Panos Fiorentinos shares his love of Greek culture and Orthodox Faith in inspired designs for Kantyli, Inc.
The seeds of Kantyli were planted in Panos Fiorentinos’ youth.
Meet Panos Fiorentinos
Growing up in San Francisco to Greek immigrant parents from Zakynthos, Panos attended Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. where he met his spiritual father, Father Anthony Kosturos. His church and his experiences there would later influence his work.
As a child, he enjoyed drawing and building things. He went to college with aspirations to be an architect. He got sidetracked — and it changed the course of his life.
“One semester I had to visit an instructor’s studio to drop off a drawing that was late. This visit changed everything. I walked into his studio and saw him huddled around a large architectural model, and I heard that little voice in my head, say, ‘That’s how you are going to build it!’”
He was referring to a project he undertook at the age of 9. His family had a home in Calistoga, CA. Panos thought it would be fun to make a model of what the house and town could be. He drew some pictures, and started to construct the model with glue and toothpicks.
“I never completed that project — until that visit to the instructor’s studio. I’d thought that it was long forgotten, but fate had other plans.”
Panos began working at the studio, learning to make architectural models. There, he gained real-world experience to enhance his college studies. He cites his stint in that studio as a driving force in his career, and brings that knowledge into creating products for Kantyli.
He went on to work with architect Christ Kamages, who designed many Greek Orthodox churches in the U.S. There, Panos honed his visualization and photographic skills, working on 22 models of Kamages’ designs.
The seeds of Kantyli
While still in San Francisco, ideas for products began to come to him, as well as a vision for what eventually became the book, ECCLESIA: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Chicago Metropolis.
In 1999, he drove across the country to start a new chapter, and arrived in Chicago on Greek Independence Day. He’s made his home in Chicago ever since.
In 2004, when he completed ECCLESIA, and began to market the book, he had to come up with a good name for his new venture.
“Looking inward to the subject matter, my wife Irene and I stumbled upon a most appropriate name: Kantyli– it’s the oil lamp used in the Greek Orthodox Church.”
Published in 2004, ECCLESIA: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Chicago Metropolis is a beautiful pictorial history of Chicago’s Greek Orthodox churches. It was one of those ideas that came to him, and kept nagging at him until he made it a reality.
He culled his experiences in the architectural world, with his affinity for photography, and combined it with his love for his Greek culture and Orthodox Faith, to create this historic work.
“My goal was to make a timeless historical reference that everyone could enjoy. There have been some changes in the Metropolis since then, but the book is still just as important today, as it commemorates and communicates the beauty of our houses of worship, our Faith, and the churches’ place in Chicago history and architecture.”
Growing up and attending San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Church was a great source of inspiration.
“Anyone that has seen that church knows it’s a one-of-a-kind, architecturally awesome structure; and along with the dynamic and late Father Anthony Kosturos, I was charged mentally to take on this ambitious project.”
Kantyli: honoring Greek heritage and culture
Each year, Kantyli grows, and Panos continually creates new products. His designs are unique, and honor his love for his Greek heritage and Orthodox Faith. They also help others to celebrate the Greek culture as well. He sells his wares online, and a festivals. Kantyli has become a favorite source of Greek gifts for Greek Americans. From signs, picture frames and other items with Greek sayings, and more, Kantyli products are popping up in Greek homes all over the country.
“I get to design and create Greek gifts that are original. Every year Kantyli gets busier and noticed more. People tell us they ‘love’ our products We can customize and personalize anything that’s on our site and that’s what makes us special.”
What’s new at Kantyli
Facebook fans have been treated to sneak peeks at new products. Panos has been experimenting currently with plexiglas and paint to create magnets and drachma medallions. Next year he will be adding T-shirts with quirky Greek phrases too.
“I’ve also been exploring methods into creating unique wall decorations. Greek restaurants from California, Washington, and New York have our signs gracing their walls for interesting wall decor. They get to show their pride in heritage as well.”
Each year there is one product that flies off the shelves. This year, it’s the Greek road signs, which look just like the ones in Greece with the arrows, and village or city names in Greek and English.
“People always react positively. It brings nostalgia for Greeks. It’s a thoughtful and sentimental gift to commemorate a person’s home village. Many adult children buy these for their aging parents. We also offer a customized sign with the names of villages where each parent came from. Often, these signs don’t exist in real life, but they tell the family story in a unique way, showing how those two villages ‘came together’ to create a family.”
Personalized aprons have become popular. Names and special sayings can be pressed on them. Some top sellers are, “Keep Calm and Eat Pastitsio”, including the Greek crown; and “The man is cooking now,” in Greek.
Products make great gifts
Kantyli products are a great way to show your love of the Greek culture, and they make great gifts. We love Kantyli — it’s a go-to place for special Greek-inspired gifts. Check out all the great products on their website. If you have a cool idea, drop Panos a line: he may be able to create it for you!
Check it out this weekend
This Saturday, December 5, Kantyli will have a table full of great gifts at the holiday bazaar sponsored by the Ladies Philoptochos Society of SS Peter Paul Greek Orthodox Church, 1401 Wagner Road, Glenview, IL. Hours are 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.
Connect with Kantyli
Like the Kantyli page on Facebook
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Buy a copy: ECCLESIA: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Chicago Metropolis