By Nan Mackenzie
A 50-year old, once crumbling warehouse in the old town of Paphos that was once a store for local farmers’ fruit and vegetables has opened as The Place, where local craftspeople are invited to use it as a workshop and showcase their creative talents.
Natalie Hadjigeorgiou is the doyenne behind this huge installation project, a true labour of love which has taken her 10 months of hard renovation work resulting in a hugely welcoming bright, fresh, and airy place where local crafts and food stuffs can be purchased and at the same time visitors can get up close and personal with a glass cutter, weaver, wood carver, chair and basket maker and potter as they create unique one off pieces of quality craftwork.
There has always been a sort of polarised attitude towards handmade goods shaped by Savile Row suits at one end and crocheted tea cosies at the other. Now however, craft is going through a form of Renaissance.
“I have always had a keen interest in Cypriot arts and crafts, my mother worked for 34 years at the government Cyprus Handicraft centre in Paphos so from an early age I was collecting old bits of woven cloth, and small decorative objects, I was taught how to weave on the old looms, now I enjoy creating my own jewellery collection using most of the material that can be seen at The Place, elements such as clay, glass and wood,” says Natalie.
“The passion I have for craftwork is based on the firm belief that handmade objects carry a very different kind of energy, a different emotion, and here at The Place we create truly beautiful crafts, pieces that cannot ever be replaced by any industrial means. It is also a fact of life that capable and compelling craftspeople are invariably overlooked within the mainstream of the art world and I wanted to redress this by offering these talented men and women a proper platform to both display and promote their work, and at the same time offer work space where they can further develop their skills.”
One can now see a resurgence of handmade and locally produced products with the success of online companies such as Etsy.com, which has responded to the huge enthusiasm for home making and to the public’s desire to own authentic products. “This is the concept we try to emulate at The Place with both tactile, decorative, and functional crafts items including food stuffs such as homemade jams and preserves from the Flavours of Cyprus range, the best local wines, and bottles of our finest local olive oil along with the very best Carob syrup, not forgetting our promotion of our locally sourced herbs and spices,” says Natalie.
It has taken her many years to build up a dedicated database of craftspeople, and she made a point of visiting villages across the island to meet and sample or view the various crafts indigenous to that village or region, seeing how craft was dependent on skills being passed from person to person. “Attending various food and wine festivals, meeting small growers and now, with the product line we have of foodstuffs there comes with it a huge amount of accumulated knowledge that we can use to not only assist visitors but will also help producers get the maximum benefit from being a constant presence within The Place. Long term plans include franchising of the foodstuffs with the Flavours of Cyprus acting as the flagship for other edible products.”
There is also additional space within The Place which is under study with plans to create a mini Art Village.
Craft it appears is the new buzzword with artisans from beer, bread and bag making using the word to enhance their products and sales. The craftwork presented within The Place is primarily honest and genuinely hand crafted by locals and its fascinating that although our lives are increasingly virtual, there is a return to making and working with our hands and this may well be in part a reaction to that. There is also increased awareness of provenance with people more aware of the ethics of where things originate from and how they are produced.
Kanari 56, Old Town Paphos, Tel 26 101955, [email protected], www.theplacecyprus.com