Craftsmen community in the medieval town of Škofja Loka
We tell the story of engaging the local craftsmen community in the Arts and crafts Center of Škofja Loka. The contemporary crafts community was built on enthusiasm and with the help of passionate individuals through the cross-border project DUO Kunsthandwerk. It connects more than twenty professional craftsmen, past, present and future as it builds on three pillars of the action: preserving intangible heritage - traditional craft skills, presenting handicraft work in the common space, the implementation of new approaches and contemporary needs and transmitting skills to locals and visitors of Škofja Loka. The Center is therefore interwoven in the local community and tourist offer, and is one of the examples of sustainable and close knit community practice.
We tell stories of Škofja Loka Area traditional crafts every day and we are passionate about sharing a treasury of knowledge throughout Europe.
In Škofja Loka Area the attention to respecting, caring for and upgrading cultural heritage is being paid. Medieval town of Škofja Loka is a UNESCO town since Škofja Loka passion play has been inscribed on UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Bobbin lacemaking in Slovenia is also inscribed on the list and the Škofja Loka Area is one of the important areas for bobbin lace preservation and the development in our country. In this story we are proud to present the community of craftsmen which protects intangible knowledge, promotes and connects individuals who carry different and unique skills.
The tradition of handicrafts in Škofja Loka Area is long and rich. Handicrafts have always been developed both in the countryside and in the cities, where mostly merchants and craftsmen lived. From the middle of the 15th century, the Škofja Loka area was strongly marked by the guilds in the economic, cultural, and social spheres of life and craftsmanship was very lively for centuries. In contemporary times the lack of transmitting knowledge within families and generations, and connecting in the network of guilds as happened in the past was recognized. There was a vision of creating a common space and connecting handicraft community which arose from local craftsmen more than ten years ago. They desired to be present in the local space more constantly, through their work and had a vision of cooperating in their own public space.
The story of the Arts and Crafts Center of Škofja Loka wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a strong passion of individuals and a local support system to help them implement the goals. From the very beginning the starting point of the work and contents we carry out is the active involvement of craftsmen. First cooperation happened with the design and making the furniture for the center. A lot of wood carving, woodturning, blacksmithing and carpentry in the start led to professional space, open for the local people and guests as well. More than twenty local craftsmen are now members of the Arts and Craft center Škofja Loka community. All the members are holders of national certificate Rokodelstvo - Arts and Crafts of Slovenia, granted by the The Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia. Some of them are also entered in the National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage, managed by the Ministry of Culture, as holders of handicraft skills. In order to bring handicrafts closer to the interested public and the local community each Saturday craftsmen present their skills and work in the Center and each time lively interactions happen. The center is a living space that is strongly embedded in social and cultural happening in the area.
The most important part of the Center's mission is connecting professionals and creating the space to present their work and knowledge in various events and projects. There are monthly exhibitions of local and guest craftsmen taking place each year where they present themselves through their own work and creative narratives. An important part of the Center's mission is organization of the workshops and courses where adults and youngsters can learn about traditional craft skills of the area: knitting, felting, basket weaving, wood carving, honey bread making and others. In the summertime, local craftsmen offer special boutique handicraft experiences for visitors of Škofja Loka. Summer months also bring a handicraft colony, which is of special importance for the craftsman professional community, bonding and time for intensive creation of products, usually presented on the exhibition within the European Heritage Days program which enhances the recognition for the importance of cultural heritage in the local community as well.
The Arts and Craft center is also a member of the Consortium of handicraft centers of Slovenia which connects regional Arts and Crafts Centers and works at the national level with all responsible ministries and other professional institutions. The main aim of the Consortium is co-creation of the legal basis for the status of craftsmen and a supportive environment for handicrafts development in Slovenia. It is very important to actualize handicraft knowledge and skills in contemporary times since they can offer many answers to current social, environmental and economic challenges that must be addressed.
Considering all aspects, we would like to spread the importance of the special and traditional knowledge each craftsman carries as further as we can. Therefore any individual or community can recognize and care about intangible heritage. We believe that the form of a story can sensitize and therefore mobilize anyone. Accordingly, we would dedicate the grant to film the craftmen stories and provide English subtitles. Video stories of our craftsmen would be presented at the site of our Center to our locals and visitors, who come from all around the world. At the same time our craft stories would be published online and that would enable us to tell them also to all the visitors that can not visit us in live. We would like to work with a professional team of video producers so that video stories would be made to the highest possible level. In all the contents our craft community members will be included and will be as always considered as a crucial partner in our work.
If you want to take a peek in our Arts and Cafts center of Škofja Loka you are welcome here: https://www.centerduo.eu/
Our story wouldn’t be possible without international cooperation. The space sprung out from the cross-border program SI Interreg Slovenia-Austria, specifically the DUO Kunsthandwerk project, which was financed by the European Union. Collaborating with all participating partners the project was successfully integrated, continued, and widened in the years after. We believe that it is a great success that the Arts and Crafts Center works and develops also after project funding. Ten years from the start we are part of transnational European projects and still running with the aim of enhancing the cooperation of craftsmen, skills development and integration in the touristic local offers. On the local level, we take part in a lot of community-led local development programs and projects, which are crucial for binding local and regional professional institutions, craftsmen communities, preserving skills, and developing professional knowledge.
At the same time, by researching and promoting handicrafts, we are addressing a part of the intangible cultural heritage that is common to all European nations. It is a tool through which people share their handicraft-related stories, reawaken memories of their ancestors, share the similarities and local specifics of individual skills and through which they share a vision for restoring people's relationship with social and natural environment.