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ART WITH A POINT

Needlepoint love affair began in Greece

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ART WITH A POINT

Tony & Mrs. K’s Bakery and Café owner Artemis Vourakis poses in front of some of her needlework currently on display at her restaurant in Manteca.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 16, 2014 1:34 a.m.

 It all started in Athens, Greece. That was 40 years ago when Artemis Vourakis fell in love at first sight.

She had been visiting relatives. One of them was a cousin who owned a needlepoint store in Athens. The colorful yarns and how they were transformed into works of art touched an artistic chord inside Vourakis.

But it was only when she stepped into her uncle’s store in the village called Volos that she felt compelled to do something about the strong fascination she felt about the multi-hued and vivid yarns.

“So I bought my first needlepoint from him,” said Vourakis who co-owns with her brother Hercules Tony & Mrs. K’s Café on the northeast corner of East Yosemite and Cottage Avenues. “Uncle Manuel” was the brother of her late father.

Four decades later, she has amassed a impressive collection of about a hundred needlepoint projects, a dozen of which are prominently displayed inside the toni restaurant. She has a hundred more kits that are waiting to metamorphose into finished works of art.

Her first needlepoint project was a still-life fruit basket. It’s not part of the portfolio displayed at the restaurant because “it’s so big,” explained Vourakis who worked as executive secretary to Manteca developer Kirk Atherton until several years ago when she and her brother decided to establish a Greek-and American-themed café on the prime corner property that had been with the family for decades.

The framed pictures hanging on the walls inside the restaurant are varied, not just in sizes but in subject matter. They range from paintings of master painters like Renoir and Picasso to bucolic and peaceful country scenes and romantic female portraits. Her minimalist Picasso piece showing a rooster presides over the magenta wall above a row of glasses behind the counter.

While her earlier needlepoint efforts came from the old country where her parents were born, many of her later projects were purchased in Las Vegas and through online catalogues.

How long it takes to finish one needlepoint project depends on how big or complicated it is, Vourakis said. One particularly large and complicated piece took her 20 years to complete. She has it on display at her home in southwest Manteca south of the 120 Bypass.

She was very prolific at it for many years. But recently, she has been too busy with other things like the business interests that she and her brother co-own.

“I haven’t picked up a needle in two years. I’ve been busy setting up the store,” she said.

But there’s no question about how much she loves doing needlepoint as evidenced by the volume of output that she has been churning through the years. However, one can do so much even though the spirit is willing.

She could go on and on “until you can’t look at the colors anymore,” and then “you get tired of it,” Vourakis smiled.

But not tired enough that she would ever give up her favorite hobby.

“It’s relaxing,” she said about getting engrossed with her needlepoint.

And then, there’s “the satisfaction you get afterwards, that you have accomplished something looking at it afterwards,” she said, her face still writhed with smiles.

Her Uncle Manuel has since passed away. His daughter still has her store in Athens. But his store in village of Volos is now run by his daughter’s son and daughter-in-law.

You can view Vourakis’ needlepoint creations while enjoying Tony & Mrs. K’s freshly baked cakes and cookies including bakhlava, roasted coffee, plus a wide selection of salads and entres for lunch and dinner. The bakery and café was named after Vourakis’ late parents. For additional details about the restaurant, visit www.tonyandmrsk.com.

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