Lise Condis spins yarns. She has taken the traditional craft of wool weaving and raised it to an art. She is, according to her account, the one and only fiber artist in practice in Greece at the moment. She discovered the ancient art of spinning one winter in her apartment in Athens while recovering from a head injury that had left her with frequent dizzy spells and periods of blacking out. But, let’s back track a bit.
Lise was born in Geneva, Switzerland, to a French mother and Greek father. However, going back a generation, both sets of grandparents lived in Khartoum, Sudan and worked in the cotton industry. Perhaps she carries the penchant for textiles in her DNA as a result. Quite a cosmopolitan cultural mix, Lise went to a French elementary school in Greece and alternatively to an international high school supported by the Greek government in Geneva. Originally she wanted to be a vet, but as her marks on the dreaded Panhellinies, the Greek university-system entrance exam, put her one point off, she gained acceptance into the school of fine arts in Athens. Although quite artistically-bent, she found her way into an eye technician program. She eventually studied optometry and was lucky enough to shadow one of the most brilliantophthalmologists, Dr Kanellopoulos, as his assistant.
She did go on to pursue a career in optometry, and she is a practicing optometrist in her own right. But her inner artistic side came out as a result of a fateful fall on Christmas Eve 2012. That fall resulted in a head injury that kept her homebound for the majority of the winter. It was that fall that made her fall in love with fibers. She spent close to a year learning about the process of dying and spinning yarns from blogs, YouTube videos and trial and error. She started teaching herself how to take the fiber from lamb to finish. “Basically, I learned how to dye fibers and textiles using acid, food coloring and natural dyes by turning my kitchen into a chemistry lab,” she recounts. “I even had an old-fashioned spinning wheel shipped to Greece so I could learn by doing.”
Taking the initiative, she and her best friend gathered around the table of her friend’s French mother every Monday night who taught them how to knit and crochet. Because they were not satisfied with the wool fibers they would find in the shops in Athens, they ordered a natural organic blend via the internet from a French site. When the package arrived and they opened the box, it was like magic. The color, the texture—it was as if they had hit gold. The beauty of the natural fibers transformed what was once a monotonous repetitive ritual into a tantalizing journey of discovery—stitch by stitch revealed new colors, new shapes, not to mention the soothing texture of the fiber itself.
That’s all it took. From then, it was an addiction. As she recounts, “Every time I touch a fiber there is a new feeling, a new experience . . . like when you taste an exquisite lemon pie and then dream about it. I dream of Angora clouds, silky slippery shine, alpaca warmness.” Indeed now she knows how to sheer wool, spin it through a spinning wheel, and then dye, using both synthetic and natural dyes, into spools which she then crochets or weaves into unique scarves, headbands, even wrist bands, whatever the wool fancies. “Every fiber is an experience, every mix of fibers is an adventure.”
Lise has taken her fiber art to the web by launching www.treliz.eu. The name “TréLiz” has a double entendre and it combines her French and Greek identities: in French, “Trés Liz” means “very Liz-Like” and in Greek, a combination of the words “treli” and “Liz” become, “crazy Lize.” The name suits her on both counts as she tries to be very true to her own self when she dyes and weaves and because she is crazy for color and loves how different fibers take up the dyes differently and every skein comes out unique. She specializes in high-end luxury hand-dyed yarn and fibers not only because she is a stickler for quality but also because she wanted to fill the niche in the Greek fiber community. At the same time, she is trying to make luxury yarns affordable by packaging them in small budget bundles to extend their reach. The site has sold yarns and fibers worldwide and has started to get some small recognition in Greece. She is currently working with an Italian designer on a larger project.
She is unique in that she uses the Greek sun to add the finishing touches to the process of dying sometimes hanging whole spools outside to dry on the clothes lines of her Cycladic stone house.