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Who is behind the colourful stalls near Thuseio

29 November 2010 / 10:11:50  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The paved alley between the electric train station and the entrance of the Acropolis is filled with stalls during the weekends. Greeks, Frenchmen, Bulgarians, a Swiss woman, Serb ... These are some of the nationalities of the people that stretch tables and sell their works every weekend. Jewelry of different metals, beads and leather, paintings, clocks, ceramic items, souvenirs and even "Uncle Grass." Passers-by are offered wide choice. But are they buying, though?

Batta is from Belgrade, but he has been living in Greece for 14 years. He has worked as a photographer, but his main job is making articles of pottery and porcelain. In recent years, however, he has been making jewelry, selling them on the streets and living on this work. He goes to Thuseio in the weekend afternoons and stays there until shortly after midnight. He doesn’t go during the day because there are many stalls in the weekends, particularly in the last two years. "There were no more than 15 stalls four years ago and we were all artists and craftsmen," he says. "Then, the stalls on Monastiraki Square were banned and they moved here. The municipality allows the artists to work and sell their works here. Not all of the people are selling their own works, but I can not blame anyone. All are here for some reason and there is room for everyone," says Batta.

He says that there is no much work as the last year and the situation got even more difficult since May. "I still sell something. But there are people that do not sell anything all day. Sometimes I wonder why they are here." Batta spends the summers on the Greek islands like most of the artists as there are many tourists there. But even there he doesn’t earn enough money to spend the winter like before.

He goes every day to the Thuseio area. He sits and works from noon until midnight. "I am optimistic and always expect things will get better. I work here, because the time at home is not enough and I think it is important the people to see how I make the jewelry I sell. I am glad and happy that I make things that people choose to wear. I do not earn much money, just enough for the rent and the costs. Sometimes they are not enough even for this and I pay late. This means that something has changed."

Batta makes pottery and porcelain works but he has stopped to do this recently. As he says "people stopped buying jewelry for 12-15 euros, would they buy a porcelain lamp for 40 euros? Once things were quite different but now life is hard for us all." He believes this is the reason for the increased number of stalls. "Many people have lost their jobs and can not find a new one. Perhaps this is the only chance to earn some money to live somehow."

Desislav from Sofia proved his words. He has been making jewelry, key rings and ornaments of stones for two months and is selling them at his stall a little further down. He came to Greece 16 years ago and has always worked in construction. The crisis deeply affected the construction sector the last year and it is difficult for Desislav to find work. Therefore he is forced to sell his works during the weekend to the not many customers who decide to buy something.

Beside him is the stall of Raina. She graduated at a school of arts and crafts in Bulgaria and she has been working in art studios in Monastiraki and Plaka – neighbourhood located at the foot of the Acropolis – almost since her arrival in Greece in 1994. There she makes wood-carving, frames for icons and iconostasis and decorates other objects. She proudly shows a picture of an icon framework she made that is now in the church of St. Demetrius in Athens neighborhood Panormu. She has participated in many exhibitions and some of her works are in private collections in several western European countries and Russia. However, there were no orders in the studio in Monastiraki for a year and Raina is forced to survive by selling jewelry in Thuseio. "I sell icons and wooden crosses, but people buy rarely," she says.

Brigitta, which sells jewelry made of bronze, is Swiss. She came to Greece 20 years ago because she fell in love with a Cretan. She has been living in Athens for a year and she is impressed by the melancholy that has taken hold of people in the capital. "I was living and working in Crete until last year. I was making silver jewelry, the work was going well and I was earning good money. But now the crisis has changed the things and I really do not know what is awaiting us." According to her, the economic crisis affects the residents of big cities more. "People in smaller towns and villages have gardens and produce some products, but things in Athens are really serious." However, Brigitta does not intend to return to her homeland despite the difficulties and uncertainty about the future as indeed none of the others I spoke with. At least for now.

Tags: Street artistsStallsThuseioEconomic crisisNews
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