On the other side of the world, there’s another Australian living an island life. In search of creative inspiration, photographer Claire Lloyd relocated to the Greek island of Lesvos and hasn’t looked back. Late last year she published her new book My Greek Island Home – a beautiful collection of photography and words that takes us inside her idyllic village life on Lesvos. If ever you needed encouragement to run away to an island in the Mediterranean, this book is it. Claire’s images capture the very essence of island life – the slower pace, the natural beauty, the magical energy. I’ve never been to Greece, but after reading Claire’s book, I get the impression that a holiday isn’t going to be long enough.
I’m half Greek (my family are from a tiny island called Ithaca) and always keen to find out more about the island life of my homeland. So I caught up with Claire while she was back home for Christmas and got the low down on what life is like on Lesvos. If you like what you see (it would make a great Mother’s Day pressie), order yourself a copy of My Greek Island Home on Amazon.
Photos by Claire Lloyd.
TIL: How did you end up living on the island of Lesvos?
Claire: I was living in London and I felt a little jaded. I didn’t feel grounded and I had a sense that I was not connecting with my creativity. I went to see my homeopath, Vicki. Vicki had been my homeopath for about 10 years so she knew me very well. I walked into her room and said I feel ungrounded and disconnected and she held up her mobile phone. It stopped me in my tracks. The image on the screen was of an old stone house in the middle of a field, beside it was a walnut tree and above it piercing blue skies. She said in her quiet way “ I have just bought a house on Lesvos, it’s a beautiful place, you should go and take a look, perhaps it’s your remedy. ” I was overwhelmed not only by the image but by Vicki’s openness and the generosity she showed in giving me something so personal. I ran with it, within a week I was there on the beautiful island of Lesvos with a friend. As soon as my feet touched the ground I felt a connection and for one beautiful week I travelled around the island under the warm spring sunshine looking for a small place where I could reconnect with myself and with my creativity.
TIL: How did ‘My Greek Island Home’ come about – did you always intend on documenting life on Lesvos in a book?
Claire: For years I had been an Art Director and Creative Director and was always working on projects for other people. I had worked all over the world and with some of the best photographers. I took the occasional photograph but really spent my time setting up photographs and choosing the right photographer to execute my vision.
I was inspired by Matthew, my partner who is an artist. Matthew bought me a cannon digital camera and said it was time I started taking my own photographs. It was a real gift, more than I realised at the time. I work very quickly and spontaneously so digital is perfect. When something moves me I know immediately how I want it to look and feel. With my new camera I started documenting our village life and it became very clear there was something emerging that was really special.
I bought myself a little book and began printing out images and placing them side-by-side, my art direction background. I had had my first book ‘Sensual Living’ published by Conran Octopus in 1998 and I had been asked many, many times when I would be producing another book. A good friend introduced me to Julie Gibbs at Penguin Lantern; Julie said she was interested in publishing me. At our first meeting I wasn’t sure what it would be but as I was leaving she said to me “do something that you love” and that was enough, it had to be my Greek island home. At our next meeting I showed her my little pink leather book, which I’d filled with photographs and tied with pink fabric tape. She just loved it.
TIL: A few of the photographs in the book are of your home on the island. How have your surrounds influenced its design?
Claire: All my homes have reflected their surroundings whether it be cities like London or Sydney or an island like Lesvos. Our house is a small village house in a rural area. My main aim was to keep it true to itself. I paired it right back and used the space as economically as possible. The house has been kept very rustic unlike any city home we have ever had. It is more cluttered than any others too as Matthew continues to create, it’s not just painting now he makes a lot of things and as he is a tip rat finds treasures and he can’t resist bringing them home. In our house everything is painted my favourite colour, white.
TIL: What’s your favourite room in the house and why?
Claire: Last spring we made a new room off our bedroom upstairs. The room is only small but it has the most fantastic meditative energy. The ceiling is pitched and all the beams are whitewashed and exposed. There is a large window at the end and from that you can see into the garden. Down the left side there are two sets of double glass doors, which open out onto a small roof terrace. From there you can see over the whole village and out to the sea. Even on a cloudy day the room is lovely and light and on a sunny day it’s just perfect, it’s the most peaceful room in the house. I love it.
TIL: Have you furnished your home using locally made furniture and textiles?
Claire: When we got the house it was full of old furniture and textiles and we kept the best of them but Matthew has made most of the furniture. He really has come into his own on the woodworking front. He made our bed, our dinning room table and pretty much all of the cupboards. He also finds bits and pieces on the tip, which he restores; it’s brilliant.
TIL: Aqua and turquoise colours feature predominantly throughout your home – is this a reference to the clear Aegean waters that surround the island?
Claire: I was influenced by aqua, a colour that was used in the original house. I thought it would be good to reflect it somewhere and the doors and shutters seemed the obvious choice. I love white so all the rest of the house, walls, floors and ceilings are all bright white a mixture of gloss and matt paint. Aqua is a very pleasing accent.
TIL: What are the beaches like on Lesvos?
Claire: Not like Australian ones, that’s for sure. It’s the Aegean Sea, so there are no sharks for a start. The water is generally calm and flat and always looks incredibly inviting. Lesvos is a volcanic island so most of the beaches are pebbly. There are a few sand beaches and the sand is coarse. The island is large, it’s the third largest and there are some really beautiful spots so it’s worth exploring and going off the main routes.
TIL: What’s your favourite beach on Lesvos?
Claire: I have a couple of favourite beaches; one is Efthalou, which is north of Molyvos. From Efthalou you can see Turkey. The water is so beautifully clear. It’s a pebbly beach so you need rubber-soled shoes for getting in and out of the water. It also has a hot spring, one of many on the island.
TIL: Are there any other islands in Greece where you have felt a connection other than Lesvos?
Claire: I love Greece and when I was 23 I traveled around quite of the few of the islands, I have since visited others. I think I could have had lots of connections but Lesvos stood out at a time when I was open enough to embrace it.
TIL: What would you typically wear in Lesvos on a hot summers day?
Claire: Linen or soft cotton dresses with flip-flops or plimsoles and a light tan.
TIL: Winter on the islands can be very cold and dark. Where do you follow the summer to in the colder months?
Claire: Always Australia.
TIL: You’re originally from Australia. What do you miss most about your home country?
Claire: I miss my family, my Australian friends, the beaches, Sydney Harbour and the diversity of the antipodean landscape.
TIL: What’s your favourite summer drink?
Claire: Can I have three please; freshly squeezed lemon in cold water, Campari and soda with lots of ice, and a very cold glass of local white wine.