Northern Crafts ID search field trips across Karelia

Submitted by KA8028 on
Picture: Ilona Olkonen

Can crafts develop an economy and how can artisans become full-fledged entrepreneurs while continuing to preserve their traditional culture? In search of answers to these and many other questions concerning the development of the handicraft sector, the team of the Northern Crafts ID project went on an expedition across the Republic of Karelia. Project leader Svetlana Kolchurina and project coordinator Alexey Tsykarev, together with photographer Ilona Olkonen, traveled three thousand kilometers, recorded thirty hours of interviews and took five thousand working photographs of handicraft products.

The purpose of the expedition is to study the current state of the handicraft sphere in Karelia and develop proposals for inclusion in the new strategy for the development of handicrafts of the republic. The project focuses on entrepreneurial activity and business models of artisans, measures to support handicraft activities by executive authorities, policy of points of sale of handicraft and souvenir products, craft schools and directions, modern and traditional crafts, as well as work with children. The materials of the expedition will allow to put up-to-date information on an interactive online map, from where anyone can find artisans and find out where and what crafts of the republic have spread, which master classes can be signed up for and in which stores you can buy your favorite products.

The "handicraft" expedition visited both municipal centers - Belomorsk, Kostomuksha, Olonets, Pryazha, and remote settlements, for example, Voknavolok, Rugozero, Sumskiy Posad, Syapsya, Yushkozero. Despite the busyness of local residents during the period of picking berries and mushrooms, as well as agricultural work, many craftsmen considered it important to talk about their activities and provide their products for photographing. The photo bank created as part of the project will help to promote the crafts of Karelia in the domestic and foreign markets.

Association ECHO now has enough data to analyze and compare. Already at this stage, it is obvious that the Karelian artisans have a lot of potential, but there are also questions, the answers to which have yet to be obtained. How to ensure continuity and transfer of knowledge? How to help craftsmen not be afraid to register a business? How to sell not only products, but also the individuality of the craftsmen themselves and the culture of the region as a whole? How to improve legislation and support programs so that the handicraft sector turns from a cultural field dated by the authorities into an independent factor in economic development? The project experts will reflect their ideas in a study, the preparation of which is already in full swing.

Text: Svetlana Kolchurina, Alexey Tsykarev
Pictures: Ilona Olkonen, Project Northern Crafts ID