AIR Interview: Iris Plaitakis
Iris Plaitakis lives and works in Athens, Greece, and has exhibited her collage and drawing work around the world. She recently relocated to New York to be a resident in our AIR Cycle 6 program, and today we’re excited to learn about her influences, travels, and transition from architecture and drawing to textiles and printmaking!
How are you translating/how do you plan to translate or apply your rich history in drawing and mixed media collage work to your textile work in the studio?
Over the years I have made countless pen and ink drawings, which in turn I have translated into very sculptural collages constructed out of paper and fabric. I consider my drawings to be patterns. My work in mixed media and installation practices has been an exploration of their three-dimensional nature in particular and an ongoing exploration of the nature of pattern more generally.
More recently I have been revisiting my drawings and exploring them in terms of their potential as print designs on fabric. I have been playing with repeat patterns, but I am finding I am also drawn to realizing them full scale on the human body which can give volume as well as ‘animate’ them through movement.
What inspires you? From where do you draw inspiration for your drawings and collages?
My drawings are automatic drawings, which means that I just put pen to paper and watch what unfolds. However, I am often asked this question, and if I had to put it down to one thing, I would say that my primary inspiration is nature. Growing up I spent my summers in the Greek countryside and a lot of time literally underwater – exploring with a mask, gathering sea urchins by the dozens; also dried wild flowers, plants and insects from the landscape which is scorched by the heat. I think it is these forms that are imprinted on my brain, and I think they certainly resonate with something primal.
I am also greatly inspired by decorative traditions the world over. These influences perhaps come out more in my mixed media constructions, wherein I have used vintage kimono fabrics, Nepalese printed papers and the inside of security envelopes, among other things. These works are designed to go into boxes and then featured in display cases as curios. I have even built the furniture. So there I would say my training as an archaeologist and my many years of working in museums come to the fore.
You live in Athens, Greece but were born in New York. How does being between cultures influence your work?
It’s even more complicated than that! I am half-Greek, half-German and, although I was raised in the US, growing up I spent a lot of time in both Greece and Germany. Eventually we moved to Greece when I was a teenager and I have called Athens home for much of my life. I also studied in the US, Italy and the UK.
I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to so many different cultural influences and craft/decorative traditions.
Being between cultures allows me to have perspective on them all. I exist within them and outside them concurrently. Sometimes that is confusing, but it enables me to approach them with a fresh eye. In my work, for example, I am currently developing some prints that are inspired by antiquity, folk art traditions and even 20th century architecture of Greece.
What modes of making are you focusing on right now in the studio and what excites you about it?
I am screen-printing my patterns onto fabric and I am practicing printing repeat patterns/yardage by hand. I am drawn to screen printing because it allows you to realize a ‘materialized’ line in relation to an existing surface with its inherent qualities of fiber, weave, color, texture, grain, how it reflects or absorbs light. It is not dissimilar to drawing on a found object, which I have also been known to do. Mostly I am excited about creating wearable products with fabrics featuring my signature designs, perhaps in juxtaposition with other fabrics, which have their own history, in a manner comparable to my mixed media constructions.
You can view more of Iris’ work on her website: http://www.irisplaitakis.com/
Photo credits: Iris Plaitakis, 2015.
And don’t forget that we are now accepting applications for the AIR7 Cycle until April 15th, 2015! You can find more information here.