On the Road in Greece: Penelope Exhibition & Workshop, Halki Naxos

By Catherine Tsounis

 

Naxos Tours passed through Halki. I came across a Folk Arts store called “Penelope” Exhibition & Workshop. I asked our guide, Evy, to wait for me while I shopped. I was dazzled by the folk art and loom created by Penelope. I saw looms at the Folk-Art Museum of Nafplion. The different types of Greek looms that coexisted were eventually replaced by the more advanced Cretan loom established in 1596. Penelope, whose store is named after her, had the latest, island loom. My family from Chios and Tseme, Asia Minor created rugs on looms that we have 100 years later.

On that summer day, Penelope entered her store upon conclusion of a church memorial service. “We just had a service in commemoration of my late brother,” she said. She described her merchandise that included: scarfs, towels, table runners and cloths, seat covers, rugs, colorful plates and plagues. They created a necklace with beads on the spot.

Penelope demonstrated the loom. She calls her loom “Penelope’s Argalio”.

“Weaving is a complicated, difficult art,” she explained. “It is disappearing., like all the jobs based on tradition. Weaving has a long tradition in my family. I learned to weave from two wonderful women, My Mother and Grandmother. The first step in the process of weaving is to fill up the instrument with a new reel. Here you can see the skeleton of the fabric which consists of one thousand and sixty-six threads, six hundred meters long. The second step is to pass the vertical threads one by one through these little loops and into this comb. Once I fix everything, I am ready to start weaving.” A display of natural sea salt with essential oils were displayed.

The internet says sea salt is beneficial.” Place underneath the pillow for a night of deep and relaxing sleep,” she said. “Use in a warm bath to cleanse and refresh your body. Use in wardrobes to keep insects out and give your clothes a fresh scent.  It can be used with car freshener.”

Four generations of her family work the old Naxos handicraft way. I bought placemats and a tablecloth in the traditional red and blue colors of Naxos.

“The loom is a wooden machine used in Greece since Homer’s era for weaving several fabrics. Penelope used to weave during the day and unpick the loom at night to deceive the suitors until Odysseus return home. On the loom, our ancestors used to weave their traditional set of clothes, the wedding dresses and the house’s clothes (sheets, curtains, tablecloths, carpets etc.). Me, Penelope Hamilothori, I use the loom too to make all those exhibits, which you can admire only at close range!  I was the last person on the bus, mesmerized by all the handicrafts he/she sees in museums. Special appreciation to Maria of Kapogiannis Tours, Tripoli and Evy Psarra, guide, who made this excursion possible.