Elena Votsi is the internationally renown jewellery designer who, in addition to making pieces of jewellery that are coveted worldwide, is further
immortalised by her designs for the Athens 2004 Olympic medals and more recently with the medals for the Brazilian Games (2016). In fact,Elena's design
will be used for the front side of the Olympic medals for ALL future Olympic Games: She considers this is the biggest honour of her career. Not
only was she born on Hydra, but still, in spite of her wide-spread fame, she lives and works amongst us on the island and has kept the first shop she ever opened on Hydra's water front.
Elena is a warm, genuine, gentle and unassuming lady who takes an active role in the community. She helps to sponsor the annual Hydra's Trails Events, designing the medals
that are awarded to each of the athletes who take part in all the races as well as the trophies for the winners.
Hydriot's and Hydra residents alike are justifiably proud of her. Elena's achievements are used by many-a-parent on the island as an example to their children,
extolling them to apply themselves to the same excellence. She is truly an inspiration.
Elena is the most down-to-earth, honestly-humble Superstar you are ever likely to encounter. She has a charm that is hard to define and even
though she is very modest and genuinely shuns the limelight, preferring to let her dazzling pieces take centre stage, Hydriots find her awesome and love the privilege of her returning their
"Kalimera's" when passing in the street.
Because Elena travels a lot these days, it is an extra special treat if you visit her shop in Hydra when she is 'at home'. Just because the
shop is tiny, you won't feel deprived; you will find samples of all her international ranges along with Hydra specific pieces that are more affordable and exclusive to the island. Elena's pieces
are available in mayor fashion cities like Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Texas, and worldwide through major online stores. But locals or visitors can first see all the new
collections or the one-of-a-kind pieces in Elena's Hydra shop before they 'travel' to other stores abroad every autumn after the summer season.
Rather excitingly, in many ways Elena is an ambassador for Hydra because her superbly-crafted, desirable jewellery appeals to people from all kinds of backgrounds. So it is understandable that
VIP's and the 'famous' regularly call at the Hydra shop when they are on the island to preview her latest collections. The 'celebrities' who treasure her pieces
are, among others, Lady Gaga, Rosamund Pike, Katharine Zeta Jones, Lupita Nyong'o, Claire Danes, Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Osbourne, Princesses from the royal families of Monaco and Spain as well as
fashion icon designers VALENTINO and Jean-Paul Gaultier. All are huge fans of her work.
Her first ever 'Pebble' collection, started over thirty years ago and made with Hydra beach pebbles set in silver, is continued today but only for sale exclusively
on Hydra. Similarly her 'Big Ears' range of ceramics decorated with the silhouette of a donkey are also exclusive to Hydra and make wonderful, highly desirable yet affordable gifts and
For 2016, and to help promote the excellence of Greece, Elena has collaborated with the Benaki Museum (Athens) and the Museum of Cycladic Art, to create a stunning collection of reproductions of
historically significant Greek antiques. The limited edition pieces are on sale in the Elena Votsi Shop on Hydra and at both of the museums.
Elena Votsi designed trophies for the Hydra Trails Event (2015)
Necklace "Axe" Bronze piece of jewel inspired by an ancient axe (2500 – 2400 BC) Designed by Elena Votsi for the Museum of Cycladic Art
Please note that even though it is a shop, Christos and the team who manage it, are happy for visitors who just want to pop in to view Elena's work, they are always welcoming and you will never
feel obliged to buy something unless you want to. And you never know, you might even find that €16 for an Elena Votsi ceramic mug from the 'Big Ears' collection could be just the 'special' souvenir
you want to take home with you!
This article (above) has been written and presented by Kelsey Edwards for HydraDirect (Copyright 11th July, 2016) with kind permission from Elena Votsi (Photos & official biography,
Copyright Elena Votsi).
Elena Votsi’s birthplace, the small Greek island of Hydra, continues to be an unending source of inspiration for the acclaimed Greek jewelry designer. Elena’s studies, which include a degree from
the Athens School of Fine Arts and a Master’s degree in jewelry design from the Royal College of Art in London have given her the opportunity to gain considerable experience working for influential
figures in field of jewelry design, both in Greece and abroad.
Since the opening of her first store in Hydra, Elena has collaborated with significant Greek cultural institutions, such as, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Benakis
Museum, while other collaborations include high fashion brands GUCCI and Ralph Lauren. Elena’s work has been showcased also in exhibitions and projects alongside other artists, in Europe as well as
in the US. These include the Bienale in Valencia, where Elena presented her “Rattles” collection, the Business Design Centre in London which housed her “Hearts” collection and the Lacoste Project, of
the eponymous French brand, where she showcased her “Postcards” collection. Elena also had the honor to be asked to design the “Key of Hydra town”, as well as the Commemorative Gift for the European
Union Head of State Conference in Corfu.
Elena considers the highlight of her career – taking into account her Greek heritage - to be the redesign of the Olympic medals for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games held in Athens. She is also
greatly honored by the fact that her signature will remain on the front façade of the medals for all following Olympic Games, in this way incorporating her work into an important part of modern
Elena’s jewelry collections are housed in the world’s most famous fashion capitals and her contribution to the Greek art scene has also been acknowledged by the Greek president and the mayor of
Hydra. In addition, Elena has been awarded two prizes at the annual Couture Show in Las Vegas.
Elena Votsi is not your typical jewelry designer!
She is a creative artist waiting for the next big challenge. From minimal geometric styles to Olympic medallions we think that she deserves a medal too!
How did she get started and what great achievements has she already conquered…. read on to find out!!!
How did you decide to start a jewelry
I knew from early in life on what I wanted to be involved with. I had no doubt and thankfully I had the whole
heartedly support of my parents who are always by my side and who encouraged my every step. I was always fascinated by my mother’s jewelry and of her friends. Looking at them always took
me on enchanted journey to a magical world. From about the age of 12 or 13 I knew that I wanted to design jewelry. Thus with a lot of love and studying, and a lot of hard work and
valuable advice from some great teachers that I have had, I was able to make my dreams come true!
What was your very first
It was a line of eight rings made with plastic and silver that I wore separately on each finger (four on one hand and
four on the other). From a very young age I liked rings and could never just wear one. I like the combinations!
Would you like to expand your brand to include other
kinds of products besides jewelry or have you ever worked with different products?
When I designed for the House of Gucci with the guidance of Tom Ford, my work was to design not only jewelry but various
other accessories. From candlesticks, frames, baby rattles, to letter openers, egg holders and belts. I always liked to design things other than jewelry. It is just that jewelry was
always something that I could wear myself, something that I could enjoy in my everyday life and finally a beautiful way for a woman to decorate herself, making her feel happy and
Are you influenced by architecture as your jewelry has
this special element to them; they are geometrical, spacial and structured?
I’ve always liked minimal designs. Busy and chaotic styles do not match the way that I think and create. I
like simple designs, clean elements and elegant finishing touches. From the moment that I began designing, during my studies and my drawing classes at the School of Fine Arts and my Master’s
studying jewelry at the Royal College of Art, I’ve always been faithful to my vision. Bold and clean lines, timeless and strict shapes that don’t lose their femininity yet that strengthen and
highlight the woman wearing them.
You have some truly unique rings! Where do you get
your inspiration from when designing them?
I love wearing jewelry myself and they are my go to choice after earnings. There is something about decorating your
hand which moves and communicates. I feel like by wearing rings you are decorating your whole self. Inspiration it is always something I welcome in my life. It comes in unexpected moments
like when I’m sitting in a taxi looking out of the window, walking on a pebbled road in Hydra or while I’m watching the waves, or when I’m observing the shapes created when a shadow reflects on a
Does your shop on the beautiful and special island of
Hydra differ fro you Kolonaki shop? does it have more of an island feel?
The shop Kolonaki (Athens) has the same philosophy as the shop in Hydra. On Hydra it is simply a little
smaller and more humble and suited to for the needs of a town that has a enjoys simple designs and a warm friendly space. The store in Kolonaki often transforms into my office. It is a
place where we have meetings, where we see our friends who have been following us over the years, a place I go to relax, and also where we discuss new designs and new business
I prefer this space more than my home office because I can be with my colleagues and make future
Considering that the store in Hydra has a view of the ocean gives you an idea about what sort of emotions I feel when
being in that particular space. A child once wrote in my visitors book “I’m happy this store exists in Hydra because I know where I can always find my mom…” I think this says it
The Hydra shop is our small summer piece of paradise. It ’s our shelter getaway for all of our friends, famous or
non famous people looking for a break and a trip to a world filled with what we enjoy. And I genuinely thank everyone for their love and trust that they have shown to us over all of these years
giving us the strength to carry on.
Do you have a favorite piece from your entire
The truth is that I love all of my designs since I don’t make anything that I wouldn’t wear myself. There are some
pieces that I love more than others because they are harder to make or the materials are harder to find. There are especially unique, one of kind pieces, that are really hard for me to separate
from but it also makes me so happy to see a woman truly appreciating and want these pieces in their collection. The first piece that comes to mind is a choker that is made from iron and 22k
gold which weighed approximately 1.5 kgs. It was a unique piece which we put in our window in Hydra one afternoon and was sold by the time evening came. I didn’t even have a chance to
take a photograph of if for our records. I will never forget that piece or the woman who bought it!
What do you want your clients to feel when buying Elena
Votsi jewelry? What do you want your brand to convey to them?
I really like when a client comes back! Usually they tell us that they have heard great comments each time they
travel abroad and people stop them to ask them what jewelry they are wearing. I think that is the biggest reward for us. I want the women that wear our jewelry to feel special, confident,
beautiful and unique, just like I did when my parents bought me a piece of jewelry on trips.
Last summer an Italian fashion designer, that I know who I also think is the last emperor of fashion, revisited our shop
in Hydra with a yacht filled with people of all ages including children. It happened that I was there that day and they shook my hand telling me that “we stopped in Hydra before going to
Mykonos just so that we could show our children something beautiful on our trip to Greece, to meet you and for the mothers that admire your work to get something special”. Maybe this can begin
to explain to you how I feel toward my every client that enters the store, from every age group, and takes home something of ours.
Did you ever dream that you would bed a designer and
that your pieces would be available all over the world?
No I never dreamed of something like that. I always dreamed of being worthy enough to design and to do what I love
the most. I like working and devoting time to new jewelry. I like to go to the workshop to be with the workers and to design pieces that make women feel beautiful. I never had big
dreams but I always had an appetite for hard work and for creation. Even when I faced difficulties I never doubted myself and I never gave up. It wasn’t that I was dreaming of something
big but I knew I couldn’t be happy if I wasn’t designing. Whether or not the end result was a positive one is something I owe to the people who trusted me and followed me all of these
Do you have any new plans that you’d like to share or
something great that has recently happened?
Something very exciting that has come up in the past few weeks is a cooperation with NET-A-PORTER. Also at the
beginning of summer you will be able to find us in Las Vegas for our exhibition.
Of course we will also be again in Hydra this summer where one can usually find me throughout July and August spending
many hours at the store!
There is something else new on my mind for the future but it is too early to announce at this
I am believer in careful and slow steps. I never rushed myself for anything in my career and this is something
that helped me from reducing stress as well as enjoying each moment with all the time necessary for each step.
How did you feel and what does it mean to you that you
were awarded the honor of designing the Olympic medals in 2004 something that hasn’t been done since 1928?
I think that this was the greatest honor in my career. It was something that I didn’t expect to happen as it was
an international competition, and therefore I just accepted it without a doubt and without even considering the length of this project. The most magical moment was definitely when it was
announced that the first side would remain the same from thereafter in all Olympic Games! This was honestly something indescribable and a special honor that I will forever hold in my heart with
emotion and love!
How long did it take you to create the design for the Olympic medal and what were elements that you wanted to include in
The first design that came to my mind and the first draft that I actually drew on paper ended up being the final product
that I turned in to the committee. I did try to create two other designs due to the pressure of such an important project, but in the end my first design was the one I
Some basic elements were given to us by the committee which they asked us to include in our designs. However after
that point we were free to move in any direction we wanted to as designers.
The only sure thing from a personal point of view was that I wanted to use Greek letters on the back of the metals even
if they were hard to understand. I believed and I still believe that Greek letters gave us global words such as democracy and philosophy therefore needed to be present on the medals. I’m
happy that finally this was something that was appreciated and became accepted so warmly by the Olympic committee and the Committee of Immortals.
How does it make you feel knowing that the top athletes
of the world have a medal hanging in their homes that they cherish and when they look at it it is your design that they see?
I will always feel in awe whenever I watch the Olympic games knowing that the rewards that are given to the top athletes
are medals that I had the honor of designing . Of course the Olympic games in Athens gave me an even stronger feeling! But also realizing that I know that these athletes will have taken
home something that I was a part of is emotional for me as well! I think this feeling is indescribable and I feel especially proud not only as a artist but as a Greek every time one looks at
their medals thinking about the strength of the Greek society, Greek history, Greek language, and a nation that started something so big, so wonderful and so perfect!!!
ELENA WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING MORE ABOUT
YOU AND SEEING YOU EXCEL IN EVERYTHING YOU DO!