As my tour group walked down a street in Thessaloniki, a building with the word MAKE attractively emblazoned across it caught my eye and I snapped a photo. We had just finished a walking tour of the city’s vibrant markets and were en route to our next activity and I remember thinking to myself, “That looks so cool. I wish I could check that out sometime.” Imagine my delight when our guide slowed his pace and led us inside!
It turned out that MAKE Creative Spaces, a laser cutting shop and DIY maker studio, was the first stop on our walking tour exploring the emerging creative scene in Thessaloniki. These tours are an initiative of Handpeak, an organization that supports and promotes creative entrepreneurs in Thessaloniki. This was an incredibly welcome surprise. I love tapping into the creative scene, and hanging out with makers in the places I visit, so straight away I knew I was with my people and could feel the creative energy.
Our second stop was at a recording studio, one of the oldest and most respected in Greece, where we were given a tour by the owner, George. Not only did we get to tour the space and see all kinds of cool equipment, but George also regaled us with a few stories of the history of the place and some of the artists — both famous and infamous — who have come there to record music, spoken word, and other projects.
Next, we visited a photography gallery, OKTO Studio, where we got to see the work of numerous local photographers. It’s a great place to pick up a gorgeous postcard to send home from Thessaloniki, and I, for one, was really inspired to up my photographic game.
Visiting the atelier of fashion designer Eleni Chasioti was a feast for the eyes. The intense colours and patterns of the garments were just the beginning. The walls are adorned with collages that compliment the eclectic artifacts that appear here and there amidst the sewing machinery and accoutrements. Watching the pattern maker at work was fascinating and engrossing.
The next stop on our Thessaloniki walking tour catered to other senses, namely taste and smell. O Olive is a purveyor of artisanal olive oils. What’s especially interesting and unconventional about this boutique is that it collaborates with a local designer of handcrafted jewellery and accessories. Both are sold in the shop, and sometimes the products are even packaged together. This unorthodox combination is a product of a collaboration between two sisters.
At the next fashion design studio, I zeroed right in on the colourful table of jewellery in the middle of the showroom. I don’t buy many souvenirs nowadays, but one of my favourite ways to remember the places I visit is to collect pieces of handmade jewellery, which I wear on a regular basis. Designer Marina Konstantinou creates eye-catching garments with an amazing array of textures and colours, but what made me chase after her with a handful of Euros was a pair of James Bond earrings and an unusual teal lariat.
Lastly, we swung by Fixter Custom Bikes and proved that fixies are popular in Greece, too. Christos, the proprietor, showed that there is no end to the possibilities for building and customizing bicycles. I was rapt by all of the colourful accessories and fell into a reverie fantasizing about creating my ultimate day-glo purple glitter tandem.
I am more surprised than anybody that the Handpeak creative walking tour turned out to be my favourite thing out of everything that I did on this trip to Greece. I went there for the history and archaeology, and while none of that disappointed me in the slightest, I find that having met all those makers and experienced the energy of their innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurialism is what stayed with me, and what I keep raving about to everyone I talk to about my time in Greece.
Disclosure and acknowledgements: Many thanks to everyone at Handpeak who enthusiastically showed us around and all of the creatives and artisans who shared their work with us. Huge kudos to Georgios from the City of Thessaloniki Tourism Department for being our guide and guru. This trip was hosted by Visit Greece.