A few years ago, wondering around the street of Belgrade’s old town, I came across a long existing workshop where bronze lamps and candle holders are hand made by a few artisans from existing material. Welcomed by the owner inside to share a cup of Turkish coffee, the whole experience felt like travelling back in time into a world of tradition and crafts rare to find nowadays and away from the impersonal experience offered by the modern consumerism.
The people portrayed below are part of the numerous artisans in Serbia that preserve traditional manufacturing processes and techniques working in small shops, in their houses or cellars. It is not uncommon to visit their workshop and feel like part of a museum-like environment.
Artisans were in the past organized in associations to promote the education of apprentices and future improvements of the trade, however the sector started to decline as industrial goods appeared. Today, they are gatekeepers of invaluable traditional skills and they represent, in my view, a world poised between traditions and a difficult present threatened by modernity, high-technology progress and socio-economic changes. For some, the legacy might continue as the business is passed down. For those who will cease to exists, I know there will not be replacement for the loss of heritage and expertise.
(Ongoing project started in 2014)
“Mesing Art” (Bronze art) is a business open since 1887, and now managed by Mr Momcilo. Few artisans work in the shop to produce objects such as candle holders, lamps and other small objects that could be created using existing metal
Milan, an artisan working for “Mesing Art”. The old lamp is part of a collection of 32 designed by a Russian artist, and was part of the Parliament Building in Belgrade. 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 above the shop. Without the use of the oven, the business cannot function in full capacity
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. “The work process has 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”
Predrag inherited his business from his grandfather, who retired 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
This family business, opened in 1965, is run by Ruzica Zivkovic, who personally makes all products by hand. “Belgrade would benefit from a centre with the main purpose to promote precious traditional crafts and their conservation”. The business has closed in 2015
Zorislav Fajndovic, violin maker. His background as an architect allows him to apply the science to analyse the proportions of the violin and other instruments such as the lute
A family owned boutique bookbinder (Knjigovezac), run by Dusan and his father Svetislav, offering traditional and contemporary bookbinding, preservation and conservation of printed material and box making
Jovan Jovanovic , running a business making traditional bread and serving the neighbourhood of the Bailoni market in Belgrade
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
An artisan at work making 'opanci', traditional shoes, at the Kiri family workshop at the outskirts of Belgrade. Today in Serbia there are only a few craft shops of this kind, and footwear is sold to the numerous folklore groups as part of the national costume, and as souvenirs
Nenad Jovanov is the owner of the ‘last standing perfumery in Belgrade’.The business originates back from the beginning of 1941. 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
Petar, a book binder running his shop with his son. “We are going to work here until I can stand”
Bosko Petrovic, called Bole - Piroćanac, was born in 1940, and has been working since the age of 12. As many pottery masters in Serbia, he comes from Pirot, eastern Serbia.