THE STATE OF CRAFTS IN CROATIA

Author: Koraljka Vlajo

The future of traditional crafts in Croatia hangs in fine balance. Right before our eyes small craft shops are, one by one, disappearing from towns and cities. Partially, it is a consequence of historical and political regional circumstances and, in part, it is due to globalisation process and overwhelming quantities of low-cost goods that are pushing out more expensive local products.
        As elsewhere in Europe, the crafts in Croatia have long history of structured education and established procedures for transfer of knowledge. The state system of craftsmanship was particularly advanced during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then further developed in various other regional state associations. The lively artisan scene of the times was further enriched by diverse influences - Western, Oriental, Mediterranean – that have shaped Croatian culture. Unfortunately, the acquired level of craftsmanship seriously deteriorated after the Second World War, while Croatia was a part of socialist Yugoslavia. Yugoslav attitude towards private enterprise was not encouraging further progress of crafts or craftsmanship: the number and the quality of craftspeople drastically decreased as new government strongly favoured investing in development of large-scale industry. Already in precarious position, many of the skilled craft workshops did not survive the transition period of the 1990s and the influx of cheap goods.
    Today, Croatian craftspeople are facing numerous, sometimes insurmountable problems. The years of governmental negligence brought them on the brink of survival. Rather than producing their own wares, many of them are simply enduring by undertaking small tasks, fixing and repairing goods.
    Thus, they are dependent on pedestrian traffic. At the same time the price of rent is forcing them out of the city centre. The survival of crafts depends on transfer of knowledge from master to apprentice, but there are no apprentices to be had. Many of existing workshops are led by aging and exhausted craftspeople, past their prime and set in their ways, who find it hard to adopt new ideas or to modify long established habits and work processes.
    Yet, some are stubbornly persisting, carving out their own small market niches, adjusting to new technologies, even training apprentices to continue their work. Naturally, it is mostly younger generation of craftspeople who are finding ways to incorporate their practice into the market and contemporary urban environment. Those are the ones specializing in unique lines of work (like Clockmaker’s shop Lebarović maintaining public clocks), discovering exceptional materials to work with (like Močvarni hrast carpentry working with fossilized timber), cooperating with architects and designers (like Lapidarium jewellery), or experimenting with new technologies (like Hat making Škrgatić).
    However, the position of remaining craftspeople remains precarious, their fortunes extremely vulnerable to state of local economy, their future dependant on finding the successors to continue their craft.

CRAFTSMANSHIP BEYOND THE PITFALSS

Author: Louise Schouwenberg

In the vanguards of the art and design worlds, there’s a remarkable interest for traditional techniques that, due to many reasons, lost their appeal at the start of the 20th century. The renewed interest is remarkable, as the crafts had largely turned obsolete since the industrial revolution. Moreover, where craftsmanship was still cherished, low wage countries provided cheaper alternatives. In spite of very interesting cultural experiments to win the battle, the fierce competition has caused a closure of many European craft industries in these last decades.

COLLABORATION AND HANDICRAFT

Author: Cvetka Požar

Nearly two and a half decades, since the mid-1990s, crafts have been making a comeback across Europe, even though they have never completely disappeared, despite the predominantly serial mass production. One of the lesser-known facts, for instance, is that traditional craftsmanship played a crucial role in the shaping of the new aesthetics of Italian design between 1945 and 1960 in the period of modernism, which in principle rejected manual production.

MY LIFE IN THE WOODS WITH WERKRAUM BREGENZERWALD

Author: Thomas Geisler

So, what do you do for work in a place like this? Ideally, you’re a craftsperson. A strong number of whom emerged from the agricultural society in the valley, their endeavours occasionally reaching industrial dimensions. The world market leader in wire hangers, for example, is an inventive metalworker from the region, and there are more of his kind around here. The people who want to stick with manual production and – simply put – remain independent yet united in their battle against globalisation, established Werkraum Bregenzerwald in 1999.