Category Archives: Serbia

Bole Pirocanac, a pottery maker in Belgrade, Serbia

Bosko Petrovic, called Bole – Piroćanac, was born in 1940, and has been working since the age of twelve. As many pottery masters in Serbia, he comes from Pirot, eastern Serbia.
A specific aspect of the Pirot’s school of pottery making is that the potter is positioned next to the wheel (on the right hand side), whilst in other schools across the world potters turn the wheel that sits between their legs.
 
Bole tells us that he finished the school for the crafts at 16, and took him 4 additional years of apprenticeship to become a master or ‘Majstor’.
 
In 1956, the business he was working for had to close following the introduction of very large taxes. As many other skilful pottery masters from Pirot, he continued to get contracts across former Yugoslavia and used to work from spring to autumn.  In 1966 he opened his first own business in the outskirts of Belgrade, and he was advised to sell at the Kalenic market.
 
I asked Bole how he could still make pottery at his age. Forty years ago Bole began a daily program of one hour exercise before going to work, following a doctor’s advice.   Bole is, indeed, full of energy and strength, and he still works about four hours in the workshop every day.
 
Bole’s son, Dejan, has taken the workshop over in 1985, and invested in development and research of material and ways of firing the pots.
 
Bole and Dejan welcomed us at their workshop. After taking the photos we were offered Turkish coffee in beautiful and well-kept house garden. I asked Dejan, father of two daughters, if he has any apprentices keen to learn the art. He reckons that, as it takes about ten years to become a master, it is more convenient for young generation to continue studying at university.
 

 
The family business sells at the Kalenic market, in Belgrade.
 
Their website at http://www.grncar.rs/

 
 

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The Art of Spectating – Exhibition in Belgrade, Serbia

The Art of Spectating

The ‘Art of Spectating’ exhibition is open from the 8th to the 20th of May 2017  at the Bartcelona Art Gallery, in Belgrade, Serbia.
 
Text by Jacqueline Stojanović
 
“The much-pondered notion of whether life imitates art or art imitates life is manifested in Francesco Marchetti’s photography series The Art of Spectating. Undertaken at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, it presents the intimate moments of contemplation and at times uncanny physical relationship shared between the spectator and the spectacle within a gallery context. Described by the artist as an extension of street photography each shot is candid and represents the ordinary people, with no interaction made between the artist and his subjects. In the latter’s regard the images differ from traditional street portraits in which communication plays a key role in abstracting a captivating photograph, instead within the historical museum the observer plays a voyeuristic role in voyeurism itself, blurring the line between the audience and the artwork while creating something entirely new in the process.
 
The photographs reflect the passage of time between the creations of the master’s artwork displayed in the museum to the present day, where we see contemporary art viewers pondering the same subjects centuries later and at times imitating the masterpieces themselves. This mimicking of their bodies presents a visual linkage that continues to propel this project, posing the questions of mere coincidence or perhaps a deeper subconscious psychology that is adopted in the museum context. It makes one wonder again whether art imitates life or life imitates art.
 
In turning to the art viewers as his subjects Francesco subtly shifts a social hierarchy in viewing by bringing those on the sidelines, the viewers, to the forefront. The audience and their interactions within the gallery space become the focal point, and we as his audience are made further self conscious of our own position in viewing the artwork.”
 
 
 
Jacqueline Stojanović was born in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied Fine Art and graduated from Monash University and The Victorian College of The Arts. Currently based in Belgrade, Serbia, Jacqueline works on different personal and commissioned projects
 
Reviews:
 
Link to SerbianMonitor (www.serbianmonitor.com) in Italian
Link to SerbianMonitor (www.serbianmonitor.com) in English

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Time matters – A traditional watch repair shop in Belgrade

Looking for old craft places in Belgrade, I have passed by this little watch repair shop located in Stari Grad.

Petar Pavic, an expert in the art of repairing old mechanical watches, is the 3rd generation running this business having decided to take on the tradition started by his grandfather in 1948. He currently works with his mother, not present at the moment of our visit, who offers a complete watch restoration.

When I was invited behind the counter, my attention was caught by the amount of watches, small parts, working tool and cards scattered on the table. Petar, indeed, feels very comfortable in his own working environment, as he remembers where to find things and the content of each little container and drawer.

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During the short time I have spent in the shop, there was a constant stream of customers from all generations, and Petar’s approach to work was very responsive and rapid.

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Not only Petar is equipped to repair almost any type of mechanical watch, but he also creates the tools to make parts he needs to fix vintage and rare pieces. Some of the oldest watches he repaired were a 220 years old and made in the Netherlands, a 150 years old satin wall clock, Russian “Zvezda“ from the 2nd Word War. Wall and standing clocks are another of Petar’s passion, and he has some examples of “Gustav Becker” clocks from 1865. These days he finds very interesting the “Junghans” German clocks, often seen in Belgrade. Junghans, once a dominant force, was producing 100 clocks per day in 1870 and in 1903 was the largest clock maker in the world. In 1930, “Gustav Becker” a successful German clock maker well known in Paris, Sydney, Berlin and Amsterdam, merged with Junghans.

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Image above courtesy of Petar Pavic, a Zvezda watch inside

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Watch restauration demands a far more intimate knowledge of the techniques used in traditional horology, and a greater experience in the aesthetic and mechanical design used.

I learnt that nowadays it is not easy to come by a school that teaches the skills needed to repair watches, as it is cheaper to replace the all faulty part rather than fix it. This makes Petar’s job more unique and hard to learn, and makes his dedication and passion to this craft another example where traditional skills, knowledge and passion are transmitted across generation.

 

Časovničar Pavić,12a Cetinjska, Stari Grad, Beolgrade, Serbia

 

Francesco

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Traditional Bookbinding in Belgrade

Another great discovery in the heart of Belgrade, located in Gospodar Jevremova 63, Dorcol.

A family own boutique bookbinder (Knjigovezac), run by Dusan and his father Svetislav, offering traditional and contemporary bookbinding, preservation and conservation of printed material and box making. They use only mechanical machines, some over 100 years old which require minimal maintenance.

Svetislav took over this shop in 2003 from the previous owner, and we know that the business existed at this location from 1914, as an old receipt was recently brought by a customer.

Svetislav has a vast experience with conservation of manuscripts having worked for the University Library “Svetozar Markovic” and the National Library, and he was awarded in 2005 as best bookbinder by The Belgrade City Library.

 

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Slovakian book from 1861

He made bespoke tools to create leather binding for Serbian Cyrillic books from the 12th to 19th century, and uses his graphical skills to create templates for the book engraving in order to preserve precious collections.

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The reproduction of 12th century Serbian manuscript

Dusan and Svetislav had a number of important commissions such as the leather binding of “The Mountain Wreath” book and its box, a masterpiece of Montenegrin literature, written by poet Petar II Petrović-Njegoš.

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This is only a small part of the craft and art skills, as they are constantly requested to produce beautiful leather cases by embassies and private customers. Part of their work are cases for swords for various Head of States.

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I was fascinated by this traditional craft because of its importance in preserving the heritage, and I was delighted to see the traditional skills and knowledge being passes from father to son.

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KNJIGOVEZNICA VUKASOVIC ,Gospodar Jevremova 63, Dorcol, Belgrade, Serbia

 

Francesco

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International Photography Awards (IPA) 2015

Thanks to the International Photography Awards (IPA) for awarding me with three honorable mentions in the categories of Architecture, Deeper Perspective/Editorial and Lifestyle/People.

Here is my work (click on each image to see the photos on the IPA site)

Deeper Perspective & Editorial: “Revisiting a working place

IPA2015, Francesco Marchetti, Revisiting a working place

 

Lifestyle & People: “UK Seaside in Summer

 

IPA2015, Francesco Marchetti, UK Seaside in Summer

 

Architecture, Bridges & Cityscapes: “Belgrade Bridge

 

IPA2015, Francesco Marchetti, Belgrade Bridge

 

Francesco

 

 

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Belgrade Refugees Aid

Thousands of refugees are everyday passing through Serbia on the way to western European countries (mainly Germany, Scandinavian countries and Holland) hoping for a better life. Many are temporarily based in Belgrade, in the park, by the bus station. The conditions have worsened in the last few days since an increased number of people have arrived crossing the Macedonia border. Entire families are staying overnight before continuing they journey with only basic stuff and rely on the help they find along the way.

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

The support from Belgrade have been generous and number of initiatives are born to support those in needs with services and donations.

I had the opportunity to help at the refugee cloths/food collection centre in Belgrade, initiated by the cultural organisation Mikser House and supported by a number of local charities such as Refugee Aid Serbia, Sačuvajmo bebe, Srpska Solidarnost Hranom, GivingBackSerbia (NGO) and others.

These charities have joined forces under the umbrella of Refugee Aid Serbia and cooperate between themselves bypassing the State and larger/bureaucratic organisations, slower by nature, in order to act fast and provide immediate help.

The centre currently provides clothes, food and hygiene products as well as doctor’s support for children. It relies on the effort of volunteers and donations from the citizens. The response, from the people of Belgrade, has been overwhelming, bringing aid to the centre on daily basis.

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

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Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

There is a truly international team working hard every day to help refugees, overcoming cultural differences and languages barriers mainly between English, Serbian and Arabic.

A special contribution came from Morgan and Danielle (WeGoSerbia), who arrived to Belgrade hitch-hiking from Brighton, UK, which have offered their expertise and strong leadership skills gained working for the British Red Cross, as well as networking for this initiative to grow even more.

Thanks to all involved in helping those in need, all the companies involved all the volunteers and citizens who organised themselves bringing the essentials.

Belgrade refugees aid

Belgrade refugees aid

Below are the links for those who wishes to contact the various charities organisations involved.

Refugee Aid Serbia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/999905293382660/

GivingBackSerbia: https://www.facebook.com/givingbackserbia?fref=ts

Sačuvajmo bebe : https://www.facebook.com/Sacuvajmobebe?fref=ts

Srpska Solidarnost Hranom : http://www.srpskasolidarnosthranom.org

Mikser House: https://www.facebook.com/mikser.belgrade?fref=ts

Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bgfvc/

WeGoSerbia : https://www.facebook.com/wegoserbia?fref=ts

Refugees cloths/food collection center address: Mostarska 5, Beograd

 

Francesco

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The last standing perfumery in Belgrade

“Smell is a patent wizard that transports you across the thousands of miles and all the years you have lived…” Helen Keller

During my visits to Belgrade, I often pass by this little boutique perfumery located in Kralja Petra 75. The vintage look of products and photos on display romantically tell the story of the shop from the old days, and made me curious about this place and its owner.

The business, run by Nenad Jovanov, originates back from the beginning of 1941, when Nenad’s uncle opened a perfumery shop, at the time called “Djurdjevak” (meaning Lilly of the Valley), and it was joined by Nenad’s father few years later. Since then the shop changed its name several times, to “L’Amour” and eventually “Sava” when the business moved to the current site in Dorcol.

Photos from Nenad’s family archive, ©Nenad Jovanov

As many other properties in the former Yugoslavia, the business was nationalised during the communist era but eventually was returned to the same family so they could continue to run it.

Decades ago the shop used to be advertised with the leaflet like this, created from the slide used as advertised material in the cinema before the movie would start. The original black and white slide has been hand painted and is still displayed in the shop window. This campaign was made in 1956.

Using leaflet was an alternative to the more expensive advertising on the radio, and the television was not used for this purpose at the time.

Nenad and his father have in common years of working experience in the pharmaceutical industry, having being employed by the same company, Saponia Osjek. Nenad too accepted an offer from Saponija following the father retirement as their Belgrade representative.

The crumbling of Yugoslavia led Nenad to return to work with his family in the perfumery ‘Sava’ from 1998, and since 2009 he is running the business on his own. Nenad tells us that his mother used to handle the payments quietly sitting in the corner of the shop overlooking the entrance door.

I was invited to assist in the preparation of some perfumes in the back shop labs, a small and intimate world of machinery and tools where Nenad uses his mastery to blend different solutions.

From Nenad’s expertise, dedication and passion, originates “Belgrade Nights”, a perfume created in two versions for ladies and gents, made for the Night of the Museum event (held once a year when the museums in Europe stay opened until midnight). Both fragrances take inspiration from the old trading days when ladies with a flowery scent, would await for the sailors smelling of spices as they were back from exotic locations.

The shop has barely changed since it was opened and it is a place of dear memories, with vintage photos of Nenad’s family on the wall, from old days prior to the World War II.


Nenad is a keen photographer, and very proud of a photograph (above) of his parents he has taken as a young boy

Nenad photographed approximately ten years ago (above) ©Nenad Jovanov

 

A constant stream of clients pays a visit to this shop daily. Some for a few drops of valuable perfume and handmade face creams, others for advice whether their favourite scent could still be produced here. It is a pampering experience that puts a smile on people faces. Of course no-one is going to walk out from “Sava” without begin seduced by some new fragrances, so I bought “Belgrade Nights” for myself.

The perfumery is in Kralja Petra 75, Belgrade

Thanks to Vesna for translating and Nenad for providing some of the photos from the personal family archive.

More information about “Sava”, on the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/parfemisava

 

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Discovering Rural Serbia

During the last visit to Serbia we have decided to explore smaller monasteries between the town of Cacak, Krajevo and Ivanjica. These monasteries are usually reachable driving on mountain off road and, compared to the major ones (some of them part of UNESCO), offer a warm hospitality by the local monks or sisters, curious about tourists and always keen to share home-made cakes with coffee or liquors. A far more enriching experience compared to the guided and less personal tours offered by the well-known sites.

This is the monastery of Kovilje, a female monastery since 2010, located nearby the village of Bratjevo, and reachable driving on a dirt road for about 8 km, very steep and muddy at this time of the year. It is well hidden in the forest and the sisters fund the monastery through the sale of wood.

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I was given permission to photograph the beautiful interiors, adorned with frescoes approximately a thousand years old.

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Even more interesting is how the visits to this monastery led me to discover the whole area around Ivanjica.

Having rented a city car unsuitable for these countryside roads, we stopped in the village of Bratljevo to find some locals to take us to the monastery. However, because of adverse weather condition and sudden snow it was not possible to drive. We decided to extend our stay and use the opportunity to explore the village and surrounding fields.

For those who are not familiar with this part of the world, the whole region around Ivanjica is a major hub for the raspberries production, and Ivanjica is hosting an important meeting to create an association of raspberries growers in Serbia. In fact, this region produces one fifth of the whole Serbian production.

In summer, family of workers from different regions will convene to these fields to pick up the raspberries which will be exported to various European locations. It is a critical business and good source of income for an area that has seen many factories closing in the last few years, and increased unemployment. For some people this is the main activity, for others an additional income to rely on. Workers are offered food, accommodation and a modest pay by the field owners.

At this time of the year, fields are being prepared before the season starts, and we have met some of the locals.

 

This is Radenko, a man behind the creation of the association of raspberries growers.

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He invites us to see his fields, and we could not leave without having lunch at his place where we met the whole family. His mother was happy to be photographed too.

Brothers Adam and Miloje, keep a wonderful clean and tidy household.

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Miloje invited us to have coffee and rakija with him. He talks about young generation not willing to live in these remote villages, hence there are quite a few single men around.

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Another raspberry grower was keen for me to take his portrait in the field.

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An interesting aspect of this rural area are old wooden houses, called Vajati.

It is not unusual to have a number of different houses in the household, each of them serving a different purpose such as being the main accomodation, keeping the animals or cheeses and kajmak.

I come across this old group of wooden houses, still used as intended as the farmer moved to newly built house which offers more confort.

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Another feature of these houses is that they have an entry door on both sides. This was to allow more escape routes during the enemy invasion.

Some interiors still keep original furniture, like this old bookshelf and a gas lamp from the time when they did not have electricity in the village (as late as early eighties)

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Wondering around the fields, we met Slava who welcomed us to her house.

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The hospitality of the people here has been overwhelming, and it has tested our tolerance to rakija. This brandy is now seen as a morning medicine 🙂

We hope to visit this region of Serbia again in summer to document the raspberry picking, and enjoy the beautiful landscapes this region has to offer.

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Francesco

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Master of the Game – Violin Designers in Belgrade

During our stay in Belgrade over Christmas holidays, we made the wonderful discovery of Zorislav and Maja Fajndovic, violins makers. They have started the business “Master of the Game” in 1999.

When Zorislav agreed to meet us and find out about our photography project, it was a great surprise to be received at his home, which is also a workshop where various string instruments are made by hand utilising computer aided design tools.

With Zorislav being so passionate about his art, we spend hours conversing about traditions and applied science to istruments making.

We learnt about the influence of the italian school to this art. The tradition of making violin in Serbia started a century and a half ago, as the Italian violin maker Fasola, after taking the orthodox religion, changed his name to Vlada Toskanović around 1890. It was known by italian violin makers for centuries that the basic “ingridients”, the wood from spruce and maple, is of the fine quality in the Balkans, expecially from Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia.

Unlike many string instruments makers who share a background in music, Zorislav is an architect and a member of the Association of Applied Arts Artists and Designers of Serbia (ULUPUDS), who has applied the science to analyse the proportions of the violin and other instruments such as the lute. He emphasises that each instrument needs to combine function, construction and aesthetic. His scientific background allowed him to apply the Fibonacci’s golden ratio to the analysis of the proportion of the violin (the Stradivarius violins were built according to this rule) and he arrived to the conclusion that each part of the instrument is proportionate. This discovery fuelled his passion for the art of making violins, replacement parts and tools needed for the instruments making. Zorislav took his violin building Master exam in 2000 and he has since been commissioned by various artists.

As the time pass by and I am awaiting for Vesna to translate the conversation, and I try to pick up few words to make a sense, my attention is caught by the light coming throw the window, all the working tools lying on the table, various violins in production hanging on the wall, and something quite unique in Zorislav proud appearance and stance.

 

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Zorislav believes that instrument making should be studied in any school of design.

We also met Maja, Zorislav’s wife and violin designer too, who inherited the passion for string instruments from musicians in her family.

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Maja talks passionately about violin making, and she is proud that, being in the business for 15 years, their violins are estimated in the USA at a high value. It is hard to make a leaving solely from this business in Serbia, but she knows that if opportunities are there to enter the European market the situation would change.

Maja at work using the Multifunctional Table Stand, a tool developed for violin makers

 

One of the complex parts produced for the lute.

Zorislav shows us some beautifully handmade tail pieces and pegs.

Although there is significant number of instruments makers is Serbia, there is not an integrated association at the level of Serbia. They would benefit from a formal representation to promote the craft and raise the skills, such as the British Violin Making Association (BVMA), formed in 1995 with a clear set of aims to support and promote this art. I hope to see Zorislav and Maja instruments at one of the evaluation events in the future.

Zorislav and Maja received us warmly, giving us the opportunity to introduce ourselves without reservation. They merged perseverance, passion and scientific knowledge into this beautiful art and our encounter has been inspirational. We have spent quite a long afternoon with them conversing, drinking tea, photo shooting, and having the traditional Italian Christmas cake “Panettone”. We hope to see them soon again. A very special encounter indeed.

Master of the Game, Zorislav I Maja Fajndovic, www.violindesign.net

Francesco & Vesna

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At Work in Belgrade – October 2014

 

During the October visit to Belgrade, Vesna and I have dedicated some time to our project “people at work” and find little craft businesses in town. The challenge has been to approach various artisans during their working hours and convince them to let us take photos of them in their own working environments. Given my very basic knowledge of the Serbian language, I have relied on Vesna to communicate as the use of English did not work out. However rather than take photos at the first encounter, we thought it would be better to spend more time introducing ourselves and build a positive rapport, and agree to come back at a suitable time for them to take some portraits.

Here are the very interesting people at work we have met.

 

About old metal lamps …

“Mesing Art” (Bronze art) is a business open since 1887, located in the central area of Dorcol. Started by Dragoslav Lunic, it is now managed by Mr. Momcilo.

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(Mr. Momcilo)

Few artisans also work in the shop to produce objects such as candle holders and lamps and other little objects that could be created using existing metal.

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Momcilo proudly shows us an old lamp, part of a collection of 32 and designed by a Russian artist, which were part of the Parliament Building in Belgrade.

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(Milan, one of the artisans, and a print representation of old lamp the business used to produce)
In the past, the business used to be successful as they were able to use the oven to melt the metal and produce lamps. At present the oven cannot be used anymore as flats are now built just above the shop. Without the use of the oven, the business cannot function as before.
They have a significant archive of old photographs and examples of their work over the years. Hope it is carried into the next generation at least as a crafts museum.

 

About old watches …

Dusko’s watch repair shop has been there since 1956, started by his father who passed away in late 1970’. Dusko decided to take over the business to carry on the tradition, and he has now been working for 40 years.

We learn that the best time for the business was between 1976 and 1990, after that things became to worsen because of the war. In good times, Dusko used to repair 6-8 watches per day, whereas nowadays it is about a watch per week. Its working desk is covered by precision tools which need to be firmly handed in order to reach tiny and delicate watch mechanism.

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The work process has also changed. In the past, repairing a high quality watch used to be a challenging and problem solving task, as single internal parts could be made and fixed. Now a whole faulty mechanism is replaced and less work and creativity is involved.

Dusko also repairs large wall watches, an art which takes 3-4 years of practice, although the initial learning could be fast.

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I am interested to know what the real opportunities to learn this craft are, and we acknowledge that there is a school for applied crafts in Zemun, where students could gain broad skills in manual work such as this one. Nevertheless, there are very few shops in Belgrade were this large wall watches are repaired. Dusko tells us that he had an apprentice for some time, and she eventually dropped out to follow her university studies. His daughter is likely to follow a different path too but I feel that Dusko would not mind if she would learn to repair these old and proud ‘darlings’ as a hobby.

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I am impressed to learn about the level of specialised skills that it takes in this profession, and I jokingly suggest I should learn at least how to replace a battery. Now I know where to take my old watches for repair in Belgrade.

 

About duvets and silky cushions …

Predrag inherited his business from his grandfather, who retired in 2005 at 75, after 60 years in the profession. Within the little space of a single room, Predrag makes made-to-measure precious duvets and mattresses with traditional methods and natural material such as wool and covered in damask and silk. All he needs is its sewing machine and experience… not to mention his cheerfulness which is very contagious.

 

Predrag has learnt the profession under a rigorous discipline, as his grandfather was a perfectionist who would demand to do and undo pieces several times before approving the final product.

Predrag advice to the world is that everyone should finish the formal studies and go to university, but at the same time learn some craft as this will be useful in any situation. I found this to be a very wise advice.

 

It has been a pleasure to meet Momcilo, Dusko and Predrag during this visit in Belgrade.

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We have been welcomed warmly and I thank them for sharing their stories with us. In these beautifully kept workshops, rich of soul and personal history, we have met people whose choices were driven by passion for crafts and desired to endure the tradition, and necessity. I really hope that there will be opportunities to hand down these crafts to future generation.

We will pay our visit to them again when we are back to Belgrade.

 

Francesco

 

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