Being slightly different gets you noticed! Guests and visitors to Londa Hotel often comment on the intricate lace design and lustrous silver filigree that greets them when they check into their rooms. Leisure, pleasure, history and culture are purposefully woven into the boutique hotel experience. Especially here at Londa where a mix of contemporary designer chic and traditional craft materials capture the eye at first glance, and leave guests curious to find out more.
Now is the perfect opportunity – the 38th Lefkara Summer Festival is underway! Hotel guests keen to discover all about traditional Cyprus lacemaking and silversmithing can enjoy a unique showcase of the two crafts being staged at Lefkara, between 11th and 19th August. The hillside town is located on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, 35 minutes drive from Larnaca and 45 minutes from Limassol.
Intricate skills passed from mother to daughter
For over eight centuries Lefkara has been the home to the renowned fine lace, Cypriot embroidery. According to local tradition, the history of the embroidery began in the years 1191 to 1571 when the wives of Venetian noblemen visiting the area taught Lefkara female lace-makers new techniques. The fusion of Cypriot and Venetian styles led to a new form of lace known as “Lefkaritiko”, which went on to be sold throughout Europe to wealthy buyers.
The first embroideries were created on locally made thick cotton fabric called “Asproploumia”. Later an imported thin cotton fabric called “Kampri” or “Hases” was used, as well as a cotton thread called “Bakaris”. Around 1913 the local Lefkritiko design was embroidered on silk using silk thread. Over the centuries, the intricate skills passed from mother to daughter, and became the distinctive hallmark of the region. In 2009 Lefkaritiko lace was officially recognised by being included on the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage List.
Themes inspired by nature and the environment
Lefkaritiko comes in many forms, including tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases and other bedroom linens. A single thread is always used, and both sides of the cloth look identical. The designs create light and shadow and other notable characteristics are the hemstitch, satin stitch fillings, needlepoint edgings, white, neutral and pale brown colours, and intricate geometric patterns.
All the decorative, geometrical themes are inspired by nature and the environment, together with more recently added elements. Characteristic images include: “Athasi” (almond), “Mi Me Lismonei” (forget-me-not) and “Arachnotos” (spider web), while typical patterns are “Arvalotos” (lattice), “Klonotos” (branched), “Ammatotosς” (eye-shaped) “Aplos” (simple), “Diplos” (double) and “Karouli” (bobbin).
Leonardo da Vinci visited Cyprus in 1481
Among the most distinctive of design motifs are the “Mila” (apples) and the “Finikoto” (palm tree) styles. Probably the most popular design is the “Potamos” or ‘river’ design, which is one of the most expensive and with a famous link to the past. Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance painter of the Mona Lisa, visited Cyprus in 1481 and bought a potamos embroidery altar cloth for the Cathedral in Milan.
When visiting the Lefkara festival visitors will be sure to also see groups of village women sitting in the narrow village streets to work on their fine embroidery. However, the village is also known for its skilled silversmiths who can also be seen producing their fine filigree work.
Silver adornments in Cyprus can be dated back to 1500-1200 B.C
Filigree refers to delicate jewellery metalwork – usually of gold and silver. Tiny beads or twisted threads, or a combination of both, are soldered together to the surface of an object of the same metal and arranged in a striking design. Used in jewellery since 3,000 BC, silver adornments in Cyprus can be dated back to 1500-1200 B.C in the making of pins and clasps, found in local excavations. While filigree has been found at the Phoenician sites of Cyprus and Sardinia, it is the Greek and Etruscan filigree of the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC, which are considered the highest examples of the filigree makers art.
The jewellery spread across the Balearic Islands and the Mediterranean, where it is still made in Italy, Portugal, the Ionian Islands and many other parts of Greece. The technique of ‘granulation’ where tiny beads of gold were soldered to form patterns on a metal surface was first thought to be practiced by the ancient Sumerians and later employed by Mesopotamian craftsmen. This type of filigree decoration also occurs in Cyprus during the same period.
Silversmiths continue to work silver at a traditional forge
It is thought that the silversmith’s craft first appeared in Lefkara at the beginning of the 18th century. Today, the remaining silversmiths at Lefkara continue to work silver at a traditional forge to produce ceremonial items, such as the “censer”, the holy-water sprinkler but may also incorporate more modern designs and techniques.
Lefkara Summer Festival is free admission, and offers a full programme of music and dance, theatre and art, plus tours, book presentations, a Children’s Day (Thu 16th) and a Street Food Festival (Sun 19th).