People purchasing handmade products support local craftspeople in their decision to continue their work, said a person known as Manik in an email interview with The Slovak Spectator. He organises various events focused on promoting local handmade products and home-grown food, or to support community life.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): The interest of Slovaks in handmade products is increasing. Can it be described as a renaissance? What are some of the reasons behind this trend?
Manik: The number of people interested in the origins of products and food is increasing. I would call it “awareness” – when I go to buy something, I consider whether a product in an ordinary shop is made by a machine and if there are thousands of the same kind, or if the product is handmade and in that case, unique.
Here is an example: when someone visits my home, he or she opens a cupboard and sees various mugs of different shapes, styles, colours and sizes. The first question is: Where are they from? This mug is beautiful, who made it? These are common responses to unusual products and people become interested when they see them with their own eyes.
TSS: Why is it important to support craftspeople and their products?
Manik: By purchasing handmade products we support the future work of craftspeople and artists. For small craftspeople, who often make the products alongside their ordinary employment, it is only a hobby. They first of all make these products for their families and friends. They are often an impulse to progress and start making more, improving their work and the quality of products.
TSS: You organise various events presenting craftspeople and their products via the Project Life organisation. What was the impulse for this?
Manik: Since the fairs organised by municipalities offer mostly Chinese and Polish junk and are full of smugglers and profiteers, I created a database of honest producers, craftspeople, creative and skilful people to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m horrified by what people buy for their children at these fairs – low-quality sweets full of sugar – and then they reprimand them for having too much energy. Nearly every event is full of these products, not to mention plastic toys that are often damaged as soon as you unpack them.
The Project Life is a civic association that relies on quality and honest work by hand. It gives craftspeople space and creates conditions to promote their work, including natural cosmetics, healthy food, raw cookies and harmless products. We want to show people that sweets don’t have to be full of sugar, products don’t have to be made by machines and every product contains part of its creators who devoted to it many hours of their skills and experience.
TSS: Is there interest in these events from the side of either craftspeople or visitors?
Manik: Yes, both from craftspeople and visitors. Regarding craftspeople, the biggest problem is the capacity of locations where the events take place. The visitors leave satisfied; they get presents for their relatives, support craftspeople and, most of all, they have personal contact with producers. Every time the purchasers are interested in origins of products, they ask about the whole production process, which shows real appreciation of producers’ work.
TSS: What are the real possibilities for craftspeople to promote their work in Slovakia? Has it improved compared with the past?
Manik: Many craftspeople currently have their own Facebook sites because they can see comments under the pictures of their products, they can easily create galleries of their work and even beginners are able to administer such content. The social networks are a very good tool for exchanging contacts and arranging meetings.