Ocean breezes and breathtaking sunsets have a way of inspiring the artistically inclined, and jewelry designer Ileana Makri is no exception. “I have always been moved by nature,” she says. “Sometimes, when I walk down to the sea in the evening and stare out, it is so beautiful that I cry.”
Then again, almost any view on Makri’s favorite island of Patmos is powerful enough to evoke a lump in the throat. Colorful laundry hangs from whitewashed buildings that climb the hillside; a medieval monastery sits in the center of town; narrow alleys open onto flower-filled courtyards. Though she lives much of the year in Athens, Makri comes here when she needs an escape from city life. “My house is beautiful and not too big—I didn’t want to spend all my time cleaning!” she laughs. “What I have is perfect.”
Island life, after all, means time is spent mostly outdoors. Makri enjoys finding a shady spot to sit and read, breathing in the salty ocean air and hearing the sounds that can only be found in the absence of big city noise. “It is a mistake to think it is silent when you are in nature,” she maintains. “Everything has a sound—trees, wind, water. You are filled with its essence, even if it is not making noise in the traditional way.”
Inside her home, white candles of all shapes, sizes, and configurations cast a warm glow at night. “My house is filled with them,” she shares. “I am fascinated by the dripping pattern wax makes as it dries.” It was these candles that inspired Makri’s forthcoming collection, a series of pendants and rings that feature a large pearl inset in bejeweled prongs that are shaped like dripping wax.
The sea is perhaps Makri’s biggest inspiration. Afternoons in Patmos are spent on the water in one of the island’s kaiki boats, traditional Greek sailing vessels. The wooden hull features a wide, flat design to accommodate the prevailing meltemi winds that blow through the Aegean from the north each summer. “Boats here are all handmade,” says Makri. “They start as one thing, then they are altered for a new owner’s needs, and then added to again and again for every new purpose. Each one tells its own story.”
Makri’s designs also tell their own story. First appearing in Barneys in 1999, the jewelry is delicate and minimalist, often alluding to symbols universally understood, like the peace sign and evil eye. Though her pieces have become more abstract over the years, the eye still appears prominently throughout her collections and is one of her most popular styles. Snakes are another common motif in Makri’s work, an animal she once feared but now holds great reverence for.
If she’s not on the water, Makri is likely in it: She takes her daily swim from 5 to 8 pm every evening. Mornings are filled with reading, working, and walking to the local farmer’s stand, where friends sell whatever is ripe in their garden that day. “Life here is simple,” she says. “I prefer to keep it that way.”