Melina Patakiouta on Being an Iconographer on Mykonos.

Driven and filled with youthful energy, this young woman is a source of inspiration.

The smell of egg at her workshop is unmistakable. Using the traditional medium of tempera, Melina gathers eggs from the coop to mix with mineral pigments using “her babies” – her brushes – and paint Orthodox icons. This technique goes back millennia and is part of what Melina Patakiouta calls her “ritual” to start painting on crude, heavy wood. “An icon is not just a representation; it’s in my soul”. Hailing from Mykonos on her mother’s side, Melina recalls happy childhood visits – “The smell of the land on our way from the port to Ano Mera. It was heaven – our refuge”.

Locals have embraced my art, and I have Mykonos to thank for that.

Despite an aptitude for painting, she had not found her calling until a difficult period, when she “woke up and said, I want to paint icons. I think it was a godsend”. So, she studied Byzantine murals and icons, a life journey that culminated in her return to her Mykonos roots, eight years ago. “It feels like we have always been here”, she says. “Locals have embraced my art, and I have Mykonos to thank for that”. Having accepted Nikos Zouganelis’s proposal to set up her workshop at Rizes Traditional Farmstead, she continues to create religious artwork and icons for churches and chapels. She speaks with awe about the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani, and explains that her work fascinates visitors regardless of ethnicity or denomination. “As an art, it is fascinating, especially when you are watching someone create it” – as you can do at her Rizes workshop.