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History –Identity - Great antique PARELTHON - Mytilene - Lesvos - Greece

History –Identity

                   Welcome to “PARELTHON” the GREAT ANTIQUE SHOP OF
                                        DEMETRIOS E. DEMERTZIS


     I was born in Mytilene inside our house in Epano Skala, next to Elias’ - my father - blacksmith shop. I come from Skalochori, from the Pinellis family. We took our name, Demertzis, after the Turkish word Demir which means iron. Five generations of blacksmiths you see.
 Being the youngest of five children I experienced the hardships of the difficult times of the 1960s. A time when the neighborhood was your family and people had to leave for other countries just to make a living. When helping each other meant surviving so that we - their children - are here today.
My childhood world was built upon the muddy streets of Epano Skala and Synoikismos. There were no toys back then. We had to either imagine or invent them ourselves. Mothers would sew dolls out of tatters for their daughters. The most prosperous and handy ones would sew a beautiful dress made of odds and ends, just to make do.
Us the boys patiently waited to see what the older ones would throw away, what was broken and couldn’t be repaired and made it our toy. Useless bike tires and barrel lags were our first “wheels”. We would roll them down the streets and run behind them racing each other, banging them with a log every once in a while.
Using ball bearings I would pick from my father’s blacksmith we made roller skates to get down the scarps of Synoikismos - from the Ancient Theatre to the beach – that often resulted in a series of injuries: bloody elbows or knees and sometimes heads.    
My father’s shop was like a playground to me. It was also my first school. And my father was my first teacher. Not only teaching me how to work on iron and fire, but also how to work my way through life… “Jimmy” (Mitrel’) – he called me - and I would immediately run to his call. I loved to hear his stories and I still remember and tell them myself. “Jimmy, we live opposite a wall that we want to pass and enter the other side where people rest on their sofas. We have a gun in our hands. But when we shoot in the dark nothing happens. Only holes on the wall through which we jealously watch the others, as we can not reach them. We need to find the target and shoot all the bullets on one side. Make one big hole and pass through there. And if it’s big enough I might fit as well. I might even rest after all these years of hard work…”
My father was not an educated man. He, nevertheless, had the kind of wisdom that comes with years and life. It was that knowledge and experience he wanted to render his children, by telling them simple stories – myths – with a “main idea” and a “moral lesson” to be taught.
He would always urge us to have a goal in life, not to “waste it indifferently” as he put it. He taught me to always take a second and a third look before throwing something away. You see it was my father and people like him who technically discovered recycling, out of need. He would collect old pieces of iron, old engines. Whatever he found or was brought to him he would make it part of a new construction. And I was there, watching…
When I was twelve I went to junior high school. At night I went to a technical school, since I wanted to become an electrician. I was a smart student so they gave me a scholarship. They gave me five thousand drachmas from high school and five from the technical school. That is a total of ten thousand.
That became my initial capital with which I started out my first business. I would buy and sell the famous “Esso Papas” liquid gas bottles from the neighborhood. I got five drachmas for each bottle. With the profit I bought different things from peddlers, mainly books that I really enjoyed browsing. I staffed them all in a storage place we had at home to keep the logs.
When the first winter came my mum opened the storage place only to discover that my “precious” acquisitions had reached the top of the ceiling. Where on earth could she place the logs? She called my father and I got a good spank. Then my dad called a man and paid him to throw away everything, so that he could finally staff his logs. I hastily gathered anything I could and took it to Mrs. Vasiliki, our neighbor, who also kicked me out after I had taken up all her available space. From then on I went to a place of my own; I rented a room near the Valide mosque to everybody’s satisfaction. I was fourteen years old then. And this is how it all started…

                                                  Demetrios DEMERTZIS

                                                  Anniversary Album
                                               Fifty years of Creation

I entered this world surrounded by old furniture, old objects and works of art. My future has been integrally connected with the past from the first day I was born. There was, thus, no other name more appropriate to give the business I set up, than “PARELTHON” (The Past) continuing my father’s legacy.  Moving towards a quality change and a morphological transformation of the traditional antique shop into a cultural manufacture business, I feel obliged to tell my course into time through a photographic album containing material I have managed to gather and preserve from the past into the future. These thoughts can be considered as a tribute to everything that went by and anything that shall come.
                                                                                                       Demetris Demertzis

                                                    Preface of the Editor

Space, time and man: three notions which when mixed create the cultural identity and cultural memory of a people, the popular tradition and national heritage of an area as well as its local history and historical consciousness.
 The collector’s obsessive interest in combination with his artistic sensitivity and years of experience and expertise (qualities characterizing Demetris Demertzis personality) offer a valuable outcome gained through years of work and drudgery: collecting, repairing, restoring, reproducing and disposing works of art.
 The anniversary album is published as a celebration for the completion of the antique shop’s forty years of existence since 1960 to this very day. The Discourse expressed through the pictures provides elements immediately or indirectly connected with the shop’s activities, bringing to life fragments of culture in a way that space and time are unified throughout the centuries, recording and reviving parts of our local cultural history.
                                                                                                     Thodoris Grammatas 



The Antique Shop of Ermou Street

                                     I. Flowing time and timeless present

Man’s acts throughout history are revealed by dates, chronologies, historical events, historical figures, works of art, objects and cultural manifestations. Traces, signs of human presence sometimes clear, sometimes distant, witness an era that was some people’s present, while for others it was the beginning of their future and for us it is definitely the past.
 Time: a perpetual flow of subjective experiences which in turn become objectified through the material recording of ways and methods representing the past. How do we really define and realize its constantly varying forms? How can one conceive the boundaries of its different interpretations? Could we comprehend it through mathematical terms or algebra equations which when solved might give us some answers and suggest scientific or even hypothetical solutions? Or perhaps we could understand time’s workings through philosophical questions seeking to find – sometimes contradictory – answers to the problematic notion of time and its function; could time be seen as a form of supervision or should we try to understand it in ontological and transcendental terms to fully realize its qualities? For some this might be the case. Beyond the scope of reflection, of spirit, of abstraction, it is Art that through its manifests visually specifies the notion of time, which – through many whims – depicts versions of the plausible/possible and, thus, provides the human mind a canvas upon which history unfolds itself.
 This form of creation, as people have preserved and interpreted it to this day, is indeed the most tangible depiction of time in its perpetual present that goes far beyond the acceptable and established structures of the human spirit, transforming quantity into quality and thus transforming a seemingly measurable product into a good of conscience.

            Elias Demertzis                                      Commenting on the merchandise 
              Ermou -1970                                                         of the day

                                     II. Soulless space and experience

Who defines what is useless and what is unnecessary? How can one place the boundaries of what identifies difference through time and space? Who can tell what is familiar and what isn’t, judging not by functionality but in aesthetic and diachronic terms?
 Whether we are referring to a place of work or creation, a place of living and residing, a limited or open space of human activity, a field of development and cultural expression, what is thought to be priceless or necessary for one generation becomes indifferent for the one that follows. Thus, things change and evolve, we progress and life becomes “modernized”.
 As a natural consequence of things, what might come across as a simple space for generations to come depicts the soul and spirit of what used to be and the transformation of the space signals a shift in direction and interests, in working methods and mentality. The remains of somebody’s personal life suddenly acquire another magnitude; fragments of a human creativity brought together to compose a picture of how life used to be. In PARELTHON remnants of the past come to life in the present showing the life course of specific cases and time is experienced in the most intimate way by the creator.

during the War in 1940 

 El. Demertzis with his mother

Elias Demertzis in the antique shop in Ermou   

Elias Demertzis with his wife and son Demetris

                                  III. Interventions and artistic creativity

In order to turn a deformed object into a beautiful one and restore the glory the craftsman had once endowed his creation with, while underlying the aesthetic pleasure the artwork of another era intended to communicate, demands a delicate and specialized procedure which, whilst, sometimes painful and long lasting is, nevertheless, wondrous and revealing.
 The first element characterizing these interventions is making the right choice followed by the ability to evaluate past details that might seem indifferent to the average eye. For the expert, though, the lover of beauty, the artist/ creator, they instantly reveal important dimensions of the past. Restoring and exposing the original form of the object while having preserved its value, complete the creative interventions through which the antique shop owner adds new artwork material to his collection.    
 This is precisely what gives Parelthon such a unique character. The passion and sensitivity its people have for their cultural heritage and their insistence on unveiling the diachronic artistic value of every piece through several process techniques (restoration, preservation etc). At a time when consumerism conquers everything, Parelthon is a place where tradition is both respected and protected to offer its goods to a limited number of collectors and art lovers, as well as the public wishing to aesthetically upgrade its daily life.

                                  IV. Aesthetic pleasure and diachronic operation

This is the end of a long journey. Intervention has been completed and incorporated into the whole, leaving no room for time gaps. With all its wounds mended from marks time had left it with, redefined but authentic, useful again thanks to the artist’s creativity, new aspects of the work of art come to light awaiting for a new owner to connect with.
 One circle is completed, while another one opens. The lover of art, the collector or everyday people, consciously refuse to surrender to the mechanisms of our increasingly consuming society. In the postmodern conditions we all live in, they realize the necessity of Art and become the new managers of a small, but existing, part of our cultural History contributing to its preservation and continuation.
 To their eyes, pleasure is a value going beyond the functional aspects of daily life and is identified with the aesthetic value of Art giving emphasis to its uniqueness and ability to last in time.

Craftsmen working

Pieces under conservation

    The workshop        

                                                 V. Acceptance and critical evaluation

More than a distinguished antique shop with a long tradition in restoring and preserving old furniture with artistic sensitivity and versatile solutions that combine functionality with aesthetics, Parelthon has become a meeting point for the lovers of Art and culture far beyond the geographical boundaries where it is based.
 Politicians and businessmen, writers and scientists, well established professionals as well as everyday people, come to our hospitable environment after hearing stories about us from other visitors, reading about us or having seen us on TV programs or people who spontaneously decide to pass our imposing threshold


Translated by Eleni Konstantelli