Weaving a Petrography

The textile is a woven archive, which visualizes the geological elements of the marble that was mined from the quarry of Saint Eleftherios on the Outer side of Tinos.

Specifically, the numerical data of the chemical analysis of the rock as recorded by the Hellenic Authority for Geological and Mining Research (E.A.G.M.E.) create the fabric pattern, while the color palette is defined by the petrography of the rock. At the same time, its decoration derives from a filet lace design, of the traditional Tinian needlework technique.

Geological heritage is the set of forms and processes that make up the geological history of any region. Different geological events, conditions and processes are reflected in mineral rock structures. Geosites tell a snapshot of the long history of the land in that particular area. For this specific project, I regard Agios Eleftherios quarry as an autonomous geosite, an “observer” of the successive events of the area. 

Marble mining is a laborious task that occupied the male population of the island. To fill the gap left by the men employed in the quarry, women took up the strenuous agricultural activities. A traditional filet lace design is transcribed into a different technique that of weaving, while at the same time the narrative of cultural heritage is inscribed in that of geological heritage. The work examines a different gendered division of labor defined by the presence of marble in the area.

The work was woven at Zarifeios weaving  School of Tinos.

Butterflies of the Beautiful

From 17th to 23rd April 2023 artist Maria Varela will be in residence as part of the Temporary Home program for BASE Milano Design Week, with an installation that responds to the themes expressed by the acronym of I.D.E.A. – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.

Maria Varela creates butterflies following the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Artist of the Beautiful” (1844). Hawthorne’s story depicts the Artist’s battle against the Practical, bringing forward the nature of Art and its creation. Milan Design Week becomes the perfect time to revisit through a current perspective the battle of aesthetics and functionalism. Hawthorne ambiguously plays with the concept of the Cult of Domesticity in the story, a term used to describe new ideas of femininity. Although all women were supposed to emulate this ideal of femininity, black, working class, and immigrant women were at the time (19th century) excluded from the definition.


Moreover, it’s considered the first story to contain a robotic insect. Discussing the combination of Art and Technology in different time periods, the work juxtaposes the fantasy of a mechanical butterfly in the past and a machine-learning model to generate a butterfly today.

Maria Varela creates AI-generated butterfly wings and their color composition becomes the visualization of the gender equality data reports by UN Women. During the days of the residency and the exhibition, an improvised loom will be set up and the artist will weave on the spot, demonstrating in real time the methodology of making butterfly wings.

The allegory of the continuous struggle to create a perfect butterfly (the Beautiful) becomes the continuous battle for gender equality in its full potential.

The project is realized in collaboration with Stathis Mitropoulos and The Sustainable Sequin Company.
Commissioned by Onassis Stegi and the British Council as part of the program Circular Cultures.


Filigree, an ornamental technique utilizing wire, is a typical example of Ioannina’s popular silversmithing and craftsmanship tradition. The jewelry that fastened and connected parts of the traditional costume were part of the garment until the early 19th century. Accordingly, the ‘pirpiri,’ a valuable sleeveless overcoat worn in the past by women in Ioannina, presents a typical example of the so-called ‘terzidic’ embroidery. The Epirotic expression “one pirpiri, three generations” describes the passing of this garment from mother to daughter, and therefore the connection between different generations. Varela’s installation examines the relation between Ioannina’s wire silversmithing tradition, and that of pirpiri’s ornamental embroidery, and focuses on their common feature – the design’s single line (stroke) – but also on their interdependence, which led to their progressive and parallel obsolescence. The title of the work derives from the Italian word /ˈfilo/ (the etymological root of the word filigree), which refers to the decorative material – i.e., thread or wire. The design depicted results from training a machine-learning algorithm and combining the two techniques, and explores whether the technology can become part of and support the continuation of a traditional technique and art.

The work is commissioned by Onassis Stegi for the “Plásmata ΙΙ: Ioannina” exhibition.

Photos by Pinelopi Gerasimou for Onassis Stegi


kórfos: chest as a place to embrace someone

From the 17th century the great silk production centers of Europe created the international division of labor and specialization of the internationalized silk economy. Silkworm farming and cocoon reeling into thread was an economic activity of the Greek countryside with the town of Soufli being the leading.

Farming and realing was the exclusive occupation of women. The relationship between the woman and the silkworm was symbiotically linked. Before the use of the incubator, egg hatching took place in women’s bosom, at the natural temperature of the human body. 

The artist revives this older incubation method as a video performance. She hatches the silkworm eggs on her body, in the form of a pseudo-scientific experiment. The symbiotic relationship of women and silkworms narrates the gendered social organization of production and the resulting material culture as a herstory.


Angeliki Giannakidou – Founder and President of the Ethnological Museum of Thrace
Matoula Demertzi – resident of Soufli
Pagona Manavi – contemporary sericulturer of Soufli
Pepi Mourica – silk worker of the Tzivre factory
Matina Lekka – member of the Chryssallida club
Kula Tsiaduka – silk worker of the Tzivre factory

woman resting

The representation of a female figure as it was found on a traditional textile, is recorded to the pattern of cross stitch. While motifs were traditionally transmitted visually from generation to generation, in the early 20th century women began recording patterns in a binary code on the  grid, so that they could exchange them with each other. The practice of this recording has been a code of communication and dialogue between women craftsmen for decades.
The woman figure is isolated and lying down on a human scale, as a signal to be communicated.

In Vivo | In Vitro | In Silico

In Vivo | In Vitro | In Silico refers to the emerging role of machine learning in in vitro fertilization. It focuses on the use of synthetic data sets – that is data manufactured rather than collected from the real world– for the classification and selection of human oocytes. Machine vision assists in evaluating the texture of the cell structures based on the grayscale of lab images. The artist juxtaposes images of algorithmically created oocytes with depictions of real ones. At the textile, she represents the classification of her own oocytes and visualises their texture, as this is being perceived by the machine. The video shows the learning process of a neural network. Images of real oocytes are confused with images of the moon, implying the ways that the female body and the female identity are affected by deep learning algorithms.

Scientific supervision: Anna Agapaki
Lab Photography: Vana Gota


photos: Mariana Bisti

female ritual dance

The phenomenon of gender-based violence is revealed through a series of femicides, which occur in Greece during 2021. In the first months of 2021 and under home restriction, the social response to the phenomenon was necessarily expressed online and recorded via the hashtag #γυναικοκτονία (#femicide.) This hashtag evolves into a phenomenon itself which is prolonged and escalated, accompanying the phenomenon of crimes.

The work concerns the numeric visualisation of the online posts that used #γυναικοκτονία, as the recording of a collective mourning. Having collected 18 different women’s forms from traditional fabrics, the figures are arranged in a row creating the traditional dance motif. The dance in the traditional fabrics is presented with a sequence of female and male figures in turn. On the contrary, this dance is formed only by women.

The embroidered figures correspond only to the first 100 posts that used #γυναικοκτονία (#femicide), while the rest are presented on the screen. The dance is presented in motion as the phenomenon is in progress.

The project discusses whether mourning can be displayed online and if a hashtag can replace a ritual gesture. Moreover it brings to surface the possibility of metadata classification externalising the collective expression.

photos Thanassis Gatos

Union Stewardettes

At the beginning of the 20th century, a period of industrial uprising appears, while at the same time the labor movement in Greece begins to take shape. Collective subjects appear such as the Association of Raisin Workers of Aigio named “Mutual Aid”, in order to protect the financial and professional interests of female workers.

The project Union Stewardettes was created from the Association’s archives such as the members registration IDs,  the meetings records, the letters of correspondence with the Ministry of Labor, the payroll statements, and even women’s fingerprints instead of their signatures.

“Mutual Aid” is becoming visible as a network of working women. The cases that were archived are presumptions of a social necessity whose recording creates patterns. The project re-examines the patterns and their entanglements, using the practice of paperweaving. Weaving was associated with women’s chastity and housework safety, as opposed to the harshness and dangers of the “outside” world of work.

The artwork opens out the stories of women who have been members of the union, while unfolding a narrative of gender consciousness.

Exhibition virtual tour: https://primarolia.com/virtual_exhibition_2021.html

photoς: Christos Spanos // Primarolia © 2021

All The Birds

All the Birds – Poulioi Di Multu is the collaboration of the artist Maria Varela with the women’s community Di Moulieri (from women in the Vlach dialect) in the creation of a hand weaved cape. The women chose their favorite patterns from their woven dowries. The patterns are called “birds” in Metsovo. Combining all the traditional birds, a new unique design was formed, which narrates the stories of all the women who participated in its creation. This new design was woven in a cape inspired by men’s traditional clothing. The women wear the traditional men’s cape decorated with designs woven by their mothers for them and are photographed in Metsovo.

The community Di Mullieri (From Women in the Vlach dialect) is a group of women living in Metsovo and nearby villages. The connecting element of the group is their love for the traditional weaving of Metsovo. Through creative activities they encourage knowledge exchange, the younger practical exercise their craft next to the older preserving the traditional craft and technique. The aim is to highlight the aesthetic and technical value of the weaves of Metsovo while at the same time the intangible culture of Metsovo and the Vlach heritage are promoted.
In the creation of the artwork All the Birds – Poulioi Di Multou participated: Vasiliki Theodoraki, Evdokia Bisa, Aphrodite Katsora, Chrysoula Stavraki, Eugenia Tzalonikou, Marilena Tzalonikou, Charoula Tzalonikou, Yolanda Tsarouchi, Maria Vadevouli, Doukitsa Zarkadi.

Sound Docuentary on the creation of the project by Evita Theochari for dimotikoradiofono

Special thanks to the Municipality of Metsovo for their support and the provision of a work space.