We had the good fortune of connecting with Vasiliki Gkarmiri and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vasiliki, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
My inspiration is threefold.
Primarily, it stems from that unique moment when a woman puts on my jewelry and feels so gorgeous, like a goddess. That moment in time- that image in my head of the confident smile of a woman who’s ready to take on the world is what moves me, the reason why I create and the major inspiration behind my designer view: feminine, fierce, fabulous, eclectic, sophisticated with an edge. This is the woman I design for, the woman I’m here to serve and her desire to reflect her vivacious spirit in her style is the main source where my inspiration comes from. The first part of my design process is connected to her.
The second part of my inspiration comes from my heritage and the country I was born and raised in-Greece, and the Mediterranean terrain. The colors, the scenery, the sun, the joyful spirit, the history, the myth but also the strong personality of Greek women and their elevated style-these are the things that have shaped my personal vision and aesthetic but also inspire my creations. I tap into my moments in Greece and all the controversial elements that come together under the sun and the blue sky and that’s how I get into the mood to create-that’s the energy I channel to design. Vibrant, colorful, bursting with confidence and joy.
The third part of my inspiration comes from my materials. The beads, the yarns, the textiles, the metals, the stories they bring, their colors, shapes, textures, and the way they feel to the touch-all this is very visceral to me. The moment I see and touch my design elements images pop in my head of colorful sparkling accessories but many times as I sit to bring them to life, I end up with something different. I have studied jewelry design but I rarely-if ever-draw before I create. Instead, I set my intention and let my materials refine my initial vision, guide my inspiration. This intuitive part of my design feels like my creations come to life through me rather than being made by me. I firmly believe my jewelry comes to life because of a woman out there who is ready to love them and craves to have them in her jewelry collection. My designer journey and my inspiration starts and ends with her. When I have a finished piece in my hands, there’s only one question to answer: How does it fit in her life?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My creative story started almost 30 years ago in my hometown, Thessaloniki, when I set foot in a bead boutique for the first time, and was mesmerized by the textures, shapes, and colors. I became a bead collector on the spot as I was buying my first beads and materials, not sure of what I would be doing with them yet.
Back in those days I sat and figured out how to make jewelry in my parents’ basement-I was self-taught until a few years ago, when I took several courses- in person, with my first teacher, Maria Dova, and online, including the jewelry design course with NYIAD, to hone in my design and maker skills.
However, designing and making jewelry was my side passion, not my vocation. Apart from being wildly creative, I was a very good student-this quickly led my steps to Med School and after it to Family Medicine. I was deeply loving my job and my career in Medicine, making jewelry was my creative outlet and I had in my heart a distant dream of a little shop at 67 after retirement, where I would sell my creations.
Then, two things happened.
The first was an incidence when I realized how jewelry can transform the way you look and through it the way you feel. A piece of jewelry saved my first ever lecture on stage as a Family Medicine trainee and that moment stayed with me.
The second was immigration. It brought me in front of a decision regarding my career path-would I go down the medical path again in the States, or would I pursue something else? THAT was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
I took career change courses and personality tests, I started getting into online communities and took courses on building a jewelry business, trying to figure out which was the right path for me, but I found a question instead:
If you were to die tomorrow, which is the ONE dream you will regret not having brought to life?
That question changed my trajectory. It took a while-I was going back and forth…Medicine isn’t a field you leave easily if you love it. The final decision to give a chance to my dream of building a jewelry business was taken on the long flight of immigration amidst the sadness of leaving my life as I knew it behind, the excitement of a new start and the fear of the unknown that was lying ahead. Countless times I have looked back wondering if that decision was right, but it is my dream that keeps me pushing forward and the help and support of my husband, Dimitrios Konstantakos, who is my other half in this business and life.
The journey hasn’t been easy. The turbulence of immigration, the pandemic, homeschooling, loss in the family, a hacked first website that we had to build from scratch, figuring out our customers in the States and their needs and desires has been a road with rough patches on the way.
However, I need to acknowledge my privilege of having the help of my husband, family, and friends through all this. Even from far away, a kind word of support and the love of my people has kept me going. On top of this, my husband runs his own business that can support our family through this transition. If this wasn’t the case, this business would probably still be a dream.
As an artist, I love creating bold and colorful jewelry with an edge. Lately, I focus on a technique I learned back in Greece, when I was in Elementary school. Our art teacher asked us to pick between woodwork and crocheting-I picked up the crochet hooks because I liked the soft, colorful yarns and have been loving them ever since. Today, I incorporate this artisanal technique in many of our jewelry designs-I love working with threads for their color, lightweight nature, and versatility.
I’m very excited for our new collections, launching in March, that will be featuring many designs crocheted by hand. They are inspired by life in the Greek islands-purple sunsets in Santorini, summers in Mykonos, coral red boats in a turquoise sea. The joy and light of Greece, the confidence of Greek women is woven within their threads, meant to bring out the goddess in the woman who wears them.
I source my threads and design elements worldwide, and primarily in Greece. Our Goddess charm is made and sourced in Greece, to remind women of the radiant, vivacious goddess within waiting to come out. I’m proud of creating my jewelry in the States and I’d love to keep production here as we’re growing as a company. This way, I’m honoring both the Greek and the American heritage of my boys.
This life is a journey and I feel blessed to have walked both the artist and the scientist path. I came to live many of my dreams and also things beyond them. A key lesson I learned on the way is that your calling doesn’t come in the form of a paycheck or a job. We tend to think that way, maybe because as children we have always been asked-“What will you become when you grow up?” and this frames the mind to think of a profession.
But it is not a “what” that we become primarily-it is a “who”. If you see things through this lens, then your calling becomes a deep desire of the heart to bring something into this world and in that light your calling may express itself in very different ways throughout your life. This is why avenues that seem vastly different can leave the same deep satisfaction.
In my own case, one of my callings has been to create and be surrounded by beauty. In Medicine, I was finding beauty in the human relationship, in Art, I find it in my creations. Another calling has always been to help people-as a doctor I was helping them get and stay healthy, as a creative I help women express their vivacious spirit through their style.
In this world we come with gifts-and with every gift comes a responsibility. How do we use these gifts to benefit people around us, make this world a better place? There is such power and magic when you realize this, how we all are different and in the same time complement each other, so that if we all work together we can make this world a wonderful place to be in.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
DFW is a fantastic metroplex to show our friends around!
There are SO many places, but here are some of the highlights (depending also on the time of year and their preferences-DFW has something for everyone).
Seasonal staples, like
-Deerfield North for the Christmas lights and anything Plano Moms would suggest for Halloween trick or treating
-The State Fair
-A Dallas Mavericks and a Dallas Cowboys game
-The Plano balloon festival
To give them a “Greek Overseas Experience” we’d take them to
-The Greek Festivals, especially the Greek Food Festival of Dallas and the one in Fort Worth
-The Greek Church in Dallas, Holy Trinity, because it’s the closest it gets to the experience of a Greek church in the area.
-The Greek Restaurant “Platia Greek Kouzina” in Frisco
-To the BEST coffee spot in the Metroplex, Yiayias coffee, run by Nasos in the Frisco Fresh Market. We can enjoy small talk and some of the European style coffees you can’t easily find elsewhere
-Right next to Yiayias coffee, to grab some yummy pies and sweets by Kyra-Adonia and Kyr-Adonis, a real Greek yiayia and pappou couple
-To The Gods Foods, run by Vasilis, again in the Frisco Fresh Market-to grab some of the finest delicacies from Greece and Italy
-To Apollo the Greek in Watauga-because this is a MUST visit, it’s like it popped out of an old Greek movie (and if Michalis the owner is there, he’s going to love it)!
For a stroll in Highland Park…
-We’d take them to Highland Park Village for a luxury upscale experience
-Then we’d continue to Highland Park and the beautiful scenery of Turtle Creek
In Dallas we’d go multiple times, since there are many places to visit, like
-The Perot Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow collection of Asian Art museum, the Zoo, the Arboretum and the Aquarium.
-We wouldn’t miss the Eye and the Cattle Drive sculptures
-Downtown Dallas is booming with upscale boutiques in case they’d love to splurge
-The JFK assassination-related landmarks (we’d probably take a guided tour)
-The Bush Museum, and the Reunion Tower
-The Bishop Art district
Nearby in Plano…
-We’d go for a stroll in any of the numerous trails and parks.
-For some great shopping and food options we could take our friends to both The Shops at Legacy and Legacy West
Historic downtown McKinney…
-For the small town feels, cool finds in the eclectic boutiques and amazing food and ice cream.
In Watters Creek in Allen
-For coffee, shopping, and fun
Fort Worth Stockyards and Grapevine Historic Downtown
-For some Wild West feels and the Vintage Railroad alongside great food
Last-but not least…
There are numerous Argentine Tango milongas in the metroplex for our dancing friends. For those who love Latin and ballroom, Georgia Roumbas downtown Mc Kinney has the cutest dance studio-Fancy Shoes Ballroom Dance- that also hosts learn, sip and dance nights out for couples or small parties…Perfect for a different double date or a ladies’ night for our last night out! And if they need a pair of dancing shoes, Dee Kaya of Eye Dance Shoes has some of the best handmade ones on the market, made by a Master maker in his studio-she brings them all the way from Istanbul, Turkey!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When they say it takes a village-they mean it. All I am, all I have been and all I am becoming is because of the help, love, support and mentorship I have received. None of us writes their story alone, none of us is an island-we are all connected.
I would like to thank so many, starting with our family and lifelong friends- without them it wouldn’t have been the same. A special shoutout to my husband and our children for being a source of deep fulfillment and joy in my life. My husband has been with me in this journey from the start-it was him who pushed me into the world of entrepreneurship and has helped me so much not only in our business but also with raising our kids. Without him, this business would probably still be a dream.
Then, my mentors and networks, especially
-Robin Kramer and Tracy Matthews (Flourish and Thrive Academy), for their business guidance and a community that puts collaboration over competition
-Erin Alexander (Product Powerhouse Co.) who helped us build a website we love
-Karen Martin (Brand Legacy) who helped me hone in my vision for Next Door Goddess and its impact as a brand
-Pamela Pekerman (Hustle Like A Mom) for her wisdom on messaging, balancing between mom and entrepreneur life, and her supportive community of mompreneurs.
-Sabina Hitchen, Patrice Poltzer and Joelle Garguilo (Make Media Moves) for mentoring and pushing us, small business owners, to share our stories with the press.
-Rebecca Minkoff for her book Fearless and the Female Founder Collective
-Stephanie Cartin, Courtney Spritzer, Tara Magalski and the Entreprenista League community
-Vanessa Malzahn (Pretty Profitable Product) for stepping in a rough period to help me create a bigger vision for this business
-All the course creators and writers of a great course or book that crossed my path (they are too many to mention)
-Every entrepreneur who openly shared their story and how they overcame the rough patches on the way, keeping it real and raw
-Every media outlet, every contributor that helped us share our story, our brand story, and our products with the world and reach a bigger audience,
-Everyone we have collaborated with-from sourcing materials to photography, marketing, and vendoring we have been blessed with amazing small business owners who have put their soul into helping us grow our business.
-All the friends that have stepped up to be models for our photoshoots or shared a photo on social media shouting us out
-All my teachers and mentors in the schools I have been in. From basic education to Med School, to my MSc and residency, to jewelry design school every step of the way has changed me as a person and has formed the next version of me
And last-but not least
Every person that has ever been our customer, referred a friend, or shared a heart or a comment on our social media posts. Without them our business would not even exist.
Image 1. Photo of Vasiliki in Ananti Resort Exhibition: Floulis Photographers Image 2 Photo of Next Door Goddess founders, Vasiliki & Dimitrios: Lauren Bethany Branding Photography Image 3. Photo of Vasiliki working: Lauren Bethany Branding Photography Image 4-9: Photos of Next Door Goddess jewelry: Atali Samuel Photography in Black And Light Studio. (Please note these photos were cropped to be turned into horizontal).