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UA alumna combines art, writing

Konstantina Mahila
By Konstantina Mahila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 27, 2005
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Konstantina Mahlia is a UA alumna who recently released her first book, a memoir titled "House of Many Faces," which is a piece of visual as well as literary art.

"The book has a really unique format," said Mahlia. "The book is written almost in a biblical style with double columns, and each chapter has its own font. I wanted to give a sense of story, almost like how you do with calligraphy."

The design tells a story of its own, and the many quotations represent an array of references from the most prestigious minds found in works from classic literature to contemporary pop music stars.

"The book is full of quotations that float through the text in these isolated boxes. I felt that there are so many people's experiences whose voices reflect my own, and there's no reverence given to the people I quote," Mahlia said.

Mahlia references each quotation equally in order to break down any established hierarchy of acknowledged people because she believes that all of our human experiences are valid, she said.

In addition to using other people's words to reflect her journey in memoir form, "House of Many Faces" is also a social commentary told from Mahlia's experiences.

"I come from a very multicultural background. I was born in Canada but to Greek parents, and then I moved to the states living a very Latino culture. I actually lived in Mexico and was immersed in the Mexican culture," said Mahlia. "So for me it was always trying to wrap my head around how these different cultures were affecting how I could live out my life, especially being female in these cultures, the Greek and the Mexican, that are so biased towards men having the opportunity to make choices."

Mahlia's diverse background creates a source from which her feminism emerges and greatly affects how she now lives her life. She was raised with the cultural notion that women should be dependent on men and instead grew up with the urge to go against these gender restrictions and rebel against authority, she said.

"I think women are still encouraged to be more ornamental than productive. You see it on the magazine covers constantly, the media, the movies, everything just seems to push, push, push. There are so many industries out there," said Mahlia. "I mean I'm a designer - I design jewelry, I design things that are meant to be on their body. I think women should make those choices not because it enhances their value, but because it pleases them."

Mahlia's crafts reflect her hard work, determination and struggle to promote individualism. She makes primarily 18-karat gold works, each created as a one-of-a-kind collectable piece of art.

Her jewelry is not about how many karats or diamonds are used. The jewelry is unique, and few goldsmiths in the world can do the kind of work that she does because so much work goes into each piece, she said.

Her furniture designs are all hand crafted, a process that she explains is in depth and involves a lot of intensity and care. The intensive amount of work involved is causing furniture crafting to become a lost art among current generations, and such work is often handed over to more convenient machine-made methods. Her design style incorporates traditions of the past with modern influences, a sort of transition between then and now.

In addition to her varied cultural upbringing, Tucson has also played a large part in her work. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has provided Mahlia with a wealth of knowledge she has used in her jewelry making. The people of Tucson, especially her fellow craftspeople, and the atmosphere and climate have had a large influence on her craft and experiences that comes out in her work and writing.

Mahlia plans big for the future. She hopes to produce a television show incorporating her ideas and art, write several more books and expand her furniture design into an entire line of home products.

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