Meet Christina Ioannidou, the woman behind the masks
The Greek jewellery and artefact designer that created the masks on the cover of JUDAS’ first issue opens up about anxiety and being genuine. This is Christina Ioannidou in her own words.
Anxiety is one of my favourite words. It’s describes our generation and sometimes myself. About six years ago, when I moved to London, I was using a notebook that had a massive sticker on the cover that said anxiety in Greek. It just expressed my whole life here.
When I was 13 years old I started making jewellery using beads, putting things through threads and making some really plain necklaces. Then I started getting more materials in, things that I would find in old shops in my home town of Thessaloniki. Everything that would be on each piece would be 100% mine and it would be impossible to copy it.
When I moved to London, those materials weren’t around anymore. I lost everything that I had built until that point. So I was focusing on university, but I was constantly thinking ‘This is not what I want to do”.
My initial intention was to come here and study fashion. So I went to the interview [for university entrance] but when they saw my portfolio they asked ‘Why are you interested in fashion design?’. My family has been in the fashion business ever since I was a baby so for me it was just natural to be progressing into a retail fashion company doing my own designs. But they said ‘You are jewellery”. Until that moment jewellery was just a hobby for me. You know when people say “Make a business out of your hobby”? But I’d never thought about it. They declined my application for fashion design and for about 20 days I was really disappointed and crying all the time. And then, suddenly, I get an email saying that the reason they declined my application was because they were offering me a place in their jewellery course. Wow! That was really exciting! I fell into something that I hadn’t even realised I wanted to do.
[The course] was all about becoming a Jewellery Technician so you got to work with all those big machines! You cut wood and melted metal and knitted uniforms and masks. I loved it and it made me realize how much of an operational person I am. Part of my anxiety came from the fact that all my tutors said that I needed to sit down and design ten drawings a day when I had never done that. I’d always took the materials and the tools and made things straight away without analysing it or writing down ideas. But I decided I was going to be patient and just do what they say I should be doing. So I kept drawing and drawing and what came out was completely different from what I used to do.
The general feeling that I wasn’t were I belonged went away in my final year of university when I started putting things together and realized that I didn’t want to do necklaces or bracelets. I like looking into cultures, I like costumes, I like the whole idea of ceremonials when everyone represents something within a tribe according to what they wear. It gives them their identity and a place within society even if that society is just a tribe in Africa. They will wear a red necklace instead of a blue one and that will mean something. It was the first time I felt my anxiety settling down. It was like ‘Okay, so this is what I wanna do. This is where I belong’.
When I started researching [masks] I realised that it’s a bigger thing than we think. It was very ironic because that year (2012) was the first time that Maison Martin Margiela did those masks with the crystals. It actually felt like the fashion industry was ready for this idea to pop out. Because before that masks were kind of an S&M thing only.
I don’t buy fashion magazines. I’d rather read a book or go travelling somewhere or even go to the theatre or a gig and find artists that will inspire me. For me, it’s all about how this is psychologically translated into a jewellery piece so I was never worried about fitting in with fashion. This is what I want to do and if it fails, it fails.
I made the masks for my private collection. I have this image in my head of them being worn in marble faces inside a glass in a gallery or a museum. My dream is that one day a theatre company will ask me to make the pieces for the actors. I see the masks more as costumes, even though they’ve been in so many fashion magazines.
I’m very proud of Steven Klein’s photo shoot. He was very close to what I wanted [to express] with my pieces. It’s a bit like creatures lost in a city which is not London, it’s New York, but it’s the same anxiety, the same stressful environment. So you see the pictures and there’s people going out with heels and Prada dresses, but they’re wearing a creepy mask in their white painted faces. He actually interpreted it exactly as I wanted.
The person I’d like to unmask? Me and my father have a very strong connection. He’s been through a lot but he’s always trying to be super strong when in reality I know he’s been hurt. Sometimes I wish he would let go and just tell me he’s falling apart instead of saying it’s all good. It’s a good mask. It’s not a mask that hurts people if that makes sense. Yeah, I think that’s the most important mask in my life.