Island Life: Alexandra Manousakis on combining art, food and wine in Crete

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you lived on an island? How you would spend your sun-soaked days and starry nights? In honour of Clifton’s wave-worthy new hues, Ocean and Mineral, our Island Life series showcases our favourite islanders.

First up, and landing in Crete by way of Manhattan, artist Alexandra Manousakis has made her home on the island, and now runs her family winery alongside two restaurants. We asked her what made her fall in love with Chania, how island life influences her creativity and her top tips for a first time traveller. 

Alexandra Manousakis in Crete

Tell us about what you do and how you came to be in Crete?

I am a Greek-American artist and wine producer based in Chania, Crete. I was born and raised in Washington, DC, studied art, hellenic studies and business at NYU and came to Greece to escape Manhattan for a year or two, 15 years ago! I knew that I always wanted to try out island life and return to my roots here on Crete.

 Alexandra Manousakis in Crete

In 2007 I set out to find myself and all these years later, this island still fascinates me. I started out running our family winery and interjecting small art exhibitions of my own and others' art here at the winery. Slowly I built a brand of my art and just a few months ago I opened an art studio and brasserie called Maiami in downtown Chania. Art, food and wine- a perfect combination. 

Alexandra Manousakis in Crete

My husband and I now run our winery, Manousakis Winery, in Vatolakkos and our restaurants Maiami and Salis in town. I spend as much time as possible painting either on canvases or ceramics and these works are all exhibited at Maiami where you can enjoy them along with a glass of our wine or some of my favourite foods. 

Alexandra Manousakis in Crete

What’s unique about Crete? How would you describe its identity, and what a first-time visitor could expect?   

Crete has a very strong character and identity. Its mountains and unparalleled beaches are just the tip of the iceberg here; there is so much to discover. Cretan culture is proud and strong and the people here are warm and welcoming. You can grow pretty much anything on the island and therefore the simple food here is incredible and full of flavour. 

Food and wine are important to the island and you can find anything you like from traditional to modern and edgy cuisine. The island has a pull; a lot of people believe there is a very special type of energy here and, although I might phrase it differently, this pull is strong and has made me call Crete home.   

Alexandra Manousakis winery in Crete

Alexandra Manousakis winery in Crete

What does Crete mean to you?

Crete is where my father's family began; I associate our village with some of my fondest childhood memories. My love for Crete runs deep; otherwise I would not choose to raise my children here; it is such a special place.

Alexandra Manousakis in Crete

Do you think being based on an island impacts your creative process? 

It definitely impacts my work and creative process. It simultaneously enhances and puts certain limitations on it (from a geographical standpoint). This push and pull has fascinating results. I don't think I would have delved into ceramics in the way that I have if it weren't such a strong tradition on this island.

My work is very process based and dependent on materials that I can find here. I would say that everything around me has influenced my work, from my work as a wine producer to the challenges of living in a small community and adjusting to a new culture... to the actual bright colours of nature and island life all around me. It has a profound influence.

Alexandra Manousakis Crete

How important is travel to you?

Travel is incredibly important. It's the best way to open your mind and gain understanding of the world around us. I love to travel and find it essential to my creative process.

Follow @alexandramanousakis.

Up next on the blog — this hotel owner talks to us about the irresistible pull of Milos

Shop new luggage for that long-awaited trip, with new colours for summer in suitcases, here