even back during the ancient times, took the place of almost everything else. Of course, there were always people dealing with quilting back in the old times, but not systematically. We even have some quilts in the Folklore Museum of Kymi, a city of a big Greek island, Evia, dating back in 18th century.
Maybe there was a lady travelling with her sailor man and saw it somewhere or was it the man that brought something from Europe and she copied it? Who knows!
And there were always the ladies that wanted to take advantage of all remains of fabrics for curtains, dresses etc and were making simple quilts out of squares. Quilting came strongly in Greece after the war of Asia Minor in 1922. Refugees from Turkey were familiar with this craft and when they came to Greece, some of them travelled throughout the country and quilted quilts.
Whole cloth quilts mainly. Ladies used to buy the fabrics and the quilters filled them with cotton or wool with their tools and quilted by hand of course. Either for dowries or every day quilts.
At the beginning of the 21st century there were just a handful of teachers and only in the capital. No notions at all, not even the quilting fabric. People had to import everything. Two other reasons: the one was the language. Everything was in English and not everyone could read it. The second reason was the metric system. I was taught in inches as every teacher use to teach then. Now I am teaching in centimetres and most of the teachers do the same.
At this point, please allow me to tell you a few things about me because my story is absolutely combined with our Guild’ story. I was taught Quilting back in 2009. Less than ten years, but it was love at first sight. I loved it so much that it became my profession the last 4 years, whereas previously I used to work at a corporate environment.
On my first trip to Birmingham, back in 2014, I entered the place of the EQA and saw all the European countries taking part to the Festival of Quilts. Of course, Greece was not there and I was deeply sad about it. My country was and still has always first class bad publicity! Quilting was a field that Greek quilters could contribute with their best.
I went back to Greece and sent an email asking how we could be part of the EQA. I was told then that a National Guild should be formed. And this proved to be the most difficult.
I am opening here a parenthesis to tell you that a few months before that, I had set up a Greek-speaking Facebook group with the help of a friend of mine and invited less than 100 people.
Then we invited them to help us make a Hellenic quilt. We asked them to send us one quilted block of 30 cm with the colours of our flag (white and blue) and yellow from the Greek sun. The techniques to use were free. 30 people sent a block and most of those people were the founding members of our Guild.
We joined the blocks that came from all-over the country and made our Hellenic quilt.
We then had our first meeting to present it on the European day of patchwork (3rd Saturday of June 2014) and people who were part of the FB group had the opportunity to meet each other. We also had young members….
Our Hellenic quilt is on a wall at our premises today as you will see on the next slides.
The kick off was done but the biggest problem proved to be Greek burocracy. It took us two years to set up the Guild completely. We now have an apartment downtown Athens, given to us in a very low rent by a member of the Board. The pictures below are from the opening day.
As you see, we still have young members.
All this time we had a continuous presence to the only Greek craft fair twice a year, where till today, we have been given space for free.
We also have a co-operation with Ilitominon, which is a Greek organization for the preemies and support them in hats, quilts and whatever they need. What you see here is from the last fair in April.
Furthermore, we asked our members to make one or more square blocks of 30 cm red – white to cover a large wall we have at our premises. You see one thing we care about is the bonding of those first members to help us move forward.
We have about 100 members more or less. Our activities are not quite numerous for the time being because, to tell you the truth, we were a little bit disappointed by all burocratic delays and we still are a poor Guild since the annual fee to join the Guild is relatively low. We thought that it would be difficult to attract members in the middle of the financial crisis in Greece, if the fee was higher. And we could not so far attract any sponsor, which we can do from now on.
After the vacations, we have a plan to multiply the lessons provided in Athens as well to start visiting other cities.
I do not know what means to be member of the EQA, except from exhibit to the Festival of Quilts, but what WE expect from you, is to take advantage of your knowledge and experience, so we spread even more our beautiful craft in Greece. We hope that you will help us to grow our Guild by giving advice on our future activities and the means we can gain more members.
Finally I would like to introduce you the rest of our Board members:
Thank you once more for having me and all Greek quilters here.