Q & A: Weaver inspired by Mediterranean colors to exhibit at theater
In downtown Gloversville, you can pick up locally raised elk meat, organic vegetables and freshly roasted coffee at the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market. But that’s not all. The health-conscious, green-minded food store is also home to Micropolis, an artists’ cooperative gallery, where a dozen Fulton County artists show paintings, photographs, mixed-media art and hand-crafted furniture.
“It’s my baby, and I’m really proud of it,” says Pavlos Mayakis.
Mayakis, a Gloversville artist who dyes, weaves and paints, and Linda Hinkle, a graphic designer and mixed-media artist, are founding members of Micropolis, which occupies an attractive 29-by-10-foot space in the historic 19th century building. Artwork also hangs from brick walls in the store’s cafe, where visitors sip coffee and nibble pastries while seated on black sofas or at small tables with black wrought-iron chairs.
Mayakis grew up in Albany and spent more than 15 years working in business and advertising. He has lived in California and Vermont and traveled through Europe.
Three years ago, he bought a small house in Gloversville, the city where his great-grandparents once lived, and turned it into his home and studio. In the living room and dining room, he weaves colorful cloth on three floor looms and two table looms, paints cloth using a “shibori” process, and creates wall artworks that integrate his woven fabric, paint and encaustic.
This month, Mayakis will bring 10 of his artworks to Schenectady for an exhibit at Schenectady Civic Players in the Stockade during the run of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” He also hand-dyed two of the costumes for the witty drama about seduction in France.
Last year, as an artist-in-residence at Schenectady’s Yates Magnet School, Mayakis worked with 400 schoolchildren to create a painted fabric artwork that hangs like a curtain in the Atrium at Proctors.
Mayakis, who is 53, studied weaving and textiles at California’s Mendocino College. He studied art at Skidmore College, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2007. And in 2010, he graduated with a master’s of fine art from Goddard College.
He has had solo exhibits in Skidmore’s Case Gallery and the Northville Library. He’s been in group shows at Albany Center Gallery and in galleries in Vermont, New Jersey, California and Colorado.
Q: You are a fourth-generation Greek-American. Why did your relatives settle in Gloversville?
A: My great-grandfather claimed that he and some of his brothers — Minos, Stavros and Nikos — were leather dyers in Greece. They came to Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam to learn the American dyeing techniques. Two of the brothers stayed, and two of the brothers went back to Greece. My great-grandfather and my great-grandmother lived in Gloversville, and had a Greek diner in the 1930s. It was called Helen’s, on Main Street.
Q: After a trip to Greece, you decided to leave your advertising job and become an artist. How did that happen?
A: When I traveled to the Mediterranean, I was inspired by the blues, greens and stark whites. Several things came together to amaze me: the quality of light in that part of the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean itself, the blues and the blue-greens of the sea; the colors that the wooden boats were painted, the small fishing vessels; the round tables in the tavernas and coffee shops. In the towns on the island of Mykonos, many of the houses were painted white. The doors would always be a blue color or a blue-green color. And they weren’t all the same. And to walk down the street with all these white houses that had different blue-green doors was quite a sight. Totally beautiful.
Q: How did you get into weaving?
A: I saw a loom and it excited me. I always wondered how it got threaded and was amazed at the complexity of the threads and the patterns. I thought it was a very highly skilled labor-intensive task. I wanted to be challenged to learn that process, and eventually I was able to. When I first started, I made every mistake you could make. But that’s how you learn.
Q: Why do like weaving?
A: I’ve always been fascinated with how you can take horizontal and vertical threads and where the two threads come together, cloth develops. There’s a wonderful metaphor of taking opposites and bringing them together when cloth is being woven. What started out as a tangled mess of fiber, you develop into cloth.
Q: And color is important to you?
A: I feel the color, and I sense the color and it comes out of me. Other weavers are very precise. They need to control the whole process from beginning to the end. There’s two types of weavers. Color-texture and form-structure. I am much more color-texture.
Q: What is “shibori”?
A: Shibori is a Japanese word, which loosely translated, means “compressed cloth.” On a very basic level, many people might suggest that tie-dye is a form of shibori because when you tie-dye something, it preserves the memory of the knots. Traditionally, shibori was done by taking a piece of cloth and wrapping it around a cylinder with thread and bunching it up. Anyone can take a piece of cloth and a needle and thread and put running stitches through the cloth with very strong thread. And when the cloth is covered with running stitches, you pull the thread tight and compress the cloth. Once the cloth is gathered, traditionally dyes are applied to it, and because the cloth is gathered so tightly, the dye or textile paint only penetrates so far. Then, the running stitches are carefully cut off and the cloth is pulled out to reveal the pattern. There’s an element of surprise.
Q: How was the woven artwork at Proctors created?
A: It was something that the children made while I was an artist-in-residence. Every child participated in the weaving. The exhibit is called “Swatches of Gratitude.” The children expressed their gratitude to Proctors for everything they have done for the community and for Yates Magnet School.
Q: Did the children enjoy learning to weave?
A: They performed beautifully. Many of the special ed children did very well. When I wasn’t demonstrating weaving, the children could sign up for weaving time, and many of the children were very excited to weave.
Q: What’s the mission of the artists who run Micropolis?
A: We like to show people that come up to the lakes in Fulton County that we have some talented artists in Fulton County, and we’re proud of that. We believe that we can draw more people to events that benefit all of us.
Q: What do you like about living in Gloversville?
A: I like the sense of community. I like being able to go to a store and run into people that I know. I like being able to drive and park and not have traffic. I like the small-town feeling. People are quick to comment on the negative aspects of former factory or mill towns that have seen better days, but I view living in Gloversville as an opportunity to not necessarily gentrify Gloversville because it may be ripe for gentrification, but to infuse it with our collective flavor in a way that works for the entire community.